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"Our Ernie" from Knock-Out

Hugh McNeil was born on 13 December 1910 in Moss Side, Manchester. He won prizes for art at school, and as a teenager he drew comic postcards and was the official cartoonist for a local boxing club. He left school at 16 and was apprenticed to the Kayebon Press, a local art studio, where he drew advertisements and show cards, while taking evening classes at the Manchester School of Art.

He drew cartoons for DC Thomson's Topical Times, starting in 1927, and when The Beano was launched in 1938, he was part of its opening line-up with "Ping the Elastic Man". His best know creation for The Beano was "Pansy Potter, the Strongman's Daughter", which first appeared in issue 21, and he also drew "Puffing Billy".

He was soon poached by Amalgamated Press editor Leonard Matthews, starting with "Professor P. Nutts" on The Jolly Comic, before joining the new weekly Knock-Out in 1939, where he created "Deed-a-Day Danny" and "Simon the Simple Sleuth" in the first issue in 1939, and later drew "Our Ernie" and "Handy Andy" (1940-).

He served in the Royal Army Service Corps and the Royal Engineers during the Second World War, seeing service in North Africa, where he was a cartographer for Montgomery, and Italy, while submitting his weekly "Deed-a-Day Danny" strip on airmail notepaper.

After the war he continued to draw for Knock-Out, including "One-Eye Joe and Two-Toof Tom" (1946-47), and branched out from funnies into adventure strips, starting with "Tough Tod and Happy Annie" in Knock-Out in 1947, and "Thunderbolt Jaxon" for a comic published in Australia. Other strips he drew included "Deadshot Sue" (1949-50), "Lancelot Lake" (1949-51), "Young Joey" (1949-51), "The Fighting O'Flynn" (1949-50) and "Dick Turpin" (1951-52) in The Sun. He also worked for Comet ("Shorty the Deputy Sheriff", 1949-53; "Claude and Cuthbert", 1951-53) and Cowboy Comics Library. His style was adopted as the AP's house style for adventure strips, and new artists like Geoff Campion followed in his footsteps.

In 1953 he was recruited by Percy Clarke to draw for the AP's nursery comics, including Playhour ("The Wonderful Adventures of Peter Puppet", 1954; "Sonny and Sally of Happy Valley", 1956-), Jack and Jill ("Jack and Jill of Buttercup Farm", 1954-; "The Happy Days of Teddy and Cuddly the Baby Bears" (1954-70), "Harold Hare"), Harold Hare's Own Paper ("Flopsy Flufftail", 1959-63) and Tiny Tots ("Bunny Cuddles", 1958-).

In the 60s he drew "Buster" and "Tim & Vicky, the TV Twins" for Buster, "Our Village" in Jack and Jill, "The Funny Adventures of Nutty Noddle" (1961-69) for Robin, "Life with Uncle Lionel" for Princess, and "The Trolls" (1967-73) and "Willy the Wily Wolf" for Tina, training an assistant, Pamela Cooper, do do his inking. He continued to draw "Harold Hare" into the 70s, and also drew "Giggles Galore" and "Gussie the Girl Guide" for Pixie and "Meet the Beans" (1974-75) for Bonnie. He suffered a stroke in 1976, which left him unable to draw, and died in Worthing, Sussex, on 22 November 1979.


  • Alan Clark, Dictionary of British Comic Artists, Writers and Editors, The British Library, 1998, pp. 103-104
  • Denis Gifford, Encyclopedia of Comic Characters, Longman, 1987
  • Steve Holland, Hugh McNeill, Bear Alley, 15 December 2006

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