Gabrielle Ray

'Gabrielle Ray said, 'I am always dancing; I love it! When I don't dance, I sing. What else is there to do?'

Collecting Old Postcards – Irish Independent – Saturday 24th March 2001

Collecting old postcards

With Ian Baird



MANY of the best social history postcards depict regular events or one-off occurrences. Market days in Ireland always attracted crowds from neighbouring towns and villages and the livestock to be bought and sold often featured in the picture.

Sometimes the name of the town will appear in white on the postcard. This was because the photographer wrote the location on the negative and when developed this came out in white. In Ireland the figures in village postcards are often recognised today by old friends or relatives.

British postcards may have views of gypsy camps, village fetes or natural and man-made disasters including floods, and storm damage, and fires.

The photographer’s equipment was cumbersome at the turn of the century. Sometimes a bulky camera with photographic plates had to be manhandled across fields to get a good view of an event. After taking the photographs and producing the postcards, these would be sold in limited numbers to the locals. If only a handful – or even one or two – of these postcards survive, the collector will pay a good price.

Social history postcards can be very difficult to value and each must be assessed on its own merits. The relevant particulars include location, event, clarity of the picture, action in the photograph, and the scarcity of the cards. One popular group was shop fronts and the most collectable of these are the small village stores, post offices and butcher shops, often with the proud owners standing in the doorway.



Postcards sold to advertise new plays in are very collectable. The Superstar did not originate during the golden days of Hollywood. Many Edwardian actresses were household names and – even without television their faces were known in every home throughout the land. This was usually by means of the picture postcard.

Hundreds of thousands of portraits were put out by publishing companies and almost every Edwardian album included cards of Marie Studholme, Gertie Millar, Lily Elsie, Gabrielle Ray, Zena and Phyllis Dare, Mabel Love, and Gladys Cooper. Hundreds of other pre-First World War stars of the stage were known by means of the picture postcard.

Although the stars of drama – such as Henry Irving, H.G. Tree and Ellen Terry – were not forgotten, the principal form of theatrical entertainment was the musical comedy. One collector has over 2,000 different cards of Marie Studholme alone.


Donald McGill

One of the best known of the British comic postcard artist during the 20 century was Donald McGill whose work spanned a period of almost 60 years. The characters he created were sold mainly in the shops of seaside resorts.

Born in 1875, McGill started designing his colourful and amusing postcards in 1904. He continued working right up until the time of his death in 1962. His saucy drawings featured red-nosed drunks or buxom ladies with their henpecked husbands. Although present-day collectors would be interested in all of his cards, it is the older ones – before the First World War – that are most in demand.

In the 1920s a girl on the beach would expose little more than an ankle. By 1950 many of McGill’s girls were considered too revealing and his cards became the subject of controversy.

McGill’s sense of humour was nothing if not even-handed. His men could be paunchy, drunk, loud-mouthed, lacking in tact and rude.

The women were often depicted with ferocious red-faced scowls and huge bosoms heaving with indignation. More often than not the husband would be small, inoffensive and timid, clearly well-used to bullying treatment.

The artist also had an eye for beauty and the stunningly curvaceous bathing belles were a favourite among the male holidaymakers sending a postcard to their local pub or trying to impress a friend.

More innocent cards by McGill portrayed children on the beaches with bucket and spade.

One shows a small boy digging his heels in as a hand tries to pull him from the beach. The caption reads, ‘I don’t want to leave Bridlington.’ Another illustrates a chubby red-headed child sitting disconsolately on a sand-castle with the title, ‘We’re leaving here tomorrow.’


Irish Independent – Saturday 24th March 2001



December 6, 2018 Posted by | Actress, Deltiology, Gabrielle Ray, Social History, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment