Ginger Meggs: A Local Lad

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Ginger Meggs, a twelve year old school boy always up to mischief, was the creation of Hornsby cartoonist James Bancks.

Bancks was born in Hornsby in 1889 and his first cartoons appeared in print in 1914. He created the quintessential Aussie larrikin in 1921 in a strip called Us Fellers. As the character grew in popularity the strip’s title was changed to Ginger Meggs and is now Australia’s longest running cartoon series.

Ginger Meggs appeared every week in the Sunday Sun newspaper. A 1922 story has Ginger and three mates buying fireworks such as catherine wheels, sky rockets a giant bunger. “We’ll let one bunger off now,” says Ginger, “just for a trial go.” He hurls the bunger over his shoulder. It lands inside a tuba being played by a brass band and, upon exploding, the band is knocked to the ground. A policeman gives chase but again the boys detonate a bunger, this time knocking the policeman to the ground. “It’s them Bolsheviks,” says the policeman, nursing his injuries, “One ov em musta threw a bomb”.

Bancks died in 1952. The Ginger Meggs legacy was passed onto James Kemsley in 1984 who made the strip into a daily publication. It is now syndicated worldwide through 120 newspapers and their websites. Kemsley modernised the character – Meggs now plays with an Xbox and a billycart.

Kemsley drew Ginger Meggs for 23 years until his passing in December 2007. His work as a cartoonist, as well as his roles in local government and Director of the Bradman Foundation, was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, June 8, 2008, with a Medal in the general division of the Order of Australia.

Ginger Meggs now lives on through the skills of Jason Chatfield.

Trevor Patrick is a local historian of the north-west of Sydney, Australia. His latest book, In Search of the Pennant Hills, recounts some of these stories (and others) in more detail.