Archiver > JOLLIFFE > 2002-01 > 1012261114

From: "Mike" <>
Subject: Eric Ernest JOLLIFFE
Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2002 18:43:09 -0600

Obituaries: A talent drawn from the bush

Source Date: 24/11/2001

Eric Jolliffe, Cartoonist, 1907-2001

Eric Jolliffe used to tell a story about the first cocky farmer he met, a
man in the mould of Saltbush Bill, Jolliffe's popular cartoon figure, who,
he said, embodied "all the bushmen who have sweated it out in the Australian
outback since the First Fleet".

Jolliffe had gone bush when only 15. He would say years later: "I was
straddling a big pig and hanging onto his ears. The cocky farmer was forcing
a big, filthy bottle of castor oil down the pig's throat. The pig had to
swallow or choke to death.

"From an unbroken diet of mutton and damper, I was suffering badly from the
same complaint as the pig and thought this a good time to inform my boss of
my condition. He held the dirty beer bottle up and said, 'Well, lad, you'll
always find this bottle back of the pig pen.' I knew he must be having me on
but there wasn't the flicker of a smile on his face."

Jolliffe was good at capturing the laconic, deadpan humour of the Australian
bush. He was good at capturing the bush.

George Blaikie, the Smith's Weekly historian, said in 1979: "Eric joined us
in 1944 on his march to glory ... He had humped the bluey and toiled at all
kinds of farm and station jobs. Wherever he went he sketched the minutiae
most people failed to see - shacks and sheds, funny old gates and tree
stumps they hinged on, bark roofs, billabongs and cows in bogs.

"Such authentic reference was poured into his gags and he became our most
brilliant interpreter of the countryside."

In some ways, Eric Ernest Jolliffe introduced the Australian bush to the
people of Australian towns and cities.

His achievement was perhaps surprising in that he was born in Portsmouth,
England, the youngest of 12 children. His family moved to Perth when Eric
was four years old, and then to Balmain, where the boy played around the
wharves. He made rafts from harbour flotsam, dredged the shallows for prawns
and learnt to swim on the harbour's industrial side.

He spent six years from the age of 15 working in the NSW countryside as a
boundary rider, rabbit trapper and in shearing sheds.

Holidaying in Sydney in 1928, he picked up a book on drawing. "I learnt to
my surprise that art wasn't necessarily a gift divine," he said later, "but
a craft that could be studied and worked at."

He enrolled for an introductory art course at East Sydney Technical College
before taking a job cleaning windows as the Depression set in. He drew at
night and by the outbreak of World War II was a regular contributor to The

Jolliffe became a camouflage officer with the RAAF during the war. He
travelled in Arnhem Land and the Kimberley. Afterwards he travelled with
Bill Harney and Charles Mountford on a National Geographic expedition and
with Professor A.P. Elkin, the anthropologist.

"It was love at first sight," he said of the Aborigines. "As a bushman, I
could appreciate their deep love and understanding of the country. Their
capacity to live off a harsh land and their complex social and cultural life
have never failed to absorb me.''

John Ryan wrote in his book Panel by Panel that Jolliffe's Tom Flynn -
Stockman presented "comics' first realistic portrayal of the impact of
European civilisation on the indigenous population ... the comic was used as
a showcase for the Aboriginal point of view."

The Anti-Discrimination Board and others brought allegations in 1980,
however, that Jolliffe's portrayal of indigenous people was racially biased
and discriminatory. Ken Emerson, his son-in-law and fellow cartoonist, says
the criticism hurt Jolliffe, who defended himself vigorously.

George Blaikie said that, on the contrary, Jolliffe had "single-handedly
destroyed the stereotype of the Smith's Weekly Abo". He said the celebrated
Stan Cross had promoted the Aborigine as "a bare-footed, flat-faced moron,
clad in discarded white man's clothes". Jolliffe made Aboriginal men
athletic hunters with a sense of humour, the women "as beautiful as white
models". Jolliffe was supported by the poet Kenneth Slessor, humorist Lenny
Lower and Professor Elkin.

In any case, his work continued to be popular. Saltbush Bill cartoons ran in
Pix magazine for nearly 50 years from 1945. Sandy Blight, the Witchetty
Tribe and Callaghan's Kids had similar success. He published his own
magazine, Jolliffe's Outback.

Ken Emerson said his father-in-law had had 132 books of comics published. He
won several awards for cartoonists, was a fellow of the Australian Institute
of History and Art and won a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for
service to art as a cartoonist and illustrator.

He lectured adult education classes on life in the outback and its
architecture. He began painting in watercolours at 82.

His wife, May, died in 1993 after 61 years of marriage. Their daughter, Meg,
died four years ago. He is survived by Ken Emerson and Jolliffe's
granddaughter, Jane Emerson. His funeral service was held at Ourimbah, on
the Central Coast, on Wednesday.

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