Alexander George Gurney
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Alexander George Gurney

Alex Gurney
Alex Gurney-(November 1939).jpeg
Alex Gurney in 1939
Born15 March 1902
Stoke, Devonport, UK.
Died4 December 1955(1955-12-04) (aged 53)
Elwood, Victoria
Area(s)Caricatures, Cartoons, Comic Strips
Notable works
Ben Bowyang, Bluey and Curley.
Spouse(s)Junee Grover (m. 16 June 1928)

Alexander George "Alex" Gurney (15 March 1902 - 4 December 1955) was an Australian artist, caricaturist, and cartoonist born at Pasley House, Stoke, Devonport (now Stoke, Plymouth), England.[1]


He was the son of William George Gurney and Alice Birdie Gurney (née Worbey), who had married in Portsmouth on 29 May 1901.[2] He was born on 15 March 1902 at Pasley House, Stoke, Devonport (now Stoke, Plymouth), England.[1]

His father and his mother, who was an Australian, born in Hobart,[3] moved with Alex and settled in Hobart, Tasmania. Soon after the ship upon which his father, a steward in the merchant navy, was serving, went missing at sea;[4] and his father was presumed dead. On 2 July 1908 his mother (always known as Birdie, rather than Alice) married again, to James William Albert Hursey (1866-1946).[5]

Alex Gurney married Junee Grover (1909-1984) on 16 June 1928 at Christ Church, South Yarra. Junee was the daughter of the journalist Montague "Monty" MacGregor Grover (1870-1943),[6] and Ada Grover (1877-1928), née Goldberg.[7][8][9][10]

Alex Gurney (second from left) presenting the original art work of a Bluey and Curley comic strip to soldiers of the 2/12th Battalion in New Guinea, 5 March 1944.[11]

Alex and Junee Gurney had four children: John (1929-2004),[12] Jennifer Anne (1932-2004), Susan (1937-2003),[13] and Margaret (1943-), the eminent Melbourne artist.[14]


Gurney was educated at Macquarie Street State School, where his prowess with a pencil soon became evident, regaling his classmates with caricatures of their faces perched atop incongruous bodies. Leaving school at age 13, he found employment at an ironmonger's shop, followed by a couple of other jobs, before embarking on an electrical apprenticeship with the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission, in the expectation of becoming an electrical engineer. This entailed taking night classes at Hobart Technical College,[15] but it was not long before his attention was drawn to art classes conducted at the same institution by Lucien Dechaineux (1869-1957).[16]


As well as significantly embellishing his wonderful graphic skills as an artist, his exceptional capacity for the observation of his fellow humans also allowed him to successfully perform as an impersonator of well known people.[17]

By 1918 he was submitting work to The Bulletin, Melbourne Punch and Smith's Weekly.

In 1923, he was awarded first prize at the Kingborough Agricultural Show for "an original pencil drawing".[18]

Historic Drawing Board (1934)[19]
Australian cartoonist, Alex. Gurney, whose work

has gained international reputation possesses
what is probably the most travelled, and historic
drawing board in the Commonwealth. Originally,
it was a panel of a cedar door in the now
demolished "Old Bell Hotel", Elizabeth Street,
Hobart. The door which marked the entrance to
a room in which Marcus Clarke is supposed to
have written "For the Term of his Natural Life"
was bought at an auction sale, the panel-
drawing-board being later presented to the
then burgeoning artist. Mr. Gurney has been in
many parts of Australia and the thousands of

drawing-pin holes tell a story of their own...

In 1926 he published a book of his caricatures of eminent Tasmanians, Tasmanians Today, the first book of its kind ever published in Tasmania.[20][21]

Also in 1926, he began working for newspapers, briefly in Melbourne for the Morning Post,[22] then freelanced in Sydney until he landed a job with the Sunday Times, then for a Labor paper The World, followed by the Daily Guardian, The Sydney Mail,[23] then to Adelaide with The News in 1931.[24]

Throughout his lifetime he was renowned for his generous habit of giving the originals of his caricatures, cartoons, and comic strips to anyone who asked.[25]

Cartoons and comic strips

During this time he created several comic series; Stiffy and Mo (based on the radio comedy starring Nat Phillips and Roy Rene) for Beckett's Budget; and The Daggs for the Sunday Times.

In 1932, he created "Fred, the Football Fan" for the Adelaide Mail.[26]

When he moved to the Melbourne Herald in 1933 (as cartoonist for their Sports pages),[3] he started a series Ben Bowyang (based on the C J Dennis creation) for that paper.[27][28]

In 1934 he became their feature cartoonist.[29]

By 1939, his fame was such that, not only was he endorsing Red Capstan, cork-tipped, "special mild" cigarettes, but he was also supplying the advertisement's art-work as well.[30]

Bluey and Curley

In 1939 he created the characters for which he became famous: Bluey and Curley.[31] He applied for the copyright registration of "Bluey and Curley" on 16 October 1939; and his application was granted on 9 November 1939 (Australian Copyright No.6921).[32]

Bluey and Curley first appeared in the "Picture-News" magazine. It was transferred to The Sun News-Pictorial in 1940, from whence it was syndicated throughout Australia,[33]New Zealand and Canada.[34]

The strip, about a pair of soldiers, Bluey, the Great War veteran who had re-enlisted, and Curley, the new recruit to the A.I.F.[35]

The strip was widely appreciated for the good-humoured way it depicted the Australian "diggers" and their "mateship", as well as for its realistic use of Australian idiom of the day.[36]

During the war, he was accredited as a war correspondent,[37] and he visited army camps throughout Australia and New Guinea to ensure authenticity for his strip.[38]

While in New Guinea he contracted malaria and was incapacitated for some time.[39]

Gurney was in England in June 1946, as part of an Australian Press Syndicate sent specifically to view the Victory Parade.

As well as sending caricatures of various eminent people involved in that parade back to Australia for distribution through the press, he also used the opportunity to have Bluey and Curley attend the parade, and a number of his Bluey and Curley comic strips reflected that event.[40]

Gurney's visit to London, and his version of events, as seen through his Bluey and Curley comic strip, was also historically significant for another reason: it was the first time that a newspaper comic strip had ever been transmitted from England to Australia by radio.[41]

The strip lost some of its appeal and readership when the pair returned to "civvy street".[3]

Alex Gurney)[42]
    Today's world needs men who can make it smile and some-

times guffaw.
    Alex Gurney, creator of the Bluey and Curley comic strip, who
died on Sunday night, was that kind of man.
    He was a happy man himself. He liked fishing, a beer or two,
a good story.
    Gurney will be remembered for a long time, because he had
an inborn genius for knowing what makes men laugh. He would
have hated to picture them weeping over his tomb.

             John Hetherington, The Age, 6 December 1955.

After Gurney's sudden death from heart attack, the strip was continued by Norman Rice, and then by Les Dixon.


Gurney was a member of the Returned Sailors' Soldiers' and Airmens Imperial League of Australia (RSS&AILA), now known as The Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL), the Black and White Artists' Club, now known as The Australian Cartoonists' Association, and the Savage Club.[43]


Gurney died suddenly, of heart disease, on 4 December 1955. He had been ill for several months, and had collapsed in his motor car parked outside his residence at 7 Merton Avenue, Elwood.[44]

His funeral service, conducted by Rev. Selwyn Ide, at St Stephen's Church of England, Gardenvale, on Tuesday, 6 December 1955, was attended by "more than 500 journalists, artists and friends".[45]

His art


Comic characters

Comic strips


Editorial Cartoons

Illustrations for articles and books





  • Dyer, B., This'll Slay you! by Bob Dyer; illustrations by Gurney, Bob Dyer, (Melbourne), 1943.


  1. ^ a b Births: Gurney, The Mercury, (Saturday, 3 May 1902), p1.
  2. ^ Marriages, The Mercury, (Saturday, 20 July 1901),p.5.
  3. ^ a b c Ryan, John Panel By Panel Cassell Australia 1979
  4. ^ Gurney, (2006), p.2.
  5. ^ Marriages, The Mercury, (Wednesday, 2 September 1908), p.1.; Of Social Interest, The Mercury, (Saturday, 31 August 1940), p.4.
  6. ^ O'Neill, S., "Grover, Montague MacGregor (Monty) (1870-1943)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1983.
  7. ^ Births: Goldberg, The Argus, (Saturday, 18 August 1877), p.1.
  8. ^ Marriages: Grover--Goldberg, The Argus, (Monday, 24 May 1897), p.1.
  9. ^ Journalist Gets Divorce, The National Advocate, (Friday, 26 September 1913), p.2.
  10. ^ On the Mountains: Editor Grover Divorces his Wife, The (Sydney) Truth, (Sunday, 28 September 1913), p.2.
  11. ^ This photograph, held by the Australian War Museum, was obviously taken at the same time, with the same subjects, and in the same location as [1], and [2].
  12. ^ The Talk of the Town: Ink Round the Think!,The (Adelaide) Mail, (Saturday, 30 June 1934), p.9. John was also the author of a number of books of humorous stories and jokes on various subjects.
  13. ^ Births: Gurney, The Argus, (Saturday, 27 March 1937), p.21.
  14. ^ Preparation for Artist's Ball, The Age, (Thursday, 14 December, 1961), p.15; Margaret Gurney Art; Melbourne Society of Women Painters & Sculptors: Margaret Gurney. Archived 22 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine; Miller, C., "Art Trail Proves a Shore Draw", The Age, (Sunday, 2 January 2005).
  15. ^ John Hetherington (28 July 1951). "Bluey's Creator Was Hobart Student". The Mercury (Hobart). CLXX (25, 149). Tasmania, Australia. p. 4. Retrieved 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ Haller-Griffits, A.E., "Dechaineux, Florent Vincent Emile Lucien (1869-1957)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1981.
  17. ^ Amusements: Coonah Coon Company, The Mercury, (Tuesday, 25 August 1925), p.10.
  18. ^ Kingborough Show: Art Work, The Mercury, (Tuesday, 3 April 1923), p.2.
  19. ^ McCarter (1934); also has a photograph of Alex Gurney at work with his drawing board. See also: Day by Day: "Eventful History", The Mercury, (Friday, 12 December, 1941), p.3: "I wonder if Alex. Gurney, who every day enlivens us with his sketches in "The Mercury" of "Bluey and Curley", still uses his historic drawing board which once formed a panel of a cedar door in the Old Bell Hotel in Elizabeth St. Hobart. The door once gave entrance to the room in which Marcus Clark is believed to have written his famous book "For the Term of His Natural Life". When the hotel was demolished the door was bought on account of its fine wood. The panel, made into a drawing board, was later presented to Mr. Gurney. It is a strange thought that on that drawing board whose wood once witnessed the writing of one of the most painful stories of the past there should now be sketched the laughable anecdotes of Australian soldiers fighting for the Empire"; and also Beatty, B., "Australoddities", The Cairns Post, (Monday, 6 March 1950), p.4.
  20. ^ Advertisement, The Mercury, (Friday, 11 June 1926), p.11.; "Tasmanians To-Day", The Mercury, (Wednesday, 16 June 1926), p.9.; "Who's Who in Tasmania", The (Adelaide) Register, (Monday, 28 June 1926), p.8.
  21. ^ For other examples of his caricatures, see: [3], and [4].
  22. ^ Personal, The Mercury, (Friday, 30 July 1926), p.6.
  23. ^ [5]; [6].
  24. ^ [7]; [8].
  25. ^ For example, The Talk of the Town:The Tax Paradox, The (Adelaide Mail, ((Saturday, 7 October 1933), p.7; [9].
  26. ^ Meet Fred, the Football Fan, The [Adelaide] Mail, (Saturday, 30 July 1932), p.10.
  27. ^ Meet Ben Bowyang, The [Adelaide] Advertiser, (Monday, 20 November 1933), p.14; Ben Bowyang Makes Debut Tomorrow, The [Adelaide] Advertiser, (Wednesday, 22 November 1933), p.14; Ben Bowyang Tomorrow, The [Adelaide] Advertiser, (Wednesday, 29 November 1933), p.18; Meet Ben Bowyang, The Courier-Mail, (Thursday,14 December 1933), p.14. Ben Bowyang (by Alex Gurney), The [Adelaide] Advertiser, (Thursday, 23 November 1933), p.13.
  28. ^ Some samples of early Ben Bowyang strips: [10] (Note that, in this example, Gurney's own calligraphy has been over-typed with a Queensland reference); [11].
  29. ^ For examples of his work for the Melbourne Herald as a feature cartoonist, see A Modern Gulliver, The (Launceston) Examiner, (Saturday, 7 December 1935), p.17, Letting The Rest Of The World Go By, The (Launceston) Examiner, (Saturday, 24 August 1935), p.14, and The Grim Reaper, The (Launceston) Examiner, (Tuesday, 3 October 1939), p.5. Often, the message of his cartoons provoked deep thought; for example, Car Accidents, The (Launceston) Examiner, (Wednesday, 5 July 1939), p.6.
  30. ^ This topical advertisement, which was published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail on the day after the 1939 Melbourne Cup, shows the winning trainer and jockey turning down the Melbourne Cup Trophy for a Red Capstan cigarette, plus an endorsement by, and photograph of, Alex Gurney. The advertisement also appeared in a number of other newspapers during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival; e.g., The Launceston Examiner on the day before the Caulfield Cup, and The West Australian on the Wednesday before the Melbourne Cup (and the day after), and in the Hobart Mercury, the day after the Cup.
  31. ^ Memento for Cartoonist, The Mercury, (Tuesday, 20 November 1945), p.11.
  32. ^ Doug T., Sunday History: Bluey and Curley, (4 April 2010).
  33. ^ [12]; [13]; [14]; [15]; [16].
  34. ^ It was syndicated throughout Canada as "Bluey and Curley of the Anzacs: [17]; [18].
  35. ^ Compare the simpler graphic style of the earliest, war-time strips ([19]), with the much later far more developed style of the 1955 version ([20] plus [21]).
  36. ^ Panozzo, S., "Gurney, Alexander George (Alex) (1902-1955)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, (1996).
  37. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 September 2012. Retrieved 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  38. ^ What is Happening in Your Home State: South Australia, Army News, (Thursday, 2 November 1944), p.2; [22]; [23]; [24]; [25]; [26].
  39. ^ We're Also Rationed, The Courier-Mail, (Wednesday 6 September 1944), p.3.
  40. ^ Bluey and Curley,The (Perth) Sunday Times, (Sunday, 16 June 1946), p.6.; Bluey and Curley Go to the Victory March, The Sunday Times Comics, The (Perth) Sunday Times, (Sunday, 16 June 1946), p.8.
  41. ^ Bluey and Curley by Radio from London, The (Perth) Sunday Times, Sunday 9 June 1946), p.2.
  42. ^ Hetherington, John, "Collins Street Calling", The Age, (Tuesday, 6 December 1955), p.1; Hetherington's item appeared in his column that was published on the front page of The Age on the day of Alex Gurney's funeral
  43. ^
  44. ^ Famous Strip Creator Dead, The Age, (Monday, 5 December 1955), p.3.
  45. ^ Death Notice: Gurney, The Age, (Tuesday, 6 December 1955), p.14; Funeral Notice: Gurney, The Age, (Tuesday, 6 December 1955), p.14; 500 Attend Alex Gurney's Funeral, The Argus, (Wednesday, 7 December 1955), p.9.
  46. ^ The royalties from this book went to the Food For Britain Fund: About Books: Humour, The West Australian, (Saturday, 10 January 1948), p.5; Food For Britain Fund Closing "About Christmas", The Sydney Morning Herald, (Thursday, 10 August 1950), p.1.


External links

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