John Billy (Wilk) Wilkinson lived in Keswick,
born in 1906 he died in 1994, he is famous for his gentle caricatures
of Lakeland characters and today many of his works command prices of several
hundred pounds at auction. I did not know Wilk but my father and great
uncles did, one of whom he drew in 1935. If memory serves The Pheasant
public house up by Keswick hospital once had a fine collection of his
work on the wall. Below are a few of his “hunting” works.
me if you can give information about anymore of his cartoons.
George Graham, Phil Davidson and Johnnie Richardson
by Wilk, 1989
'Holed', Joe Wear and his terriers, by Wilk, date unknown
“When the Moon comes over the mountain”
Joe Wear and his hounds outside the Travellers Rest Grasmere by
2010 - More Wilk
Since we ran the Wilk pictures a little
while ago, several people have contacted us with others and some stories,
so here is a “larl bit more abut Wilk”.
“Wilk” or John William Wilkinson
was born, lived and died in Brigham in Keswick. He was born in 1906 and
on leaving school started work at a bobbin mill and then became a fitter
for the Keswick Gas Company. In 1954 with his wife Mary he opened a shop
in the front room of his house Greta Cottage. His cartoons of local people
especially hunting and trail hound followers are very collectable.
Cumberland and Westmorland Herald
2nd April 2002
Saturday, 20 April 2002
“WILK” CARTOON TOPS £1,000 FOR FIRST TIME
PAINTINGS found in the back of a wardrobe
at an unoccupied house at Keswick generated keen interest when they came
under the auctioneer’s hammer while a cartoon by former town artist
“Wilk” topped £1,000 for the first time.
The record-making “Wilk”
depicted famed Blencathra huntsman the late Johnnie Richardson, with hounds
and terriers on a snow-covered fell.
Indeed, five works by the late Keswick cartoonist Bill Wilkinson featured
in the quarterly catalogue sale of antiques and collectors’ items
conducted by Penrith Farmers’ and Kidd’s.
The following story was sent to me by
a lady, and the story give some idea of “Wilk’s” talent.
It was accompanied by a copy of the picture she refers to (see below).
“I have in my possession a
fine Wilk caricature it is unusual as it features two ladies both
called Elsie, & Billy did not usually feature women in his work.
I knew Billy briefly when my husband & I were tenants of The Twa
Dogs inn during 1976-79 & remember him as a very nice man. He presented
us with the picture after watching the two Elsie’s who were friends
& neighbours living in the cottages next to the pub. Billy lived
opposite, as you will know. The larger Elsie had a regular visit to
the hospital outpatient dept & can be seen getting into the ambulance
helped by the smaller Elsie. I’m sorry I cannot remember either
of these ladies last names but were both from Keswick & lived there
all their lives. I do however remember the third person in the picture,
a real character, his name was Jimmy Matthieson, he also lived in the
cottages beside the Elsies. He is walking with his bike which he used
as a walking frame as he was too old to ride on it even back then, alongside
is his Jack Russell dog with my own dog a German shepherd watching on.
It really is an interesting picture featuring three real characters
of the time that I remember fondly. The larger Elsie had a liking for
her baubles, earrings bracelets etc, which are captured to great effect in
The “Twa Dogs” pub in Keswick
has a good number of “Wilk” cartoons on display if you're
passing and it’s a good pint as well
Update September 2010
- Yet More Wilk!
I saw your article on Wilk the cartoonist
and thought you might be interested in a couple of snippets I have.
As a youngster of around maybe 9 years I was a regular visitor to Wilk’s
shop at the end of Brigham row, I used to visit my old grandfather who
lived on the row, he was called Jim Mattinson it was he who featured
in the background on the 2 old ladies cartoon, he used to do a paper
round right up until his final days although he could barely walk. The
old jack Russell called Cassey used to tug him along on his old bike
delivering the Evening News. After Jim died we took Cassey lovely old
dog. Old Jim used to send me to Wilk’s shop for odds and ends
several times a week, we used to go in as kids and Wilk used to draw
a picture on a sweet bag it could have been anything from one of his
characters to a crumb on the counter, whoever guessed what it was first
was usually the winner of a black jack sweet which were 4 for an old
penny at the time, we often spent ages in there whilst old Wilk entertained
us with his drawings, usually getting a roasting off Granda when
I eventually got back with his tea or whatever for taking so long. Great
memories. Wilk also did one of my uncle Jim who lived on Latrigg Close
just up the road, he was old Jim’s son. The cartoon was a picture
of him walking his whippets, which he used to walk many miles with
every night; Uncle Jim was also a great character with his enormous
handlebar moustache. They used to call him the Major; I have a perfect
colour copy of this given to me by uncle Jim. Wilk also painted
uncle Jim’s son who following the family tradition is also a bit
of a character, he is Eric Mattinson or known by all as Popeye.
This picture featured Popeye and his mate John Dennison (Shape) on pops
old BSA motorbike it was titled Twa dogs Warlicks, Hope this has been
of interest to you.
"Hope this is ok for you, it is
of Jim Mattinson, son of old Jim Mattinson in the background of the
2 Elsie’s, and father of Popeye, (remember the Twa dogs Warlicks)
he was a well known character around the town. All 3 generations captured
by Wilk. Must be a family of characters.
And two more by Wilk that came my way, both with a hunting
Albert Benson and the Windermere Harriers by
'Any chance of a lift to Greystick Parks?'
Mrs Tudor of Blencarn, 1989
NB. Some of the following images have
been photographed behind glass and so the camera flash is visible.
George Graham and a Follower
Sir Percy Hope
Wha's Terrier Dist'a Put In?
When the Moon Comes over the Mountain
Believe it or not it happened at Grasmere
Thanks to those people who sent pictures, especially Brenda and Margaret.