Mike Peyton, greatest ever yachting cartoonist, has died aged 96

Mike Peyton 5

Mike Peyton, yachting’s greatest ever cartoonist, died late on Wednesday 25 January, aged 96.

A keen sailor who helped found the Old Gaffers Association, he was still active until very recently, having been sailing last year with friend Roy Hart, at the age of 95.

Peyton was born into a mining family in County Durham, the son of a disabled First World War veteran. He lied about his age to join the army himself and aged 19 was seconded by the intelligence corps to draw maps of the North African desert during the Second World War.

He was captured and despite escaping twice, spent most of the war in a prisoner of war camp, before being freed by the Soviets and fighting alongside Russian troops as they invaded Nazi Germany from the East.

As a POW he had run the camp newspaper and after the war he went to art school in Manchester, where he met his wife Kath.

He’d been inspired by the comics that he read as a schoolboy and initially worked as a freelance cartoonist for a variety of publications including the New Scientist.

It was for his work for Yachting Monthly and Practical Boat Owner that he became known and loved. He also worked for many sailing magazines abroad.

His cartoons have become well-known classics that so perfectly capture a yachting situation that crew members will cry: “It’s like the Mike Peyton cartoon!”

Many sailors recognise themselves in his cartoons – and not always with good humour. One yachtsman who built his own wooden boat, but who got her waterline wrong, harangued Peyton when he found himself the subject of a cartoon – the boat hull still not afloat, with the incoming tide covering the deck.

Recently Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “Mike has the knack of catching a situation we dread and poking fun at the reaction.”

“I didn’t have to think up cartoons,” Peyton said, “I saw them happen. They’re all based on real life. I remember years ago I thought I’d run out of ideas. But I never have.”

He was a founder member of the Old Gaffer’s Association and his first boat was the gaffer Vagrant, a 24ft centre-boarder which started life as a ‘penny sick’; a boat which carried green-faced, day-trippers out around Southend Pier and back.

The £200 Peyton paid for her had been earmarked for a new kitchen in his first home with wife Kath, prompting Peyton to say he had the only gaff-rigged kitchen in the UK.

After a series of gaffers and a Folkboat, Froyna, in which Peyton and family cruised the East Coast and Channel, he built three ferro-cement hulls: Lodestone, Brimstone and finally Touchstone.
After designer Alan F Hill received Peyton’s ideas for drawing plans for Touchstone, and the build started, he said: “It was like watching a cartoon come alive.”

Peyton lost his sight five years ago and was unable to draw, but he continued sailing with friends and his northern humour remained intact to the last. His cartoons have continued to be published in magazines and books and in recent years he was given lifetime achievement awards by the Yachting Journalists’ Association and the Royal Cruising Club.

He is survived by wife Kath and their two daughters.

 

Dick Durham’s biography Peyton: The World’s Greatest Yachting Cartoonist is published by Bloomsbury

 

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