The cartoons of Jim Needle we published recently brought back memories of another celebrated Oxford artist, Alan Course.

Alan was a larger-than-life character, who featured in many aspects of city life.

Apart from his cartoons, which featured regularly in the Oxford Mail, he was a police constable, entertainer, landlord of three pubs, fire extinguisher salesman, author of guide books and telephone operator.

He came to Oxford in 1934 to join Oxford City Police, in which he served for 12 years.

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He later ran The Bear Inn in Blue Boar Street, where he started a collection of nearly 3,000 ties, the White Hart at Wytham and the Star at Woodstock.

He organised many entertainment shows for charity.

He died in 1975, the day after his 62nd birthday.

We were reminded of him when the cartoon below was published in the newsletter of the Oxford City Police Association, representing officers who served in the city force before the creation of Thames Valley Police in 1968.

Oxford Mail:

It features the combined city and county police rugby team and as you will see, comments on the Teddy Boy craze at that time.

According to former City police officer Richard Tyrrell, of Kidlington, who had kept the cartoon, the team had suffered badly at the hands of the Birmingham force.

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He writes: “A search through the records revealed that the team played against Birmingham City police on five occasions and lost each time – 1958, lost 3-16; 1960, lost 3-18, 1961, lost 3-13, 1964, cancelled due to snow; 1965, lost 8-10 and 0-42.

“The 1966 game was cancelled owing to duties.

After the big defeat in 1965, perhaps the cancellation in 1966 ‘owing to duties’ was a strategic one.”

Alan Course had a flair for creating up-to-the-minute cartoons reflecting the current local news.

John Turner, of Sandford-on-Thames, recalled being sketched by him in 60 seconds after he had starred in an Oxford Boys’ cricket match against Middlesex.

He was the last batsman at the crease and scored an impressive 30 runs.

The cartoon appeared in the Oxford Mail, with John described as the ‘tail-wagger-in-chief’.

Other readers with memories of Alan Course include Terry Smith, of Norwich, who featured in one of his Mail cartoons after competing in a cross-country race.

And Neil Harris, of Weston-on-the-Green, received a personal image of an Oxford Cheetahs’ speedway rider to mark his interest in the sport.

Earlier this year The Bear Inn, one of the city’s smallest pubs, set up seating for 95 people outdoors, due to coronavirus restrictions on drinking inside.

This included 10 tables inside a marquee and eight tables outside it, seating more people than the pub itself can accommodate inside.