There is also a war horse in my own family. My ggg-uncle was John Birrell Horsburgh (1865-1940) and his eldest son was John Harvie Horsburgh. John was born on Forfar Road in Dundee in 1892 and, as a teenager, worked in a jute mill. By the time of the Great War he was working as a cab driver and served in the war with the Royal Engineers. After being demobbed he worked as a carter (something of a Horsburgh family specialty) for contractor James Wilson of Malcolm Street, Dundee.
Also starting at James Wilson's, in 1918, was an 11-year-old horse called Darkie. Darkie, so-called because of his handsome black coat, had crossed the Atlantic to Britain in the early years of the war with a French-Canadian Battalion and had gone with them into battle-torn France where he sustained seven injuries to his fore-end, flanks and legs. When the war was over he was bought by Wilson's and was soon teamed up with a carter, my cousin John Horsburgh.
In about 1928 both John and Darkie moved to Tough Brothers, merchants and manufacturers at the Anchor Works in Anchor Lane. Darkie was a 'Belgian type' but had the short neck and powerful shoulders of a Clydesdale. He was an intelligent creature, able to position himself correctly depending on whether he was pulling a cart or a lorry, behaving better than many motorists at traffic lights, able to shift himself out the way of a passing bus upon hearing its horn, and he knew his way round the twists and turns of the Corporation gasworks yard without the slightest guidance needed.
In 1933 Darkie took part in the Broughty Ferry Carnival, and in 1935 he was spruced up and decorated for King George V's silver jubilee. But in August 1937, having never needed to see a vet in all his carting career, he died of an internal ailment. He was about 30 years old and had been at work just the day before. John Horsburgh was inconsolable ...
"... aye, [he was] as cheery at the end o' the week as he wis at the beginnin'. He wis the maist wice-like horse I've ever had onything tae dae wi'."
John himself had married in 1916, to a jute spinner, Elizabeth Anne Williamson. They had five sons (that I know of), though both parents would outlive two of them (James died aged 1 in 1922 and William died aged 25 in 1945). Elizabeth died in 1968, age 73, and John died age 76 in March 1969, just three months before my own birth.
I've measured out the panels on the final drawing paper (A3 landscape for half a page), scanned them in, reduced them to A4, printed them out, and have then very roughly sketched in the basics of each panel (based on the script and the thumbnails). These have then been scanned in again and lettered so I know how much space the balloons will take up before I commit to the finished artwork.
The next thing to do is to start the actual drawing!
He was born 21st June 1893 in Loan Street, Anstruther Easter, in Fife, the fourth child of an eventual nine to James Parker Gilmour (1861-1934), a slater, and Mary Henderson Borthwick (1865-1929). In his teenage years he became an apprentice watchmaker, and on 5th September 1913 he enlisted with the 1st Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) at Dundee.
Attached to C Company, James landed in France on 13th August 1914, and a month later he was crossing the Aisne as part of the follow-up offensive against von Kluck's German First Army and von Bulow's Second Army. As the two sides faced each other across low-lying open ground the British started to dig ditches for cover, and these soon deepened and lengthened to become the first trenches of the war.
The Black Watch saw particularly heavy action on 14th September at Vendresse, losing 18 officers and 450 men, including their Lieutenant-Colonel. The 15th, 16th and 17th saw heavy shelling of the British positions.
A newspaper listing of 17th November 1914 reports 2567 Private J P Gilmour as missing, and almost a year later, in August 1915, his parents were still appealing in the press for any news of him, stating he had been reported missing on 14th September, though his death was eventually recorded as 16th September 1914.
He is remembered on the Anstruther war memorial, the memorial at the Anstruther Fisheries Museum, and at the cemetery at La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre, Seine-et-Marne, on the memorial for missing men with no known grave. He was 21 years old and the first WWI casualty from Anstruther.
In the meantime, here's some process images, from thumbnail roughs, to pencils, inks and the finished design.
This idea first entered my brain back in 2011 when I saw some beautiful photos of an Asterix exhibition and noticed, not necessarily the extra detail, but the amount of space available to draw in each panel. I always felt a bit crammed-in working at A3, especially when putting down 10 or 12 panels per page. And when drawing smaller full-length figures, and buildings, detail and accuracy does start to get a bit smudgy.
I've also been moving away from the ever-reliable Hunt-107 nib and have become quite attached to the Tachikawa Maru, a finer stylus, a little more flexible, but also allowing for a much more comfortable holder.
With the increase in paper size (actually I'll still be drawing on A3, just landscape in two parts) I have had to update my little set of home-made tools.
The first of these (above left) is what I call a marginator. It's a bit of card cut exactly to the width of my page borders, allowing me to quickly mark up the drawing area of the page without having to count the millimetres from a ruler. I know that's not exactly an arduous task in itself but, when you're doing lots of pages, anything to speed up the repetitive bits is a help.
My first version (for A3) was straight - this new improved model has a 90-degree angle on it, so I can place it in the corner of the page and mark two measurements at once.
Next to that (above right) is my balloon space guide. When I letter the completed page it is at A4, but I need to know how much room to leave for balloons when drawing my bigger original art. This allows me to measure the depth of balloons at A2-scale according to how many lines of text there are. I know how many lines to allow for because I do A4 roughs and letter them first.
I have a little print-out of all the measurements I'll need for working at A2 (above), just so I don't have to keep working out how big half or quarter of a page is, and also so I can quickly reference my basic panel sizes (third, quarter, fifth of a tier, etc). I rarely use those exact measurements, but it's a starting point from which I can go bigger or smaller, depending on what I need. My old A3 measurements are on the left.
The first scene of the new story is three pages long, and though I won't be doing this with the entire book (you'll be relieved to hear!) I am going to be blogging the process of this scene quite closely - just to get things going. Here are the thumbnails ...