Private Eye magazine is a British Institution, a satirical magazine which, for more than
fifty years, has been a thorn in the side of the establishment. It’s range of targets appear to have no limits, although investigations into governments, politicians and big business are it’s stock in trade.
Its humble beginnings are at Shrewsbury School in the mid-1950s when a gang of now well-known pupils formed The Salopian. A Salopian is the name for someone from Shrewsbury or Shropshire and consequently Old Salopians are those ex-pupils of Shrewsbury School. Richard Ingrams and Willie Rushton, Christopher Booker and Paul Foot were among those editing the publication although the magazine ceased when their school educations finished and University beckoned.
At Oxford, Foot & Ingrams met others who would work on the magazine in the future but the idea of a satirical magazine remained on the back burner until the introduction of a revolutionary printing method which allowed virtually anyone to self-publish.
That technology was photo-litho offset and it allowed anyone with a typewriter and
a Letraset (a method of transferring letters and other artistic elements to artwork). The name Private Eye is said to be influenced by the famous Lord Kitchener wartime poster (right), which actually prompted chief funder Andrew Osmond to reject the first suggestion - The Finger. In a slightly tenuous connection, Private Eye was chosen as the kind of person who ‘fingers’ the accused.
Originally under the editorship of Christopher Brooker, Private Eye was not intended to be a vehicle for satire and anti-establishment investigation. Willie Rushton et al just wanted to write jokes and funny articles; the type of thing that was featured in the original school magazine, The Salopian. Punch magazine was the long standing satirical magazine which Private Eye was trying to emulate and with which to compete.
By issue 40, Richard Ingrams had taken over full editorship of the magazine and although satire wasn’t the original intention, the theme of the 190s was just that. A new satirical magazine was born.
Part Two follows…