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An Unpopular Idol! How Billy and His Sunday-Schoolmates Intend to Wreak Their Vengeance, if only a Snow-Storm Be Propitious, On the Embankment Some Sunday Afternoon About Christmas-Time

Phil May (1864-1903)


Signed and dated 1902
Inscribed below mount 'Sunday in the Embankment Gardens
Time 2.45pm
1st urchin 'come on Billy – it's school time'
2nd d 'let's give him another first'
(they snowball statue rigorously and exeunt.)' below mount

Pen and ink

10 ¼ x 8 ¼ inches

William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme;
M W Ingram

Punch, 24 December 1902, Page 435

The Illustrated London News, December 1958, Page 16, As
'Sunday Snowballs For the Founder of Sunday Schools: A
Thames Embankment Scene Drawn by Phil May'

'The Long Nineteenth Century: Treasures and Pleasures', Chris Beetles Gallery, March - April 2014, No 145;
'The Illustrators. the British Art of Illustration 1880-2017',Chris Beetles Gallery, November 2017-January 2018, No 81

The newspaper proprietor and editor, Robert Raikes the Younger (1736-1811), set up the first Sunday School for working-class children in the home of a Mrs Meredith, in Sooty Alley, Gloucester, in 1780. he advertised the development of this school in his widely circulating newspaper, the Gloucester Journal, on 3 November 1783, and by so doing initiated the Sunday School movement. this would provide the first schools of the English state system, which, by 1831, was providing an education for 1,250,000 children.

centenary celebrations of the first Sunday School, in 1880, included the erection of a statue of robert raikes by Thomas Brock in Victoria Embankment Gardens, on the north bank of the Thames. Phil May’s drawing, made two decades later, shows one of his favourite types of characters – working-class boys – expressing their disapproval of Raikes’ benevolence, by pelting this statue with snowballs.

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