Bill McArthur was born in 1939. He studied drawing and painting at Edinburgh College of Art, then took a degree in Fine Art at Edinburgh University, graduating in 1963. At Edinburgh he became known as an illustrator and cartoonist in the student press, and editor of the student magazines Gambit and Cleft.
McArthur then moved to London to work for J. Walter Thomson Advertising as a Junior Art Director, but in 1966 he returned to Edinburgh to run a successful screen-printing business. However, in 1977 he decided to give it up and "run away to sea", buying a cottage on the remote island of Sanday in the Orkney Islands, and starting work as a fisherman. He owned a 40ft trawler, and fished around Orkney, the Hebrides (as far afield as Rockall) and in the North Sea as far east as the Norwegian Sector. Then one night in 1985, as he recalled, "we ran into a huge log of wood off the north side of Skye": "The boat sank in twenty minutes. We were rescued from the life raft by an Irish coaster." He afterwards worked as a deckhand and mate before buying another boat.
In 1988 McArthur resumed his caricaturing, drawing a weekly cartoon for the magazine Fishing News. Then in 1992, as part of the paper's redesign, he was taken on as pocket cartoonist for the Glasgow Herald, faxing his work to Glasgow from the Orkneys. McArthur later became political cartoonist for the Herald, as well as providing illustrations for the Financial Times.
In 2001 he lost the job of political cartoonist at the Herald, after a change of editor, but was then ironically voted Cartoonist of the Year at the Scottish Press Awards, for his work on the paper. He then returned to the Herald as cartoonist, and has regularly been nominated for the same award, winning for a second time in 2005.
In 2009 McArthur took the opportunity of taking up painting seriously again, and began to exhibit and sell his work. In 2011 he held his first solo exhibition, on Orkney. He continues to live on Sanday with his wife Sue, submitting his cartoons via the internet, and listing his hobbies as fishing and doodling.
- Bill McArthur's website at www.seascape-art-orkney.co.uk/index.php/about-the-artist
- Arnold Kemp "Intrepid character behind the cartoons", Glasgow Herald, 8 February 1992, p.11.
- Keith Sinclair “The Herald is best in business”, The Herald (Glasgow), 23 May 2002, p.5.