Kenneth Mahood was born in Belfast on 4 February 1930, claiming to have been brought up "in a religious community so strict even the churches were closed on Sundays." He worked at first as an errand boy in a solicitor's office, and from 1945 to 1949 was an apprentice lithographer before becoming a professional painter. He exhibited in Belfast, London and Dublin and won a CEMA scholarship to study art in Paris. His first cartoon was accepted by Punch when he was eighteen, and he later became not only a regular contributor but also, from 1960 to 1965, the magazine's Assistant Art Editor under William Hewison.
In 1966 Mahood became the first-ever political cartoonist on The Times, which was planning a complete redesign to attract younger readers. After a series of trial cartoons, Mahood's work appeared in the first redesigned issue of 3 May 1966, and regularly thereafter. In the same year he was a founder member of the British Cartoonists' Association. Mahood left The Times at the end of 1968, but at the start of 1969 began working as pocket cartoonist for the Evening Standard. In 1971 he got the job of pocket cartoonist on the Financial Times. In 1978 he was elected to the Punch Table, and in 1982 he moved to the Daily Mail to draw its "Compact Cartoon", and provide sports cartoons. As he commented of his work, "at a time when the news is very grim, I think people look for some light relief. And that's the job of the cartoonist": "The important thing is to be witty and to make a comment at the same time, if possible."
At the Daily Mail, noted one journalist, Mahood "seemed...like an emissary from a gentler age, delivering his pocket cartoon in the early evening and then meandering up to the sub-editors to offer them foil-wrapped biscuits as they tried to lay out the next day’s paper."But his work could attract controversy. In 2000 one of his cartoons showed refugees leaving Dover in the back of a lorry. It appeared only a few days after fifty-eight refugees had suffocated to death in similar circumstances, and the Refugee Council protested to the Daily Mail's editor Paul Dacre. It received a reply from executive managing editor Robin Esser, who observed that "I think it is not always appreciated that cartoons are not jokes. They are satirical comment."
Mahood has also contributed drawings to the New Yorker, produced a number of books and worked in collage. He retired from the Daily Mail in December 2009, just before his eightieth birthday.
- Daily Mail, 29 May 1982, p.7, "Mahood Joins the Mail."
- Kenneth Mahood "The Gospel According to Mahood" (London, 1984).
- The Guardian, 31 July 2000, Media Pages, p.6, "Media: Diary."
- Mark Bryant Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), p.150.
- Daily Mail, 24 December 2009, “The Man with a Pocketful of Laughter.”
- Helen Lewis “Ink-stained assassins”, New Statesman, 23 August 2012.
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