Jolly Fisherman CelebrationsJolly Fisherman StoryVisit SkegnessContact the Jolly FishermanJolly Fisherman Links

The Jolly Fisherman's Story

Jolly Fisherman PosterIt has been said with some truth that Skegness rose to fame on a poster. The Jolly Fisherman Poster and its accompanying slogan is probably the most famous holiday advertisement ever drawn. It has been circulated hundreds of times in almost every newspaper in the land, and the dancing salt has been imitated by thousands of visitors. John Hassall drew the picture in 1908. It had been commissioned by the Great Northern Railway Company and for this masterpiece he received twelve guineas.


Jolly Fisherman poster 2The “so bracing” slogan, of almost equal importance, is believed to have been the brainchild of an unknown member of the Railway Staff.

The poster was first put on display at Easter time that same year in conjunction with a special three-shilling excursion from Kings Cross. The last of these trips ran on August Bank Holiday, 1913. Hassall, one of the greatest of all poster artists, drew many telling advertisements, but none so fine as the Jolly Fisherman. He visited Skegness only once in his life. That was in 1936 when the town which he had put on the map presented him with an illuminated address and “the freedom of the foreshore”

John Hassall said, “the reality of Skegness has eclipsed all my anticipation's. It is even more bracing and attractive than I had been led to expect”. Born in Deal, as a young man he twice tried, without success, to join the Army. In frustration he went off to Canada, and whilst there he turned his hand to sketching. Returning to England, he went on to Paris and Antwerp to study art, and the first pictures he sent to the Royal Academy were accepted. Hassall’s original masterpiece hangs in a place of honour in Skegness Town Hall. It was formally given to the town by British Railways, along with the copyright in 1966.

The artist died in 1948, eighty years old and penniless. [more info]
© Jolly Fisherman 2008