Toffs and Toughs

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Toffs and Toughs (1937)

Toffs and Toughs is a 1937 photograph of five boys: two dressed in the Harrow School uniform including waistcoat, top hat, boutonnière, and cane; and three nearby wearing the plain clothes of pre-war working class youths.[1] The picture was taken by Jimmy Sime on 9 July 1937 outside the Grace Gates at Lord's Cricket Ground during the Eton v Harrow cricket match.[1] It has been reproduced frequently as an illustration of the British class system,[1][2][3] although the name "Toffs and Toughs" may be no older than 2004.[1]

The day of the picture[edit]

The names of the five boys were published in a 1998 article by Geoffrey Levy in the Daily Mail.[1][2] The Harrovians were Peter Wagner and Thomas "Tim" Dyson, who had arranged to be at Grace Gates at 2 pm, where Wagner's father would pick them up and drive them to Russ Hill, the Wagners’ country home in Surrey, for the weekend.[1] The other three boys were George Salmon, Jack Catlin, and George Young, 13-year-old pupils at the local Church of England primary school.[1] They had visited the dentist that morning and decided to skip school in order to earn money at Lord's by carrying luggage and returning hired cushions for the deposit.[1] The photographer, Jimmy Sime, worked for the Central Press Agency;[1] Sime took several shots of the five boys outside Grace Gates.[1] Ian Jack speculates that Sime solicited the cooperation of the three "toughs", but not that of the two "toffs".[1]

Use of the photograph[edit]

The picture first appeared next day, 10 July 1937, on the front page of the News Chronicle, a left-wing newspaper, under the heading "Every picture tells a story".[1] A different photograph from the same reel was printed in a photo-essay in Life on 2 August 1937; Life erroneously described Wagner and Dyson as "Young Etonians", and described the other three as "village boys".[4] Ian Jack speculates that Life used an inferior shot because the original had been sold by the Central Press Agency exclusively to the News Chronicle.[1]

The News Chronicle photograph reappeared in 1941 in Picture Post, illustrating an article by A. D. Lindsay arguing for reform of Britain's education system.[1] Bert Hardy, who joined the Picture Post in 1941, has often been misidentified as the photographer who took the picture.[1] It has been reused often in subsequent decades; Levy called it "the defining image of class division".[2] In 1979 it was a plate in François Bédarida's Social history of England, captioned "The Two Nations".[5] It was the illustration on the covers of books about the British class system published in the 1990s, and in newspaper articles in the 2000s.[1] Paul Barker of the Institute for Community Studies described the picture in 2000 as an "easy caricature" symbolising an obsolete social divide.[3]

In 2004, the title "Toffs and Toughs" was used in the Getty Images online catalogue, and for a jigsaw puzzle of the photograph.[1] Ian Jack has criticized this title, since Salmon, Catlin and Young were not especially poor or disreputable, merely part of the respectable working-class majority of the time.[1]

The boys in later life[edit]

Tim Dyson died of diphtheria in August 1938, shortly after travelling to join his parents in Trimulgherry, India.[1] Peter Wagner entered the family stockbroking firm, married, and had three daughters; he became mentally unstable in the 1970s and died in Hellingly Hospital in 1984.[1] George Young and George Salmon were each married when interviewed for the Daily Mail in 1998.[1] Young had a flat in The Barbican.[1] Salmon, who still lived in Marylebone, died in 2000.[6] Jack Catlin's family moved to Rickmansworth soon after 1937; he was widowed, remarried and living in Weymouth in 2010.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Jack, Ian (Spring 2010). "Five boys: the story of a picture". Intelligent Life. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Levy, Geoffrey (30 October 1998). "Revealed:The real story of the toffs and three urchins". Daily Mail. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Barker, Paul (19 June 2000). "Who's afraid of the class system?". New Statesman. 
  4. ^ "The Camera Overseas: Eton beats Harrow by seven wickets at Lord's". Life. 2 August 1937. p. 54. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 
  5. ^ Bédarida, François (1979). A social history of England, 1851-1975. Cambridge University P ress. p. 315. ISBN 978-0-416-85920-1. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  6. ^ Jack, Ian (Summer 2010). "Five boys: a postscript". Intelligent Life. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 

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