SERIOUS FUN: Brian Cottle at work in the Bunker cataloguing cartoons.
SERIOUS FUN: Brian Cottle at work in the Bunker cataloguing cartoons. BELINDA SCOTT

Life of Brian dedicated to funny gags as cartoonist

IF EVER he needs cheering up, Brian Cottle just has to look up, turn a page or switch on his computer.

Brian works surrounded by funny gags, comic strips, cartoons and caricatures.

This busy volunteer has spent thousands of hours over eight years cataloguing the huge collection of work which has been accumulated by Coffs Harbour's Bunker Cartoon Gallery.

Since he began the monumental task, Brian has catalogued more than 20,500 different works of art.

Each one has to be identified, listed and classified so it can be entered in the gallery's database and stored so it can be found and retrieved when required for exhibitions.

"When I first came up to the Bunker, I said I had absolutely no artistic ability and knew nothing about cartoons," Brian said.

"I still have no artistic ability but I know a lot about cartoons."

He said he had never been tempted to pick up his pencil and try his hand at drawing: "I just do stick figures," he said.

He jokes that the cataloguing has been a perfect task for a former bank manager well-versed in pen and paper, files, ledgers and lists.

A refugee from contemporary banking, Brian said he left the industry at the relatively young age of 54.

"I'd had a gutful of work and the stress of my position," he said.

Brian said of his 39 years in the banking business, he had thoroughly enjoyed the first 35, but the bank restructure and the changes in banking culture had sent banks in the wrong direction.

He saw firsthand the damage being caused to struggling western NSW businesses and drought-affected farms by new banking practices and disliked being part of it.

Brian and his wife Lorna chose Coffs Harbour for their retirement, not just because it was Lorna's hometown and they could help look after her parents, but because Brian also had local ties after spending 1959 at school there while his father managed the town's railway refreshment rooms.

It was Brian's interest in local history which led him first to volunteer at the museum and then at the Bunker, which intrigued Brian because of its history as a Second World War communications bunker.

The Bunker, which is open seven days a week, is Australia's only dedicated cartoon gallery.

It is run by a non-profit community group with financial support from Coffs Harbour City Council.

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