A Christmas Card Conundrum

In this festive post Jane Donaldson reports on a Christmas mystery at the Rylands...

Written by Jane Donaldson.

Recently, the University Conference Centre got in touch with the John Rylands Library. They had in their possession some Christmas Cards signed by C. P. Scott, the Manchester Guardian Editor, and as they were no longer to be displayed, would we like them to go with the Guardian Archives?

Cue much excitement as we eagerly awaited the cards.

We opened them up.  There were a couple of generic cards, and a few with artists’ impressions of the Guardian Offices and sculptures. 

From the early 1970s. All signed by C. P. Scott.

C. P. Scott died in 1932.

So what was the story? Where were they from? 

A note accompanying the cards stated that the donor had received them from her father, who had met C. P. Scott during the time that he was running a successful business in Manchester. But why were cards being received in the 1970s from a C. P. Scott?  After Scott’s death in 1932, the paper was jointly owned by his children, John and Ted Scott.  Ted died less than 4 months later in a drowning accident and the paper was passed over to the editor, William Percival Crozier.

In the period that the cards were sent, the editor was Alastair Hetherington.  He was in post from 1956 until 1975.

In all six cards sent over the years, the signatures were signed in the same way, apart from one which was signed ‘Charles Prescott’.  Although the signatures look to be from the same hand, with the loops and slant all similar, when checked with Guardian Archive correspondence, the signature is very different to C. P. Scott’s actual signature. 

C. P. Scott’s signature from GDN/A/M25/3, a letter to James Bone, 20th June 1928.

A visit to the local studies centre to look at Goad Maps which show individual buildings, may give us a name to the business mentioned by the donor, as we know the area the business was in, but many questions remain.  All the cards were official Guardian cards but who was sending the cards?  Who was signing the cards?  Did the person receiving them think they were from C. P. Scott?  We may never know but it certainly was a surprise and very mysterious. If you can help us solve this little conundrum, please get in touch.

Guardian and Manchester Evening News office (demolished c.2007), with the 1970 storage block of the John Rylands Library visible on the extreme right (demolished in 2004).

In 2021 the Library will celebrate The Guardian’s 200th anniversary with an exhibition featuring items from the Manchester Guardian Archive. Keep an eye on our website for further details.


The mystery of the signed cards has now been solved thanks to the Guardian News and Media Archive in London.  CP Scott’s grandson was also named CP Scott and was a director of the Manchester Guardian and Evening News from 1952-1976, the time when the cards were sent.  He was Secretary of the Scott Trust from c. 1971 – c. 1976 which was initially set up by Scott’s son, JR Scott who became the sole inheritor of after the death of his brother, Edward Taylor Scott, only four months after the death of his father.  There is a brief history of the Guardian on the GNM website.

We are so glad to have solved this mystery and that nobody had been misled, but also to find out another name in the Scott family that, until now, there was very little information about outside the archive.

1 comment on “A Christmas Card Conundrum

  1. This is fascinating – you can date the photos by the clothes and cars.

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