Come Christmastime, the coastal resort town of Blackpool, England, lights up at night as neighbors deck out their homes with festive holiday decorations. Well, most are festive. However, one Blackpool resident has made a name for himself as the town’s foul-housed Christmas curmudgeon. Back in 2016, Steve McGawley may have become the first person in history to be arrested for hanging up X-rated Christmas lights. Instead of the classic “Ho Ho Ho,” “Merry Christmas,” or — Santa forbid — a politically neutral “Happy Holidays,” McGawley thought he’d get a kick out of some rather out-of-season obscenities. He used a string of blue lights to sketch out a penis over his front door (wow, clever), redundantly following it up with a drawing of a bell and the word “END.” (“Bellend” is slang in Britain for the body part he so artistically depicted — Ha. Ha. Ha.) He also spelled out what we’ll politely refer to as the “C” word, which, although it’s used much more freely across the pond, still isn’t something that a proper pair of English parents want their kids reading in bright lights on a cold winter’s night.
Some didn’t think McGawley’s vulgar ornamentations were very funny, so they called the police on their naughty neighbor. The internet, however, loves an unapologetically crass character, and, as reported by Metro, the video of his arrest ended up earning him the coveted title of that British guy who put a penis on his house.
McGawley videotaped his arrest for his offensive Christmas decorations
“You can either take it down or you can be charged with a public order offense,” the police officer told McGawley. (Actually she said it “offence,” because she’s British.) McGawley videotaped the encounter from his upstairs bedroom window, as he initially refused to answer the front door because he was not dressed. Exhibiting behavior as mature as you would expect from a grown man who thinks putting a pee-pee on his house is comedy, he argued with the officer like a child refusing to go to time out. “Why don’t you put some clothes on?” the officer asks, to which McGawley replies in a silly display of mock ignorance: “What for?” But he finally did own up to his actions, put some clothes on, and was arrested for the crime after a ten-minute argument.
At one point, McGawley told the officers that he had taken his lights down many times before, so this wasn’t the first time he had — ahem — pissed the neighbors off with his bawdy bedazzlements. “It’s unacceptable,” said neighbor John Madden. “Children will go past this house and see this and think this is acceptable. It isn’t.” Another said, “What does amaze me is some people find this acceptable. All it does is show how low morality in this country can go. A lack of respect for neighbours and people in general.” However, that sentiment was not universal among the residents of Blackpool.
Not everyone thought his decorations should have gotten him arrested
Some of McGawley’s neighbors’ senses of humor appeared to be just as puerile as his own. A few even started up a fundraiser on his behalf. “I think it’s quite creative,” said one neighbor with a rather low bar for creativity. And for parenting, as it would seem. “If you have your kids up late enough to see them lit up, then you’re a bad parent.”
McGawley later told the Mirror, “The fact that they arrested me was uncalled for, I think. They cuffed me in the back of a van and then I was in cells with spit and beans and all sorts in them.” (Don’t worry, we have no idea what he’s talking about, either.) “All over a set of Christmas lights.”
He ended up taking the lights down (except for the wee-wee, which he ended up calling a “mushroom”), and putting up the words “I’m sorry” in their place, but it wasn’t the last time he made a splash with Christmas decorations. The police returned to his doorstep two years later, as the country was mired in the contentious move to leave the European Union known as Brexit. The Lancashire Post reported in December 2018 that McGawley oh-so-cleverly sketched a Father Christmas squatting next to the word, “BREXSH**.” Wow. Hilarious, innit? Great job, McGawley. And they say Americans have a crude sense of humor (eye-rolling emoji drawn up in Christmas lights).
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