In Memoriam: Tammy and Battle Art Editor Peter Downer

We’re sorry to report the passing of former Tammy and Battle Picture Weekly Art Editor Peter Downer, who died, aged 82, on Friday 11th March. We understand he had been ill, then had a bad fall, needing hospital treatment, and subsequently contracted COVID. 

Peter worked at Fleetway Comics between 1972 and 1987, first on Tammy, then Battle, before moving on to work for various companies during a long career, including Studio Manager at Holly Graphics, Croydon, the Trenton Group, working on exhibitions material, and for IPC Magazines as a freelancer in the 1990s, on Angler’s Mail.

Peter Downer. Photo: Sheri Downer
Peter Downer. Photo: Sheri Downer

Writer and editor Wilf Prigmore, who worked at Fleetway/IPC in the 1970s, was Group Editor for Girls’ Adventure Comics, co-creator of Misty and editor of Tammy, amongst many other roles, pays tribute to his friend here, and we also share memories of him from other former staff and freelancers…

Peter worked in Fleetway Comics under its various owners for 15 years. He was already on Tammy, the new girls’ comic, when I joined in 1972. He told me “it’s a madhouse!” (a favourite saying of his) and it was – it was a time of frantic activity, new launches and a generation of writers and artists with different ideas. Many were fresh from DC Thomson and keen to exploit their freedom, Fleetway House being a very liberal place to work.

As its art editor, Peter was to prove a steadying influence. The Tammy office in its early days was home or meeting place to Gerry Finley Day, Joe Collins, Pat Mills, Malcolm Shaw and John Wagner, among others – names now well known to comic fans and readers of this website. Obviously, a cool head was needed to keep all that creativity in check and ensure the little things like meeting deadlines and getting the camera-ready issue to the printer every week were dealt with. Peter was just the man for the job.

Peter made a point of getting to know our UK-based artists. Overseas artists at that time mostly worked through agents, and I’m not even sure if our telephones could access foreign countries. But at least we always knew what the weather was like in Middlesbrough or parts of Scotland. I remember first hearing names like John Armstrong, Mario Capaldi, Douglas Perry and Jim Baikie that way, and there would usually be an amusing anecdote for us at the end of his calls.

It’s well known that many comics used names of colleagues in stories, usually in a satirical way. Peter and I were looking at a piece of artwork one morning when suddenly a bayonet thudded into his desk easel. Behind us stood Norman Fletcher Jones, resplendent in khaki army webbing, saying we had “used his name in vain!” It was a well-timed joke of course, but imagine someone doing it in 2022….

When I unexpectedly became editor of Tammy with no warning and even less training, I was more than grateful for Peter’s support and assistance – I’m not sure I would have managed without him.

Tammy art editor Peter Downer at his desk, circa 1972. Photo courtesy Wilf Prigmore
Tammy art editor Peter Downer at his desk, circa 1972. Photo courtesy Wilf Prigmore

I recently found a contact sheet of photos I took around 1973 and this one shows Peter at his desk in Fleetway House. Fire hazard? Cow gum, lighter fuel and smokers in the office. Plus, during the three day weeks, when there was no electricity we sometimes worked with a candle stuck to the typewriter or desk. This messy setup was typical of a comic office at that time. When we moved to Kings Reach we had to tidy up, as there was less space allocated to each publication.

Peter was with Tammy through its five mergers and until its final issue in 1984, moving on to work on Battle, where his work was varied: in addition to commissioning art and illustration work, photography and typesetting, he acted as liaison with the Ministry Of Defence for features, referencing military hardware past and present for all branches of the services.

Away from the desk, Peter was always good company and knowledgeable about the local history, so we spent many a lunch hour exploring the neighbourhood and its watering holes. When work eventually took us in different directions we still kept in touch, and laughed about the old times. I visited him just before Christmas 2021 – sadly for the last time.

You couldn’t make it up. But in the comics we did…

Wilf Prigmore

Peter Downer, born 24th November 1939, died 11th March 2022. Our sympathies to family and friends at this time

Peter Downer: Other Tributes

“Peter Downer was a smashing guy who I have fond memories of when I worked on Tammy,” recalls Pat Mills. “I chiefly remember him because I was talking to him about having to do a family intervention with a mentally ill relative. He was incredibly supportive and a wonderful listener, and he undoubtedly helped me through that difficult time. 

“He was always very upbeat and easy going and his kind nature undoubtedly influenced the happy feeling there was around Tammy, both in the office and with the readers.” 

“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Peter,” said Fraser Gray, who worked on Tiger, which was next door to Tammy in Kings Reach Tower. “I have pleasant memories of all the Tammy team. I enjoyed many a conversation with Peter over the partition and nipping round occasionally when (editor) Barry Tomlinson was out!”

“I remember him as a proper ‘old-school gent”, recalls writer and editor Kelvin Gosnell, “with a wry smile and a sharp sense of humour.”

Peter Downer in later years... and pint! Photo: Sheri Downer
Peter Downer in later years. Photo: Sheri Downer

“I don’t recall ever working with Peter on a professional basis, recalls former Battle editor David Hunt. “But I do remember him as a genuinely pleasant, likeable and talented art guy. I believe he was a union official for a time and whilst he could never be labelled a militant, he always had the interest of others at heart.

“Peter was like that,” David continues, “a smiling in your face type of guy who everyone liked.

“I recall a six-a-side football league set up at King’s Reach Tower and the games played at lunchtimes in a nearby ring-fenced Council playing area. Peter being Peter thought us editorial and art bods should be represented and, under the Roy of the Rovers name, we competed as best we could.

“Peter was our goalkeeper and, with the likes of Steve MacManus, myself and others, we had many enjoyable lunch hours spent playing football, plus the usual hearty post match discussions in the local pub after these games.

“Great memories spent with good working friends and brought about by a pleasant guy called Peter Downer.”

Old colleagues Ted Andrews, and John Stenning have expressed their sympathy.

Further Reading…

The Jinty Resource

Girls Comics of Yesterday

A fan site dedicated to British girl comics of the past, looking mostly at the DCT publications like Bunty, Mandy, Judy and Spellbound, but also occasionally dipping into IPC comics like Misty

An Interview with Wilf Prigmore conducted by Julia Round

Taken from conversations with Wilf by telephone, email and in person, between November 2016 and December 2019

Our thanks to Wilf Prigmore for his tribute, Sheri Downer for her photographs, and others for their memories, and Julia Round for her help with this feature

Categories: British Comics, Comics, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features, Obituaries

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