We’re sorry to report the passing of legendary cartoonist Private Eye, Daily Mirror and New Scientist cartoonist William Edward “Bill” Tidy, MBE.
Perhaps best known a cartoonist, writer and television personality, Bill, who had been ill for some time, known chiefly for his comic strips, and was appointed MBE in 2000 for “Services to Journalism”.
Born in Tranmere, Cheshire on 9th October 1933, his family moved to Liverpool, where he worked in a shipping office after leaving school, then joined the Royal Engineers, and was stationed in Germany, Korea and Japan.
Bill, who lived in Leicestershire, sold his first cartoon to Mainichi, a Japanese, English-speaking newspaper in 1955, while serving in the Royal Engineers. Returning to UK to live in Liverpool, he worked as a layout artist at the Pagan Smith advertising agency, and drew advertisements for Radio Times. He soon began freelancing, producing cartoons for publications such as the Daily Mirror. When plans to emigrate to Canada fell through in 1957, he embarked on his career as a professional cartoonist.
His early cartoons featured in a variety of newspapers and magazines in the 1950s and 60s, including the Daily Sketch, Sunday Dispatch, Reveille, Weekend, Sunday Chronicle, and Travel World.
He was one of the the founder members founders of the Cartoonists Club of Great Britain in 1960, served on its first committee and was at one time it’s Chairman. He remained a member to the end.
In 1966, he was a founder member of the British Cartoonists’ Association, sister organisation to the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation, and was voted Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain’s Humorous Cartoonist of the Year.
His many cartoon strips included “The Cloggies”, which ran from 1967 to 1981 in the fortnightly satirical magazine Private Eye, and in The Listener from 1985 to 1986; and “The Fosdyke Saga” published daily in the Daily Mirror between 1971 to 1984. The strip was a parody of The Forsyte Saga, the novel by John Galsworthy, set in the industrial north instead of a genteel upper-class environment. The Fosdyke family, in sharp contrast, ran a tripe factory in the North west, the strip described as “a classic tale of struggle, power, personalities… and tripe”.
The strip was adapted into a radio series in 42 parts by the BBC from 1983, with additional scripting by John Junkin, and as a stage play, with Tidy working in co-operation with playwright Alan Plater.
Many a budding scientist would also, at one time, been familiar with his strip “Grimbledon Down”, set in a fictitious UK government research laboratory, satirising the secret Porton Down chemical and biological warfare establishment. The strip ran in New Scientist between March 1970, at a time when there was a Cold War, spy scandals, and the Ministry of Defence’s establishments
at Porton Down represented all that was good and bad in British chemical and biological research, ending in March 1994.
A 1994 New Scientist article reporting the end of the strip notes the magazine wanted “some straight talking about the scope and purpose of research on Porton Down”. To force the issue, the editor invited Bill Tidy to turn his imagination and speedy pen to uncover just what might be going on behind the secrecy surrounding a research establishment such as Porton Down. Ministers were then insisting that it was involved in “work of fundamental importance – beyond anything to do with biological warfare”.
Tidy called his establishment Grimble-don Down, and he fashioned the
character of Treem to act as pivot for all that went on there. Treem was
a cross between Captain George Mainwaring and Basil Fawlty. But his stage was a secret research establishment rather than a Home Guard unit or a hotel. The battle with an ever-inquisitive press, demonstrations, official secrets act, “security regs” and an ever-threatened visit from the ministry chiefs from Whitehall were regular fare for the weekly strip.
During his career, Bill’s cartoons appeared in a huge variety of publications, including Oldie, Mail on Sunday, Yorkshire Post, and many others. He also contributed a large number of cartoons to Punch, including covers, before his departure in 1989.
He retired his long-running strip, “Kegbuster” for the Campaign for Real Ale’s newspaper What’s Brewing, in 2020, after a staggering, although not continuous 45-year run, aged 86, his health sadly in decline.
Month after month, Kegbuster and his faithful whippet fought the good fight for cask ale against the machinations of big brewers, pin-striped executives and steely-eyed marketing men, all the time finding time for a pint or three of his beloved Crudgington’s 6X.
In 2018, his local pub The New Inn at Peggs Green put on a heritage guest beer with a pump clip designed by Bill.
Bill was also noted for his charitable work, particularly for the Lord’s Taverners. He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1975, when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews, and was a frequent celebrity guest in “Dictionary Corner” on the long-running Channel 4 gameshow, Countdown during the 1980s and early 1990s.
Tidy’s other TV appearances included Watercolour Challenge, Through the Keyhole, Blankety Blank and Countryfile. His radio appearances include 1988 editions of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, when he stood in for Barry Cryer. He also wrote and presented Draw Me, a children’s television series in 13 parts.
He received Granada TV’s “Cartoonist of the Year” award in 1974 and the Society of Illustrators award in 1980. He was awarded an MBE in 2000 for services to journalism.
Bill was a firm family man. Bill married his wife Rosa in 1960, and they had two children, Sylvia and Robert. Sadly, Rosa died in 2019, shortly after he had a stroke.
Bill later said drawing helped him recover from the impact of his stroke.
Bill was in the headlines last year, not for good reasons, after he and his son Robert were faced to waited almost 24 hours in a hospital A&E department with a serious chest infection, to the dismay of his family. The Leicester Mercury reported how the 88-year-old was taken to Leicester Royal Infirmary in an ambulance on Wednesday 20th July and had to wait – becoming increasingly exhausted and distressed – until the next day before he was placed in a bed on a ward.
He loved what he did, with vigour, and obvious enthusiasm.
“I still take childish delight in what I do,” he wrote on his own official web site, recounting the many ups and downs of his incredible career. “I will never stop drawing and I still can not stop myself from doing crazy things like illustrating horseboxes, ceramic pots and vases. And I am still working undertaking commissions for bespoke cartoons and the odd Private Eye gag. My characters range from Tripe magnates to the ferocious Folk Dancing Cloggies to Keg Buster who has been the champion of Real Ale for over 40 years.
“Think of it, Beer, Sport, Food and Family! What more do I need?”
“He was a huge inspiration on my career,” commented fellow cartoonist James Whitworth earlier this weekend. “One of the greats.”
Our sympathies to family and friends at this sad time.
• William Edward “Bill” Tidy, 9th October 1933 – 11th March 2023
• Bill Tidy – An Illustrated Biography (1955)
Published in 1995, “Is There Any News of the Iceberg?” is one of thousands of Bill Tidy’s classic cartoons to have attracted a variety of comments that range from “hilarious hit” to “baffling miss”. It gives its name to this autobiography, in which his observations in words and pictures illustrate his life.
A collection of work
• Bill Tidy Drawings 1957-1986 (1999)
By Frank Milner
An overview of Bill’s early work
The Cloggies, an Everyday Saga in the Life of Clog Dancing Folk, was a long-running cartoon by Bill Tidy that ran in the satirical magazine Private Eye from 1967 to 1981, and later in The Listener from 1985 to 1986. It gently satirised northern English male culture, and introduced a shocked nation to the scurrilous delights of Lancashire clog-dancing.
THE FOSDYKE SAGA
• The Fosdyke Saga – Volume 1 (1972)
• The Fosdyke Saga (2016)
By Alan Plater
The stage play. The time is 1902 and the Fosdyke tripe business is failing, so they decide to move to greener pastures in Manchester – the land of meat pies and perhaps fortune? We follow their progress through to the First World War.
• Robbie and the Blobbies (1982)
by Bill Tidy
• Little Rude Book (1984)
by Bill Tidy
• Book of Classic Cock-ups (1985)
by Bill Tidy
• The World’s Worst Golf Club (1987)
by Bill Tidy
A fictional golf club, based on wry observation of real golfers
• The Fisherman’s Friend (1989)
by Bill Tidy, Derrick Geer
• The Incredible Bed (1991)
By Bill Tidy
One night, Tim is amazed when his bed takes him to a rehearsal for a grand flypast of all the world’s beds. Tim realizes that some of the most important beds are missing, and speaks up – with dire consequences.
• The Children’s Book Of Children’s Rhymes (1993)
by Christopher Logue and Bill Tidy
Naughty, vulgar, downright rude, the rhymes in this book should appeal to children of all ages. By the author of “War Music” and “London in Verse”.
• How to Cheat at Chess (1994)
by William R. Hartston and Bill Tidy
Expose of chess-players’ manners tells you everything you wanted to know about the game but were afraid to ask – and perhaps a few things more.
• A Game of Two Halves, Brian (1996)
by Fritz Spiegl & Bill Tidy
A lighthearted exploration of the world of football commentary, from that first touch onto the woodwork to getting a result and concentrating on the league. It includes a course of essential terms and phrases for the aspiring football commentator.
• Kegbuster Remembers (1997)
• Disgraceful Archaeology: Or Things You Shouldn’t Know About the History of Mankind (2012)
by Paul Bahn and Bill Tidy
The book that all archaeology buffs have secretly been yearning for! This unique blend of text, anecdote and cartoon reveals, and revels in, those aspects of the past that have been ignored, glossed over or even suppressed ― the bawdy, the scatological and the downright bizarre. Our ancestors were not always serious, downtrodden and fearful creatures. They were human like ourselves and shared our earthy sense of humour that is based on bodily functions, bawdiness and slapstick. So it’s time to take the fig leaf off the past and have a long, hard look at the real past ― the world that would have had the Victorians reaching for their smelling salts. So if you want to know what your average Egyptian slave thought of pharaoh, or a Roman legionary thought of his commander, you will find the answer in Disgraceful Archaeology ― in hilarious graphic detail!
• The Bedside Book of Final Words (2016)
Compiled by Eric Grounds, illutrated by Bill Tidy
What would you like your last words to be? For some people, the last thing they ever say turns out to be their most memorable line, while for others, their last utterance is disappointingly (often hilariously) mundane. This book takes a look at the final quotes from famous figures, as well as the stories behind them – poignant, funny, modest, deluded or philosophical, planned or unplanned. Exclusive cartoons from the pen of Bill Tidy provide the last word on deathbed humour.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.