Phenomenally talented and widely respected as cartoonist, writer, TV and radio presenter and after dinner speaker, Bill Tidy delivers a unique presentation which incorporates his wit, expertise and indomitable style in every sense of the word.
Bill was born in Tranmere, Cheshire, on 9 October 1933, the son of William Edward Tidy and Catherine Price. His father was a merchant seaman who walked out when Bill was a child.
Brought up in his mum’s off-licence in Liverpool and educated at St Margaret’s School, Anfield,Liverpool, Bill left school aged fifteen.
From 1950 to 1951 he worked for R. P. Houston, a shipping office in the city, but in 1952 he volunteered to join the Royal Engineers, serving in Germany, Koreaand Japan, where in 1955 he sold his first cartoon to Mainichi, an English-speaking newspaper.
On leaving the army in 1955 he returned to Liverpool, where he worked from 1956 as a layout artist at the Pagan Smith advertising agency and drew advertisements for Radio Times. He remembers drawing tedious half-inch single column ads for greenhouses but found inspiration from a colleague. His work station was behind a fellow slave who was actually selling drawings to Lilliput (a semi racy gentleman’s publication). Bill decided he could do it too.
He began freelancing and was soon earning as much from one Daily Mirror cartoon as the agency paid him each week. In 1957, after plans to emigrate toCanada fell through, he became a professional cartoonist. In 1959 Bill decided to treat himself to a flight from Liverpool toLondon to attend his first “Punch Lunch” and sat next to a young Italian girl who became his wife in 1960. Bill and Rosa have 3 children: Sylvia (b.1961), Nick (b.1965 d.2004) and Rob (b.1974) & two grandchildren Scarlette (b.1992) and Jones (b.1996)
Bill has no formal art training although he admits to attending a sculpture class for one night because he had heard there was always good-looking crumpet there. His output was enourmous, fifteen finished cartoons per day, and in 1966 as a founder members of the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britian, was voted CCGB Humorous Cartoonist of the Year.
Bill became well known for his strip cartoons, particularly “The Cloggies”, which ran in Private Eye from 1967 to 1981 and the Listener from 1985 to 1986. Then there was “The Fosdyke Saga”, which began in the Daily Mirror in 1971. This strip was originally to have appeared in 1970, in the paper’s short-lived colour supplement, the Mirror Magazine.
Bill was asked to produce a strip about “a great Northern family”, but before any of the episode could be published the magazine folded. Fortunately he was invited to move the daily strip to the Daily Mirror itself and the “The Fosdyke Saga”, as it was now called, was born. Bill was drawing an entire week’s supply of “The Fosdyke Saga” each Friday and told one interviewer that this end to the week was “symbolic – because the Fosdykes were my great standby, the rock on which my church is built.”
However in 1984 Robert Maxwell purchased Mirror Group Newspapers, and in the following year unceremoniously axed the “The Fosdyke Saga” from the Daily Mirror. Bill refused to bring the strip to a tragic and untimely end and the last episode was not commital to their future.
In 1983 the strip resurfaced as a forty-two-part series on BBC Radio 2, which he co-wrote with John Junkin. Bill also adapted the strip for the stage with renowned playwright Alan Plater.
His other work found homes in New Scientist -“Grimbledon Down” strip from 1970 to 1994, Camra – the “Keg Buster” strip, Datalink – “Red Spanner”, Today, Mail on Sunday, Sunday Dispatch – “Nero”, Yorkshire Post, Picturegoer, Daily Sketch – “Sir Griswold”, Everybody’s, John Bull, General Practitioner – “Dr Whittle”, Tit-Bits and others. His hilarious single cartoons have appeared in a wide variety of publications such as Classic FM magazine, Private Eye, The Oldie, British Archaeology, Antiquity, Archaeological Institute and America. As an interviewer once noted in 1977, “his output is staggering”: Yet he has never worked at weekends.
Bill contributed his largest number of cartoons to Punch, including covers. However, in 1989 Lord Stevens, the head of Punch’s parent company United Newspapers, brought in the twenty-nine year old David Thomas as editor. Thomas had edited the Mail on Sunday’s “You” magazine, and his brash style – with declarations that “Punch could be mega – I mean, mega mega” – led Bill to revolt.
Thomas finally left the magazine, and before Punch ceased publication in April 1992 Bill mounted an unsuccessful campaign to buy it. It is worth noting that the reason for this was purely because his financial backers pulled out at the 11th hour having decided that at 60, he was too old to be an editor of a humorous magazine!
He has designed board games, ventriloquists’ dummies, stage sets and trophies and is in great demand as an after-dinner speaker.