Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Terry Willers (1935-2011)
Writing in the Independent (Ireland), Tom Mathews recalls, "Nobody who encountered Terry in full flight in his persona as Rathdrum's cartoon ambassador to the world is likely to forget him... Terry must have had three hands because despite having a cigarette in one and a glass in the other, he was always drawing on any surface that held still — even the walls of his beloved Cartoon Inn at Rathdrum village where so many of his exhuberand productions are still displayed." Mathews describes Willers as "a stylish and dapper dresser" who was never seen without a shirt and tie and "the sort of pastel blazer favoured by the gameshow host that he so resembled". Writing in the Irish Times (not available online), fellow cartoonist Martyn Turner wrote, "He was always very happy and full of jokes and was an incredibly talented artist. Most cartoonists become cartoonists because they have to... but Terry could draw anything and everything. In many ways he was an artist more than he was a cartoonist."
Different sources give varying information about Willers; his place of birth has been given as Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, although the birth of Terence F. Willers was registered in 4Q 1935 in Barnet, north London. He was the eldest of three boys born to Frederick Willers and his wife Gladys V. (nee Luscombe), who were married in Islington in 1934.
Willers career is said to have begun at the age of 15 when he joined what has been described as "a Disney studio in London" and "a Walt Disney animation team", although I suspect this may have actually been work for the comic Mickey Mouse Weekly. At the age of 17 he was certainly contributing the 4-panel cartoon 'Tich' to TV Comic (1952-53). In 1959 he also contributed to Zip and Jack & Jill comics.
Willers also contributed briefly to British comics during this period, ghosting episodes of 'General Nitt and His Barmy Army' and 'Georgie's Germs' for Wham!.
Willers contributed in the 1970s and 1980s to Hall's Pictorial Weekly, hosted by Frank Hall, and The Mike Murphy Show, broadcast on Ireland's RTÉ. He was also a prolific contributor to magazines, including the Farmer's Journal, Sunday Independent, Evening Herald and Wicklow People. In the 1990s, Willers contributed to The Yellow Press, an Irish anthology comic, and The Beano, drawing 'Minder Bird' in 1995. He also illustrated several books, including Brian Power presents 'It's All Happening' (1970), The TV Generation by Desmond Forristal (1970), Gift of the Gab! The Irish Conversation Guide by Tadhg Hayes (1996, later reprinted as The Wit of Irish Conversation), Twelve Days Of Chaos by Frank Kelly (1997) and Stop Howling At The Moon by Eamon O'Donnell (2007).
Willers married Mavis S. Whitney in Surrey in 1957 and had two children, Julie and Steven. He is survived by his second wife, Valerie, his children, two grandchildren and four greatgrandchildren.
The Evening Herald (10 November), Wicklow News (10 November).