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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Terry Willers (1935-2011)

Terry Willers, whose career in cartoons, comics and animation lasted 60 years, died on 9 November, aged 76. Willers had lived in Ireland for most of his later life, in Carrigower and for over 40 years in Rathdrum, both in County Wicklow. In 1992, Willers was the co-founder and chairman of the Guinness International Cartoon Festival, which ran for three years in Rathdrum. He was a winner of the Jacobs Award for his work for television.

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.

 
Around this time, Willers began working for the Martin Toonder Studio in Holland, drawing 'Panda' and, from 1963, 'Tom Poes', a hugely popular newspaper strip created by Toonder in 1919. According to Lambiek, "he added a slapstick element to the strips, and intensified the absurdism in the artwork." The strip ran in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant and various regional papers until 1965. He then went to draw 'Kappie', the adventures of Captain Anne Wobke and the crew of his tug, the Kraak for three years. In 1968, he returned to 'Tom Poes', when he did a comic strip for Donald Duck comic.

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 Wonderful World of Terry Willers, Cartoonist. from Tanya_Reihill on Vimeo.
Obituaries: The Evening Herald (10 November), Wicklow News (10 November).

3 comments:

The Celtic Kagemusha said...

His cartoons for 'Hall's Pictorial Weekly' were particularly impressive, and of a consistently high standard.

My mother knew Frank Hall, both being from Newry, although I think he was a few years older than order.
Interestingly enough my late father was one of the subjects in a 'HPW' sketch: the actor looked nothing like him, though
(and I don't know did Frank make the connection)

Steven Willers said...

Thank you so much for your page.Really wonderful :)

Steve said...

Steven,

Thanks for your kind words. If you'd like to drop me a line direct (my e-mail address is below to photo top left), I'd love to learn more and maybe expand on what I was able to write.

Kindest regards,

Steve