Sunday, January 12, 2014

T. Laidler

Thomas Laidler, who usually signed his name using his initials or as T. Laidler, was born in Hammersmith, London, in April 1893. He was the son of John Joseph Morris Laidler, a Gateshead-born commercial traveller in the glass industry, and his wife Emma Ann Laidler (née Goodley), who had married in Gateshead in 1888. Laidler had an older brother, Rena Morris Laidler, born in 1889, who died in 1895 at the age of 6. His younger siblings included Phyllis Viola Laidler (later Denton, 1895-1981), Frank Meredith Laidler (1899-1972), and Grace Laidler (later Sully, 1901-1982).

The family grew up in Hammersmith, where they lived for many years at 34 Weltje Road. As a teenager, Tommy Laidler was an apprentice in advertising design and this almost certainly laid the groundwork for his later career as an illustrator. Whilst still in his early twenties, he lost both his mother, who died in 1913, aged 48, and father, who died in 1917, aged 54.

Laidler's first artistic contributions date from 1922-23 when he could be found drawing illustrations for Chums and Scout, two of the leading boys' magazines of the era. By the late 1920s, he was also contributing to the Amalgamated Press's Champion Annual and Golden Annual for Girls as well as illustrating books for Blackie and Sheldon Press (SPCK).

It was with the Amalgamated Press that Laidler is mostly associated. He was a prolific illustrator for girls' story papers and for a decade during the 1930s was the chief illustrator of the Cliff House series of stories featuring Bessie Bunter—sister of Billy Bunter of Greyfriars—in the weekly Schoolgirl, for which he also produced numerous covers. Laidler also contributed heading illustrations to School Friend where he was most prominently associated with the Sally "Sunny" McAlister stories by Renee Frazer.

After the War, and with the vast majority of storypapers closed down by the wartime paper shortage, Laidler moved into comics. He contributed illustrations regularly to the boys’ papers Knockout, Comet and Sun. When School Friend was relaunched as a comic in 1950, Laidler illustrated one of the debut serials, "Freda's Daring Double Role", and he would continue to work regularly for the paper for the next fifteen years, illustrating tales such as "Sue—The Girl Next Door" (1952-53), "Tess, Ted and the Pets" (1953-54), "My Friend Bubbles" (1954-55), "Bette and Her Brothers" (1955-59) and "Sunshine Sue" (1959-60), all by Ida Melbourne (the pen-name of E. L. Rosman). He also illustrated Melbourne's "Trixie's Diary" (1955-61) and "That Girl Patsy" (1961-63) in Girls' Crystal, the latter story later revived in School Friend (1963-64).

Laidler was also responsible for many illustrations in Lion, often teamed up with Rosman who wrote under a variety of pen-names, his illustrated serials including "Jingo Jones and His Invisibliser" (by Tom Stirling, 1952-53), "Rory, Mick the Mountie's Dog" (by Victor Norman, 1953-54) and "Don's Diary" (1954-55). Laidler also had a lengthy run illustrating the adventures of Jimmy Topper and his chums at St. Clements in the pages of Knockout (1953-57).

He turned his hand to comic strips on rare occasions, including fifteen tales featuring "Buck Jones" for Cowboy Comics between 1951 and 1956, and a Billy Bunter strip, "Pennies from Heaven" in Comet (1952). Later, he drew a number of issues of School Friend Picture Library, Schoolgirls Picture Library and Princess Picture Library, as well as contributing to Princess and June, including the serial "Crusader's Castle" (1965-66) in the latter.

His last known contributions appeared in the early 1970s, including "The Forbidden Site" in  June & School Friend & Princess Picture Library (1970) and the last of 18 episodes he contributed to "The Strangest Stories Ever Told" in June (1971).

Thomas Laidler died in Windsor in January 1975 aged 82. He is described as having looked like Father Christmas, with a long white beard.

(* artwork © IPC Media)

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