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Monday, December 21, 2020

David Ashford (1941-2020)


David Ashford, actor, radio presenter, teacher and writer, died on 17 December 2020, aged 79. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer some months earlier and was being cared for by his sister, but succumbed in the end to pneumonia. He was hospitalised on Sunday, 6 December, and at first seemed to be responding well to antibiotics, but the cancer had taken its toll and he was already quite frail. He remained positive throughout his illness and had not been in pain.

David was well-known in the comics community for his articles in the pages of Golden Fun, Illustrated Comics Journal and Antiquarian Book Monthly. His magnum opus was The Art of Denis McLoughlin (2012), a stunning, 270-page journey through the art of one of his favourite artists, whom he had first encountered at the age of seven or eight at Woolworth’s in his home town of Torquay. Already a reader of comics and a fan of Saturday morning serials at the local cinema, David’s favourites were the swashbuckling adventures to be found in Thriller Picture Library, Knockout, Sun and Comet, where he fell in love with the work of H. M. Brock, D. C. Eyles, John Millar Watt, Sep. E. Scott, and Patrick Nicolle.

He was born David John Ashford in Torquay on 16 October 1941, the son of John James Stanton Ashford, who was serving with the Royal Artillery when he married Charlotte Elsie Stigings, a photographer’s assistant in 1941. David was the eldest of four children—younger siblings were Charlotte, Peter and Susan—who grew up in Torquay. He was educated at Torquay Grammar School and Reading University where he earned an honours degree in Fine Art.

He began appearing in television dramas in the mid-1960s, his earliest known role an episode (‘The Vanishing Trick’) of Drama ’65 in February 1965. His various credits include No Hiding Place, Strange Report, The Wednesday Play, Sunday Night Theatre, Mistress of Hardwick, The Pathfinders, The Edwardians, The Brontes of Howarth, Dickens of London, Cottage to Let, Agony, Mystery! Malice Aforethought, Screenplay, Crossroads, ffolkes, Cribb, Rings On Their Fingers, The Dick Emery Show, BBC2 Playhouse, The Gentle Touch, on the Line, Angels, Juliet Bravo, Moving, C.A.T.S. Eyes, Casualty, Howards’ Way, The House of Eliott, Lovejoy, Keeping Up Appearances, The Final Cut, The Bill and Down to Earth. He appeared in two made-for-TV movies All’s Well That Ends Well (1968) and Indiscrete (1988).

Tall (he was a half inch off six foot) and well-spoken, he was often cast as official figures – lawyers, officers of the military or law – and his most  regular appearance was as solicitor Charles Lottery in 126 episodes of ITV’s courtroom drama Crown Court in 1972-78. He also played lawyer Gordon in the short-lived John Sullivan comedy Sitting Pretty in the early 1990s.

David also made a number of appearances in cult TV shows, including Quatermass and Doctor Who, playing a father in the 1988-89 serial ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’, and had previously appeared in the London stage play The Curse of the Daleks (1965).

He also wrote and broadcast on radio, his Turpin Hero (1989), investigating the life and legend of the famous highwayman, although he was more regularly to be found reading stories on Morning Story and Woman's Hour.

David taught English and Drama at Park High School, Harrow in the early 1990s.

In the early 1980s he scripted a number of adaptations of classic novels for Look and Learn, including ‘Rookwood’ (1980), ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ (1980) and ‘Lorna Doone’ (1981). In the mid-1980s he was one of the stalwarts of Golden Fun, where he put his pen to use as an artist as well as a feature writer, adapting ‘Horseman in the Sky’ from a story by Ambrose Bierce. With Golden Fun’s editor, David co-wrote The Art of Roy Wilson (1983).

In 1990, he wrote introductions for two classic reprint series from Eagle, Riders of the Range and Harris Tweed, both published by Hawk Books and, in collaboration with Steve Holland, helped compile indexes of Thriller Comics Library (1991-92), Comet (1992), Super Detective (1992), Sun (1992), Cowboy comics Library (1993) and Knockout (1997). Some of these were combined and expanded as The Thriller Libraries (2010).

For much of his writing he teamed up with Norman Wright, a long-time friend and dealer, with whom David could often be found at comic marts, selling comics and original artwork. Their books included Sexton Blake A Celebration of the Great Detective (1994), Lightning Swords! Smoking Pistols! (1995), The Thriller Comics Companion (2001), Masters of Fun & Thrills (2008) and a great many articles for Book and Magazine Collector and Rare Book Review.

David was a regular contributor to the art magazine Illustrators, most recently working on the recently published Pirates special issue. A number of articles written by David have still to see print, including features on British western artists and highwaymen.

David lived for many years in Harrow with his wife Monika-Mathilde (née Faasch), whom he married in 1966. She died in 2017. He is survived by his son, Luke.

4 comments:

  1. That's a shame, but he certainly packed a lot more into his life than most people half his age. I think I used to proofread the occasional article by him for the ICJ. Condolences to his family.

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  2. Terribly sad news. One of the nicest chaps around. and he did much for comics and comic art

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  3. I have known David for many years. He was a lovely guy. Thank you for posting this tribute to him.

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  4. I found out that David had died when I spoke to his sister, Charlotte, last week. I feel really sad about it, as David was a long time, valued, friend. We shared an interest in the American West and art. We both admired the work of Denis McCloughlin. Who was a big influence on me becoming an illustrator, and kindling my interest in the West through the Buffalo Bill Wild West Annuals. I shall greatly miss this lovely, talented man. David Griffiths

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