Roy Ullyett

 

Roy Ullyett

Roy Ullyett, one of the most popular and distinctive sports cartoonists of his generation, died on 20 October, aged 87.

His professional career spanned 65 years, including four decades as the Daily Express sports section cartoonist, and he was the last surviving member of a quartet of Express cartoonists described by the paper’s legendary editor, Sir Arthur Christiansen, as "the greatest masters of their art".

The other three were Sir Osbert Lancaster, Michael Cummings and Carl Giles.

Christiansen signed Ullyett from the London Evening Star in 1953 and said of him: "There are millions of people who draw and paint but there is only one Roy Ullyett." He went on to entertain Express readers for the next 44 years and, arguably, filled more newspaper space than any artist in history.

As his biographer, I worked with Roy on his book, While There’s Still Lead in My Pencil (published in 1998). He was the amiable assassin. He poked gentle fun at his "victims" without ever crossing the fine line between humour and humiliation. Above all else he was a wonderful human being.

Royden Herbert Frederick Ullyett was born in Leytonstone in East London on 16 March, 1914. His mother, Hilda, was the granddaughter of noted Essex landscape painter John Glover.

But Roy did not follow the conventional artistic route of his great-grandfather. His first cartoons were of his schoolteachers at Earls Colne boarding school in Halstead, Essex. From the first moment he put pencil to paper he showed a distinctive style that was frowned on by his art teacher, who told him: "You have talent, Ullyett, but you are far too frivolous to ever make an impact in the art world."

Roy spent the rest of his life proving his teacher wrong. His first commissioned work was for his local newspaper, the Southend Times, at the age of 17. He was paid 10 shillings for weekly caricatures of the artistes appearing in the local music hall.

It started a life-long link with show business and for 45 years Roy was one of only 20 elected Companions of the Grand Order of Water Rats (Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh are among the others). In 1989, he was awarded the OBE for his services to journalism and charity fundraising after his cartoons, auctioned through show business channels, had raised more than £1m.

Roy served in both the Army and the RAF during the war.

In the last year of the war he met and instantly fell in love with Margaret (Maggie) Wright, a fashion buyer from Bradford. They married and settled in Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex.

Freya, their only child, arrived in 1946.

"I am so proud that my father brought so much pleasure to so many people," she said.

David Emery, one of the five sports editors Roy served under at the Express, said: "There have been few more widely loved and respected men in the history of Fleet Street. He was a genius at his craft and a wonderful human being."

Norman Giller

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