Today is the birthday (1933) of William Edward “Bill” Tidy, MBE an English cartoonist, writer, and television personality, known chiefly for his comic strips. Tidy was appointed MBE in 2000 for “Services to Journalism”. He is noted for his charitable work, particularly for the Lord’s Taverners, which he has supported for over 30 years. Deeply proud of his working class roots in the North of England, his most abiding cartoon strips, such as the Cloggies and the Fosdyke Saga, have been set in an exaggerated version of that environment. He now lives in Boylestone, Derbyshire.
He was born in Tranmere, a suburb of Birkenhead, Cheshire, on 9 October 1933 and brought up in Liverpool, where he was educated to the age of 15 at St Margaret’s School, Anfield. His first published cartoon appeared in the school magazine. After working in a shipping office Tidy joined the Royal Engineers in 1952. He sold his first cartoon to an English-language Japanese newspaper in 1955 and in the same year left the army. He found work in a Liverpool advertising agency the following year, where he drew illustrations for advertisements in magazines. Despite having no formal artistic training, he began to sell cartoons on a freelance basis and soon left the agency to work full-time as a professional cartoonist.
As his work became better known and began to be published in the Daily Sketch and Daily Mirror, he moved to London where, together with a number of his contemporaries in Fleet Street, he formed the British Cartoonists’ Association. Tidy is well known for his cartoon strips — The Cloggies ran from 1967 to 1981 in the fortnightly satirical magazine Private Eye, and The Fosdyke Saga was published daily in the Daily Mirror from 1971 to 1984; the latter was a parody of The Forsyte Saga, set in the industrial north instead of a genteel upper class environment focusing on the family of Jos Fosdyke, tripe magnate.
This was broadcast as a radio series in 42 parts by the BBC from 1983, with additional scripting by John Junkin. It also became a stage play with Tidy working in co-operation with playwright Alan Plater. Tidy recently restarted producing the Fosdyke Saga cartoon strip on his own website where he also offers a variety of his works for sale. http://billtidy.com/
Other cartoon strip series and individual cartoons have been published in many other newspapers and magazines, including New Scientist (Grimbledon Down for 24 years), What’s Brewing? (CAMRA’s monthly magazine), and Punch. When Punch ceased publication, Tidy attempted to buy the title. He has also written 20 books and illustrated 70.
Tidy’s many TV appearances have included Countdown, Watercolour Challenge, Through the Keyhole and Countryfile. His radio appearances include an accomplished performance on an 1988 edition of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, when he stood in for Barry Cryer. He wrote and presented Draw Me, a children’s television series in 13 parts. He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1975.
Tidy’s artistic style is similar to that of his late friend and fellow cartoonist, Larry. However, where Larry’s cartoons are usually the graphic equivalent of one-liner jokes, Tidy tends to work in longer forms with verbal as well as visual humor. I’ve been a huge fan of Tidy’s for many years and own copies of all of his Cloggies and Fosdyke Saga anthologies. How could I resist stories about morris dancing AND a tripe magnate? He must be my alter ego in cartooning guise. For those of you who don’t know me, I wrote the definitive book on the history of morris dancing and have been in the process of writing a tripe encyclopedia for many years. I’m trying to wade my way through over 4,000 worldwide tripe recipes whilst seeing how many tripe dishes I can eat on my travels.
I really can’t let Tidy’s birthday pass without a Lancashire tripe recipe. I have come across a great many references to tripe and cowheel pie from Lancashire (photo above) and other points in the north of England, but have neither come across any recipes, nor any establishments that serve this supposedly famous dish. In fact I have not seen any references to it after around 1950, and many of the earlier ones are from comic songs and the like, poking gentle fun at the working class manners of native Lancastrians. I will continue my search for this rarity, but in the meantime I have created a stew of the main ingredients along with classic English vegetables. This should be considered one of the legion variants on the theme of tripe plus trotter plus veg. The gelatin in the cowheel gives the gravy a nice silky texture and adds a little flavor, but does not have much meat on it. The vegetables can be varied at your own choosing. This is a combination that I commonly use in stews of all manner of meats — oxtail, ox heart, or plain stewing beef. The proportions are not terribly important either. Generally I use whatever I have on hand in whatever quantities I have.
©Tripe and Cowheel
2 lbs honeycomb tripe
1 cowheel (or 2 calves’ feet)
1 large Spanish onion chopped coarsely
1 lb carrots
½ lb parsnips
1 ½ lb potatoes
2 large leeks
10 cups beef stock
1 handful of fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried)
2 tablespoons olive oil (or beef drippings)
fresh black pepper
Cut the tripe into bite sized chunks or strips and set them aside. Slice the tough root segment from the leeks and discard. Slice the green tops of the leeks from the white bottoms. Clean the green tops under running water separating them to be sure that all the dirt has been washed out. This is a crucial step, otherwise the resulting stew will be gritty. Once you are sure the greens are perfectly clean, chop them coarsely, discarding any discolored or wilted parts. Heat the oil (or drippings) in a heavy bottomed saucepan and sauté the onion until it softens and begins to take on a little color. Add the chopped leek greens and continue to sauté for a minute or two more. Add the beef stock, tripe, and cowheel plus a few good twists of a pepper grinder and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot, and cook gently for about 1 hour or until the tripe is tender. While it is cooking, prepare the carrots, parsnips, and potatoes by peeling them and cutting them in large dice. (Actually I prefer to simply scrub these root vegetables and leave the skins on before dicing. The resultant stew is a lot hardier and more flavorful.) Slice the whites of the leeks into hearty rounds, and chop the parsley finely. Add the carrots, potatoes, and parsley to the stew and simmer for 15 minutes, then add the leeks and parsnips and simmer for 15 minutes more. You can cook the vegetables longer if, like old fashioned English cooks, you prefer them softer. There is very little meat on the cowheel so I just leave it in whole for flavor. Serve the tripe and vegetables in large bowls with a little broth poured over them and plenty of buttered crusty bread to mop up with.