The nicest man you could ever meet

TIM HOLDER, the much-loved Art Director of the Daily Express, died suddenly in July 1995. He collapsed with an aneurysm, as he worked at his drawing board in the grey Lubianka in Blackfriars Road. After the nurse was called, Night Editor Terry Manners accompanied Tim as he was rushed to hospital where he died. The following obituary by Express associate editor Bernard Shrimsley, a former editor of The Sun, News of the World and Mail on Sunday, appeared in the Express of Wednesday, August 2, accompanied by the lovely picture of Tim playing his beloved guitar and his cartoon of him and Express film critic Ian Christie jamming at the Prince Alfred. The tribute carried the headline Tim Holder: A man who drew on many talents.

There is one consolation but only one. Tim Holder will be in that number when the saints go marchin’ in. Alas, he was only 56 when he died suddenly on Monday. Couldn’t the saints have waited a few more bars?

It is distinction enough to have been art director and assistant editor of the Daily Express but Tim was also one of Britain’s most dedicated jazz musicians.

Had he taken his chance to spend his days at Ronnie Scott’s, Fleet Street would have missed just about the nicest man to come its way.

Today would have been one of those Wednesdays that were the high point of Tim’s week. After a day designing Express pages, he would pick up his guitar and go on to play to folk who loved his kind of music. Down home jazz.

His favourite gig was the Prince Alfred pub in London’s Marylebone Lane where he was a regular with the Ian Christie Quartet. Clarinetist Christie had been the Express film critic for 20 years.

timtory 1

Tribute in the Daily Express, we think from Peter Tory's column

Tim had been in several bands but wife Elizabeth, son Julian and the demands of their basset hound and cocker spaniel decided his career priorities.

But Tim played with such greats as Diz Disley and Wally Fawkes. He and Ian regularly took their instruments with them on holiday, sitting in with the locals in bars and hotels in New Orleans, St Lucia and Mexico.

Next week they would have been setting off for Memphis, Tennessee. “Playing at Tupelo and Natchez sounds quite a contrast to the Prince Alfred,” said Tim, “but jazz is pretty much the same the world over.”

They played for fun although Ian recalls that at Dutch’s Bourbon Street joint in New Orleans they were offered a share of the tips bucket after they had played their hearts out till 2am. Their reward for five hours of jazz? Eight dollars a man.

The son of an architect, Tim was born in London and went to Hornsey art college. After work at an advertising agency, he went into magazines. As art editor of Titbits he took it into colour. Then he joined Rupert Murdoch’s City Magazines and redesigned Parade and Popular Gardening.

Once, livening up a dull day, he was working away in a gorilla mask when the boss walked in. He carried on as though nothing was untoward. And so did Murdoch.

Tim was with IPC when Vic Giles, the legendary media art guru, recruited him to the Sun. He stayed six years before joining the Daily Express, which benefited from his talent and enthusiasm for 17 years.

His genius enhanced everything he touched as his gentleness enhanced everyone it touched. He was a warm and generous man volunteering special caricatures for colleagues who moved on. Editor or messenger, they were all presented with a treasured souvenir of Tim’s time and talent.

He was a marvellous chap. The Saints are in luck.

Accompanying the obit was this bold brev par x 2 headed Tribute from the Editor:

Daily Express Editor Sir Nicholas Lloyd said: “Tim was a lovely, humorous man and a brilliant art director. I worked with him for much of the past 25 years and was continually amazed by his flair and his unflagging hard work. He will be greatly missed by everyone.”

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre