William Timym

Puma by Timym

A puma drawn by William Tymym

What do the statue of Guy the Gorilla, Blue Peter and Woman magazine have in common? I expect you’ve guessed the name which connects these three things!

I used to have in my possession the TV Times Rolf Harris Safari Album from 1972 from when it was first published. I can’t remember whether it was free inside the TV Times or I sent off for it but I loved the wildlife drawings and artwork. It was a while into collecting the series of pictures, which were free in the TV Times, that I found the artist’s  name – which does not appear in the whole 30 page album! One would think Harris had done all the work  but some initials and finally a signature told me something amazing.

William Timym was that artist. While searching around I found he also illustrated something else I liked as a kid: “Bleep and Booster” on Blue Peter. But little did I know the very statue that my son climbed in London Zoo, was created by none other than William Timym in 1982! (Side note: I was sure, until I checked the date, that I saw the Guy the Gorilla statue in 1969? And I’m not thinking of the Crystal Palace Park one either as I was there for the first time only a few years ago!)

BIOGRAPHY of William Timym: Born Vienna October 5 1902; Died London May 31 1990

‘Tim’, as he signed himself was actually William Timym, born in 1902 in Austria, he moved from Vienna to England in 1938, escaping Nazi occupation and became a naturalised British citizen in April 1949. A search of the National Archives show he was a renowned portrait painter during the war, and painted royalty, Prime Ministers and military people amongst many.  His comic strip “The Boss” was seen all over Europe and Britain whilst he was still living on the continent and he was soon syndicated in the UK in the Sunday Dispatch, where he drew Caesar“, an Afghan hound who gets into all sorts of mischief. His “Humphrey” strip of black and white panels appeared in Woman magazine. Because I couldn’t find many online, for your pleasure, I looked through the four Woman magazines I own!

Humphrey strip

Humphrey by Timym (Woman 25 May 1957 p.61)


Humphrey by Timym (Woman 5 October 1957 p.57)

“Wuff, Snuff and Tuff”, can easily be found on the Internet – especially at the National Library of Australia’s Trove database, follow the link. The three puppies’ adventures were very popular and saw publication in books and annuals as well as weekly. Then Timym also illustrated “Oh Johnny!” the adventures of a down-beaten husband and his wise wife, in John Bull in the Fifties. Another children’s strip apparently appeared in the Daily Express, “Bengo the Boxer”. I say apparently because I can’t find a single reproduction of one from the Daily Express although there were books published.  Susan Brewer’s article on Bengo collectables is exhaustive. The idea was actually developed for a BBC Children’s TV programme and began on Monday 22 June 1953 as “Bengo the adventures of a boxer puppy”. In 1962 it became part of Blue Peter (according to the Guardian obituary and BBC Genome). In the Sixties I remember the “Bleep and Booster” cartoons for “Blue Peter” the children’s programme on the BBC.  Jeremy Briggs has listed all Timym’s characters’ appearances in Blue Peter books via Steve Holland’s Bear Alley blog This is also where you’ll find Briggs’ article on “Bleep and Booster”.

I made passing reference to Timym’s sculpture and he designed such famous pieces as the “TV Times Top Ten award”, Guy the Gorilla, as mentioned and Petra, the Blue Peter dog, whose statue is now at Salford Quays.

As my addition to Timym on the Internet I have transcribed some of the Chicago Sunday Tribune article on Tim which appears on the Classic comics section of a manga website of all things in Spain! Hopefully this will show up on Google and help others researching his life.

At 11 he competed with 150 other boys and girls to enter the Academy of Arts in Vienna. Most came loaded down with paintings and busts they had done. Tim brought nothing. Professor Cizek [?] asked them all to return the next day and bring nothing. They did. With a wave of his arm the Professor told them to take their choice of the great diversity of materials he had there for them and to do something out of their imagination.

“Fifty percent of them were helpless” Tim recalled. “They were bound to the model. For me it was a walkover, I sketched a trotting horse and driver in full movement and the Professor took me on”.

In 1929, Tim won a Vienna poster contest with his drawing of a group of animals. The Viennese public fell for the poster. The evening newspaper Der Abend asked Tim to do its sketches  – for theatrical stories, political cartoons, and short stories. In 1934 Tim started his first comic strip, called “The Boss.” There were some small animals in it. Vienna hailed it as a novelty, because it was a pantomime comic strip – with no balloon conversations, nor even captions, all silent. At first , the editors worried about the silence.

“But if I draw them so that people understand them, they will look at them.” Tim told them. They needn’t have worried. Within three months, people were calling at the paper’s office to buy back numbers.

 *   *  *

Another newspaper asked Tim to do a strip. By this time he owned a dog himself – a boxer. Tim created a Dalmatian hound that he called Sniff, and did the strip about him.

Sniff was a success. By 1937, both “Sniff” and “The Boss” were appearing not only in Vienna, but also in other continental newspapers and in Britain. Tim was established. In 1938, Hitler came to Vienna. Tim left.

Tim went to England, where “The Boss” was appearing in the Sunday Graphic and “Sniff” in several out-of-London papers. Tim brought with him to Britain, his boxer dog, Cito.

The continental newspapers ceased carrying his strips. Tim began living  where he does now in a house not far from Hampstead Heath. The war started. Tim was interned, as all others classified because of their nationality as enemy aliens. But he was in camp for only three months.

Upon his release Tim found himself professionally as unoccupied as he was when he, at two, was scratching the brown paper [supplied by his mother and father] spread out on the floor. The paper shortage ended both “The Boss” and “Sniff”. Tim started out all over again.

He did portraits. He went into commercial advertising and in 1943 he joined the Cooper syndicate. He did political cartoons for the weekly John Bull.

Then, in 1944, the Sunday Graphic editor asked Tim to start another comic strip. He did and called it “Uncle George.”

“I don’t like Uncle George but I do like his dog,” Tim was told. “Do a strip about the dog.”

The dog? he was something like Sniff, but different. Tim had added a few points of an English setter.

“I liked Sniff’s muzzle and his spots,” Tim explained, “but I added a setter’s long hair and big flappy ears to make a contrast to Sniff.”

Faced with making Uncle George’s dog the star of the strip and doing away with Uncle George, Tim immediately decided the dog had to be more imposing. To help, Tim sketched him larger, gave him more glorious ruffles and christened the dog “Caesar”

Ceasar now had earned his full fledged personality. In 1949 Tim became a naturalized Briton. One woman yearly buys Caesar a dog license and pays his dues at the Tailwagger’s club, the London club of British dogdom.

Citation: Gwen Morgan, (1952), “Growing up with Caesar”, Chicago Sunday Tribune, 7 December 1952, p.8

There does seem to be discrepancies about his birth date. On Stripper’s Guide Allan Holtz shows  a transcription from an article that appeared in November 1951 in which it states ” Timyn, who is 52, has been a professional cartoonist more than 27 years” which means he is likely to have been born in 1899 and began his “professional cartooning” at the age of 25.

His death is not in doubt as his family placed an announcement in the Death Notices of the Times (Friday, June 1, 1990, p.15) in which they state “On May 31st, peacefully at home in London. William Timym M.B.E., affectionately known as Tim, Artist and Sculpter [sic], in his 88th year”.  So it would appear he was born in the 20th Century not the 19th. Monday 11 June’s Guardian has a long obituary in which it states: “[…] has died at the age of 87” – and “Born Vienna October 5; died May 31 1990” so I’d say that makes his birthday 1902

I have scanned a copy I owned of the Safari Album and show here the pages that contain Timym’s line work as well as colour work.

Cover illo