Alex Noel Watson RIP

June 3, 2017 in General

Alex Noel Watson, renaissance man and raconteur

Terry Anderson writes:

The Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation is saddened to learn of the death of veteran cartoonist Alex Noel Watson.

Born in Airdrie in 1929 Watson was a true renaissance man. As well as a cartoonist he worked as a film critic, travel writer, storyboard artist and book jacket designer. His cartoons appeared in publications too numerous to mention but most notably the Daily Express, Daily Star, Evening Standard, New York Times, Private Eye, Punch, Spectator, Sunday Times, Telegraph, Toronto Star and – a particular point of pride – The New Yorker.

Like many I only got to know the man in the last coupe of decades as he began making regular trips to the Salon International de la Caricature, du Dessin de Presse at d’Humour in Saint-Just-le-Martel.  Watson was one of the festival’s most effusive supporters, writing enthusiastically about it for the PCO’s blog as well as The Jester, the magazine of The Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain.

With his bushman hat and walking stick he cut a distinctive figure, always to be found holding court with tall tales of his former exploits. A polyglot, he was very comfortable mixing with colleagues from around the world although he never made any concessions to accent – as far as I could tell his French was grammatically perfect but always spoken like a man from Lanarkshire rather than Limoges.

Alex takes centre stage at Saint-Just-le-Martel

One could hardly mention one of the world’s great cities without Watson being able to tell you about something that happened to him there in his youth. It became a little bit of a game for me to see if there was any conversational topic that he couldn’t stake a claim to. So while standing by the medieval church in Saint-Just I regaled a small group with the story of the Alien gargoyle to be found on my hometown of Paisley’s historic abbey, a curiosity which had become an internet sensation after it was spotted by an American tourist. Having quietly taken it all in he replied “Yes, very interesting. Of course, I used to draw storyboards for Ridley Scott…” I conceded defeat.

That was 2013, which I believe was the last time he made it to France having actually postponed a surgical operation in order to attend. No longer able to travel in his last few years some of my fellow cartoonists would make a point of visiting his home in Surrey to keep him up to date on all that was happening.

His passing will no doubt come as a blow to long-time members of the CCGB and PCO as well as the good people of Saint-Just-le-Martel who have lost far too many of their friends in recent years.

The PCO send our condolences to his wife Milenka who we understand is not in the best of health and so has asked that those who knew Alex refrain from making contact until circumstances have improved.

13 responses to Alex Noel Watson RIP

  1. Well said Terry. Let’s hope Milenka’s health improves pdq.

  2. Here, here! Thanks, Terry.I think ‘Larger Than Life’ was tailor-made for Alex. Wonderful character indeed. 

  3. I’m so sorry to hear of Alex’s passing. He was a very generous man, with his time and always ready to encourage fellow cartoonists. I’m one of many who will miss him. I’ll join you Terry and Bill in sending Milenka our best wishes as share the of memories of Alex.

  4. Thank you Terry, well said it brought my memories of Alex come alive and made me smile with a little tear, He was a very special person.

  5. First knew Alex in 1962 when I worked in the school where he was art teacher. Have kept in contact over the years. Greatly saddened by his passing. Love and light to Milenka.Wish her well. X

  6. Such sad news. Alex was a gentleman and a lovely, charming guy. I’ll miss him.Thanks for writing this, Terry.

  7. A lovely, generous man. And a complete one-off. He knew everybody from New York to Australia and had stories about them all. Very sad news. 

  8. Alex was much loved & will be sadly missed… he was a friend of my parents and became a friend of mine – we knew him for decades…..Back in 2008 my mother (Flora) and I spent a very happy day with him in Brighton, together with my soon to be wife, Fern, and my two children George and Alice (now 10 years older and both all-grown-up). We visited an exhibition of Alex’s then had a nice seaside lunch together…. I made a little movie from a few low-quality, low-resolution snaps and video clips I took on my battered old mobile phone (circa 2004 or something)…..As many of you must know, Alex was a film critic as well as wonderful cartoonist and much else besides, and I’m delighted to say he LOVED this 2½ minute movie I made for him/us. Please do feel free to watch it (together with the slightly longer clip of him chatting with my mother at exhibition before lunch). Both can be found and downloaded as .wmv files from my private websites – for friends and family only: Hope it brings back warm memories of this wonderful man for you! Barry 🙂

  9. So sorry to read of the death of Alex Noel Watson. My husband Wilf had taught art with Alex and he was also a neighbour as well as a friend from whom we always received hand drawn Christmas cards each year. I now know why I did not receive one this year. Alex visited the last major art show of my husbands work and they enjoyed swapping old stories. I have very fond memories Melika X Fondest regards Sue

  10. Hi I own an original, pen and  watercolour picture of a highland scene, signed by Alex Noel Watson dated  John and Moira, Looks like a West of Scotland painting, Anyone interested..

  11. Alex was my mother’s cousin
    I am sorry to read of his passing.
    He was a kind creative and friendly man.
    He had a long and interesting life
    Many years ago when he
    visited Canada he gave my mother a
    piece of his original art. I now have it and it hangs by our
    Entrance door


    Does anyone know the pen name he used for his cartoons in the Methodist Recorder? I believe I met him at Highcliff Methodist Guild Holiday in Swanage around the late 1960s. A cartoon of the days event would appear on the piano. I particularly remember the one of the grumpy coach driver who took us to Lulwoth Cove, he titled The Lulworth Cove!!! He also gave me a cartoon of me.

  13. My dear uncle, miss him. It was pleasure to meet him several times after the velvet revolution. I have visited my uncle and aunt as well in the UK and he often went to Czech Republic for Christmas and during the summer.  Always so nice, caring, entertaining..We still have his beautiful drawings here in the Netherlands.

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