Posted: May 11th, 2011
William Soutar – or Willie, as he was known by many at the Mirror – died on Sunday, 7th December 2008 aged 88 years old. He had suffered several falls during the last 12 months through increasing dementia and had moved into a nursing home this year.
Bill worked for the Mirror for some 53 years (1934-1987) and started as a messenger, walking home at 10 30pm each night from Fetter Lane to Whipps Cross. The high point of his life then was travelling twice a week to St Neots, in Cambridgeshire, with pints of milk for the quadruplets the Mirror was sponsoring.
Bill met his wife, Con Fletcher, in Scarborough in 1940 and they celebrated 65 years of marriage in 2005 and which was duly reported in our August/September 2005 Mirror Pensioner newsletter. However, within weeks of their wedding he was off to war in North Africa, India and Burma. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1941 for bravery in the field by repairing a telephone wire whilst under enemy fire in North Africa. His war then took him to India and then Burma where he joined the Gurkha patrols as a signaller. He was nicknamed “Mac the Knife” for a large knife that he carried with him. However, he was stopped from carrying the knife because of the noise it made during the patrols. His last posting was in Germany working on the Army’s newspaper, The Polar News.
Bill returned to the Mirror at the end of 1945 and back to his job on the art bench, and then as Art Editor – a job which he loved.
Bill was passionate about boats from childhood – he built his first boat at age 11 years. After the war he converted two lifeboats “The Constant Star” and the “ConCar” for cruising on the Thames. His life-long friend was Hugh Cudlipp, later Lord Cudlipp, who shared his love for boats, newspapers and life in general. For more than 25 years Bill skippered three of Hugh’s cabin cruisers.
Towards the end of his career, Bill took up film-making whilst still at the Mirror and won a Cannes Film Festival award for a short documentary on the Tower of London. He later became the Mirror’s strips editor before finally retired in 1985. However, he continued writing until 2001 when he then suffered a very bad head injury.
He lost his wife, Con, last year but leaves a daughter, Carolyn Soutar, who says that she was honoured to have known him and that he was unsurpassed as a father. Carolyn has added to Bill’s own recollection of his life when he was being interviewed for the AMP newsletter in 2005. She says that her father would have wanted all that knew and worked with him at the Mirror to have a glass of white wine the next time they are having a curry!
Report and picture from FRANK THORNE
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