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Farewell, Martin Honeysett – you will be sadly missed

Martin Honeysett

Martin Honeysett

Well-loved Hastings cartoonist, Martin Honeysett, has died at the age of 71. He has been described as a ‘giant of British cartooning’, while his unmistakable drawing style and dark humour have graced magazines and newspapers for the last four decades, including Punch, The New Statesman, Private Eye, The Oldie, The Sunday Telegraph and The Observer. HOT reporter Cathy Simpson reflects on his life and work, and shares reminiscences from his fellow cartoonists.

Martin Honeysett was born in Hereford on May 20 1943 and brought up in Croydon. After education at Selhurst Grammar School he spent a year at Croydon School of Art. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1962, and thence to Canada, returning to the UK in 1968. He had a wide variety of employment during these years, but by 1972 the demand for his cartoons was so great that he was able to give up his job as a bus driver.

As well as newspaper and magazine work, he illustrated several books, including Sue Townsend’s The Queen and I; Dick King-Smith’s H. Prince and Farmer Bungle Forgets; Bert Fegg’s Nasty Book for Boys and Girls by Terry Jones and Michael Palin, and a series of poetry books by the humorist Ivor Cutler. In addition he published several collections of his own cartoons, including The Joy of Headaches: How to Survive the Sexual Revolution; Fit for Nothing: How to Survive the Health Boom and Micro Phobia: How to Survive Your Computer. His last illustrated publication was ‘Tips for Meanies’ – Thrifty Wisdom from the Oldie, written by Jane Thynne.

He also won awards at cartoon festivals in Europe and Japan, and his cartoons and paintings appeared in exhibitions at public galleries such as Chris Beetles in St James’s. Examples of his work are held in public collections including the Cartoon Art Trust and the V&A.

From 2005 he spent two years as a visiting professor at Kyoto Seika University, the only institution in the world to have a cartoon faculty.

Honeysett board at Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2010 © Steve Bright

Honeysett board at Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2010 Photograph © Steve Bright

For those who knew him, however, the over-riding memories are simply of his humanity; such a genius, and how kind, modest and self-effacing a man he was. Prima-donnas are only there to be sent up, after all. He is remembered fondly by his peers:

“His always weird and often quite savage, beautifully drawn work was inspiring. He was self effacing and modest, but underneath that was a pin-sharp intellect.” (Bill Stott)

“I remember the first time I met him; he was driving a Morris Estate and all the wooden framing had moss growing on it. It seemed the perfect car, given his cartooning style.” (Noel Ford)

“Happy memories of football matches at the CCGB conferences where he was very fit, couldn’t play football, but was great at fouling.” (Colin Whittock)

“One of the scruffiest people I’ve ever known, happiest in a battered pair of shorts, sandals and a sunhat.” (Andrew Birch)

“So many brilliant gags over the years, populated by the most disgusting cast of oddbods.” (Huw Aaron)

“One early recollection was Private Eye’s 21st party. A well refreshed Martin thought it a good idea to introduce the birthday cake to the top of Michael Ffolkes head. For some silly reason Michael wasn’t too pleased as he stood there with cake atop the noggin and shoulders.” (Mike Turner)

Cartoonist Steve Bright also recalls how, at the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival a few years back, a passing bird ‘performed’ on one of the big boards awaiting a painting from one of the invited cartoonists. While everybody else had formed a debating group to decide who was going to clear it up, Martin dashed forth with pen in hand and ‘made the board his own.’ That’s how it stayed for the rest of the festival; luckily Steve has recorded it for posterity:

Lesser spotted Honeysett

Lesser spotted Honeysett © Steve Bright

Cartoonist Nathan Ariss, also one of the organisers of the Herne Bay Cartoon Festival, recalls the following story – which really sums up the esteem in which Honeysett was held.

Fellow organiser Steve Coombes relates he played “Desert Island Cartoonists” at Herne Bay, asking all who would be the eight top ones on there – Martin was a constant on the list. He then asked “… and if a giant wave should wash seven of them away, who is left?”

Apparently, the answer was pretty much the same.



Martin’s funeral will take place at Hastings crematorium on Friday 13 February. Family flowers only. Donations to Seaview Project care of Arthur Towner Funeral Directors.

Martin Honeysett, born 20 May 1943, died 20 January 2015.

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Posted 15:47 Tuesday, Jan 27, 2015 In: Hastings People


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  1. Rachel and Jean

    We had the good fortune to live around the corner from you here and there, Martin, and you were a pleasure that has stayed with us.

    Comment by Rachel and Jean — Tuesday, Aug 18, 2015 @ 09:36

  2. Helen Pointer

    Always enjoyed your company Martin.
    Unassuming & so likeable with a wicked sense of humour.
    Big hug to you wherever you are! X

    Comment by Helen Pointer — Tuesday, Feb 3, 2015 @ 18:30

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