THE lasting legacy of a famous first world war cartoonist who spent the final years of his life living in Colwall will be honoured with the unveiling of a new plaque on Saturday, September 24.

Bruce Bairnsfather, creator of the moustached ‘Old Bill’ character, was the most well-known cartoonist of his era and many of his drawings are still instantly recognisable today.

Bairnsfather drew cartoons on the door at Colwall's Royal, Brotish Legion Club while a member in the 1950s, and these still exist there today, albeit now safely framed.

But Bairnsfather’s connections with the local area do not end there, as the first and only published biography of his life that has ever been produced also has its origins in Malvern.

Local couple Tonie and Valmai Holt were inspired to research Bairnsfather while researching another book - their first - centred on picture postcards.

Although they had moved to London by the time it was completed, the bulk of their work on In Search of the Better 'Ole was completed in the town.

Explaining Bairnsfather’s local connections, Mr Holt said: “We discovered that in 1951 he lived in Dial Cottage, Evendine. Bairnsfather's wife, Ceal, was not at all well and had frequent visits from her doctor Peter Richardson of North Malvern. At the same time Bruce was seriously ill and had a series of operations by surgeon Philip Nicholas.

“Bruce's constant companion at the time (you might say his 'Old Bill') was Tom Daniels, a bricklayer who lived in Jubilee Drive who went everywhere with the cartoonist.”

He added: “Wherever he went it seems that Bairnsfather was always rather hard-up, and I suspect that his drawings at the Legion Club in Colwall were done in exchange for a few pints of beer.”

By coincidence, the plaque unveiling will come almost 30 years to the day after Mr and Mrs Holt put up a blue plaque dedicated to Bairnsfather in Knightsbridge. They have also since installed another plaque in Belgium, on the site of the cottage where he drew his first cartoon.

With the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One coming up in 2014, Mr Holt feels the new plaque in Colwall will provide a timely reminder of his work.

“Bairnsfather’s work is instantly recognisable and highly regarded, and he had quite a life and career,” he said. “He was a captain in the Warwickshires during the war and it was during that time that he started drawing a number of cartoons for a magazine. Very quickly those drawings started to capture the public’s imagination.”

The plaque will be the third unveiled by Colwall Village Society over the past year or so after members decided to honour well-known people who had been involved with Colwall.

Plaques to artist Dame Laura Knight and cricketer Betty Snowball have been unveiled to date, and Village Society secretary John Atkin believes Bairnsfather is another worthy recipient.

“It is a shame that he has somehow never had a huge amount of recognition,”he said. “But so many people, when they see his cartoons, instantly recognise them.”

The plaque will be unveiled at the Royal British Legion Club, in Crescent Road at 12.30pm by Bairnsfather expert Mark Warby.

It is believed that a number of Bairnsfather enthusiasts from other areas will attend, and Mr Warby will be bringing with him a special message from Bairnsfather’s 88-year-old daughter Barbara Littlejohn, who lives in the USA.