Death of renowned newspaper cartoonist

Gifted cartoonist Bert Hackett, who delighted readers of The Birmingham Post with his Gemini creations, has died after a four-year battle with prostate cancer.

His funeral will be at Lodge Hill Chapel, Birmingham, at mid-day on Friday, May 6, followed by a wake at the Old Moseley Arms in Tindal Street.

Bert, who is survived by his daughters Zoe and Rosie, was born in Balsall Heath but lived in Moseley almost all his life.

After attending Birmingham College of Art, Bert served his national service in the Royal Navy and then joined the Manchester Evening News in 1954.

Returning to Birmingham, where he started his own business, Bert began to draw graphics for The Birmingham Post on a freelance basis. Together with business partner Graham Gavin they were invited to draw cartoons for the Post under the name of Gemini. When Graham eventually left, Bert took on the Gemini role full-time.

Paying tribute, former Birmingham Post editor Peter Saunders, said: “Bert Hackett was a brilliant cartoonist, able to stand comparison with any in the land. But he was far more than that:  deeply involved in so many aspects of The Birmingham Post, he contributed news and feature graphics, helped to select typefaces and acted as an ever-present confidante and sounding board to a succession of grateful editors.

 “Yes, he could be grumpy: who wouldn’t be if they had to provide the editor with a selection of three pocket cartoons every night for more than 40 years? On thin news days it could be a nightmare, with the editor and chief sub constantly interrupting to try to find at least the subject of his cartoon so that they could tie it in with the relevant news story. I always felt that selecting subjects for the cartoon and the leading article were the two most difficult parts of producing a daily newspaper – and surprisingly similar. Bert made it easier, although there were days when it was like drawing blood out of the proverbial, pipe-puffing stone.

 “His consistency, and in the early years that of his business partner the late Graham Gavin with whom he used to alternate cartoon duties, was remarkable. It ranged from the brilliant to,on a bad day, the very good. He did have problems drawing some people. One was Harold Wilson; another, far less illustrious, was a post racing tipster called Tony Lewis. When Tony won the Sporting Life’s tipster of the year title it was decreed that Bert should provide a Page 1 cartoon on his success. For more than an hour Bert stared at Tony before announcing: “it’s no good, I can’t draw him. He’s got one of those faces”. But he still managed to come up with a cartoon, albeit without Tony, that perfectly captured the achievement.

 “Although he was born in Birmingham he made his name as a newspaper graphic designer on the Manchester Evening News, where he so impressed a young assistant editor called Harold Evans (now Sir Harold, of course) that he sang his praises 50 years later in his book The Paper Chase. And it was fitting that he should end his career with that retrospective exhibition at the Midlands Arts Centre,” said Peter

Sarah Probert, features editor at the Post who was on the news desk when Bert contributed to the paper, said that Bert crafted more than 10,000 cartoons and worked with more than a dozen editors during his 42-year association with the paper.

“His enormous contribution will never be forgotten,” she said.

To celebrate Bert’s 80th birthday in 2013 a special exhibition of his work was shown at macBirmingham.