Dear Mr Belcher 9th February 1997
Re: T H Rafferty – ”Ole Bill”
Many thanks for your letter of 3rd Febuary 1997 and for giving me the opportunity to see your research on your Great Uncle, T H Rafferty. I remember seeing the piece in the Independent in 1992. I have a copy of Tonie and Valmai; Holt’s book on Bruce Bairnsfather and I remember thinking I wonder who drew this to their attention.It really is a marvellous piece of detective work —– well done. I know there have been other candidates propose such as Private Godley who won the Victoria Cross with Lt Dease on the retreat from Mons. It is good to see the matter resolved so conclusively. As ever it appears to have been a question of commercial incentive (” shall we call it greed”) which denied posterity for the full story. Mrs Rafferty was clearly denied her just desserts from the copyright in her husband’s image. From the photograph, I presume that Bairnsfather means the man next to your great uncle, calm -top in the background, with the moustache and the balaclava whose given as Biddolph ‘ the stoker’ but his own photograph shows it to be quite clearly ”Pat” Rafferty. A lot of people made a lot of money out of ”Ole Bill” and not just Bruce—— ie china manufacturers, film makers, advertisers, cartoonists etc. It is not surprising that the figure’s original was forgotten after the war ended. You have brought him rightly to the fore again and it is the purpose of history to make sure we do not forget the contributions as ever the lowliest of those who made our world. The ”better ”ole” cartoon is part of our culture and cartoonists use it all a term as a visual reference for contemporary comment —— it needs no introduction or any additional reference. What was once explained, a part on the passing show , is now a fixed point in our cultural inheritance. It is most appropriate that you have restored to us the original real- life model for ”ole Bill”
Thank you again for letting me see your research.
Best Wishes Bob
(Dr Bob Bushaway.)