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April 16, 2014

‘I do not want to spend an eternity in Ipswich’: Last words of the great cartoonist Keith Waite

For famous last words, the great political and social cartoonist Keith Waite's dry wit has matched that of Oscar Wilde and Spike Milligan.

Keith, who has died aged 87, was an experienced and enthusiastic sailor based on the Orwell river, near Ipswich, in Suffolk.

He instructed that his ashes were to be scattered on the river and on an ebb tide "because I do not want to spend eternity in Ipswich". His family is hoping that this ceremony will be from a Thames barge full of many of his friends and with accompanying craft carrying more friends.

Some of his sharpest cartoons, giving little quarter to politicians, the self-important and bullying, over-weening authority, appeared in the Daily and Sunday Mirror between 1969 and 1985. He left the Mirror after a furious row with the bully Robert Maxwell, a man he detested, and joined The Times where for ten years he was the business pages' pocket cartoonist.

New Zealander Keith was a prize-winning childhood cartoonist who arrived in Britain in 1951. His first illustration in a British newspaper was of King George VI's hearse leaving Sandringham in 1952, the year of the Queen's succession. In a tribute to him in 2012, his old Mirror Group colleagues said that he shared his diamond jubilee with the Queen.

During his long career, Keith's cartoons appeared in almost every British newspaper. He was the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain's cartoonist of the year in 1963.

His British career began with the then Kemsley-owned Daily Record and Daily News in Glasgow. He freelanced for Punch before joining the Daily Sketch, where most days he had four topical cartoons across the top of Page 2, a considerable achievement.

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Keith moved on in 1964 to the Cudlipp Sun, which was later sold to Rupert Murdoch. Keith then moved to the Daily Mirror, 1969 to 1985, and the Sunday Mirror, 1970 for ten years.

His cartoons were popular in Japan, Israel and the Soviet Union. Keith exhibited line drawings, watercolours and woodcuts, many of the sea, which echoed his considerable sailing knowledge.

Keith leaves his widow, Reneé, who he married on the last of his boats, the 35-foot ketch, Lutra II, at Tobermory on the Scottish isle of Mull in 1983.

He leave Reneé, the three surviving of his four children and two step-daughters. 

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