Paul Trevillion: Illustrator Of His Idol
How a captivated three-year-old went on to illustrate the career of his hero Dixie Dean….. and receive a personal master class in the art of heading a ball
Celebrated line artist PAUL TREVILLION tells JOHN KEITH about his 80-year fascination with the legendary centre forward
The passage of time means that, sadly, there are fewer and fewer people who can say: “I saw Dixie Dean play.” One man who will never forget this first sight of Dixie in action has built his own stylish niche in the world of football …… but with paper and ink rather than boots and a ball.
Celebrated comic strip artist Paul Trevillion, 84 years young and still creating images in his Bedfordshire studio, had a life-changing experience as a three-year-old when he first clapped eyes on Everton’s legendary centre forward. The man whose subjects range from Sir Winston Churchill to Roy of the Rovers and who works under the wonderful title of “The Leonardo of Line”, bestowed on him by the BBC’s The One Show, recalled: “I was a Tottenham Hotspur fan, as all my family were, and we lived so close to the ground that our window frames shook whenever they scored a goal.
“In February 1937, as a very special third birthday present, my father switched his shift as a bus conductor to take me to see Tottenham play Everton in an FA Cup fifth round replay .
“On the day of the match my mother gave me another present. It was an enormous Tottenham scarf she’d knitted and which I proudly wore as I stood on the White Hart Lane terraces for the first time.
“When Tottenham ran out in their white shirts I roared my head off with all the other home fans. But then there was an even bigger roar when Dixie Dean took the field. He was such a famous star that everyone was shouting ‘Good Old Dixie.’ He was a powerful, imposing figure.”
The Cup replay came in the twilight of Dixie’s Everton career – his successor Tommy Lawton also played and scored the other goal –but Paul was hooked. “Once I saw him I was a Dixie Dean fan and I always have been. Tottenham were 3-1 down and came back to win 4-3 but I remember nothing of the game apart from Dixie’s explosive heading power and the two goals he scored.
“ When I got home I asked my mother to sew the name ‘Dixie Dean’ into my Tottenham scarf. He became my hero and I wasted no time learning all I could about him and in later life I went on to draw him 100 times, possibly even more.
“After I’d failed my 11-plus exam my teacher placed inside the envelope with my very bad report my drawing of Dixie which had been hanging on the classroom wall. He also wrote a note to soften the blow for my parents. “It read: ‘Paul lacks concentration with his school work but if he works very hard and with a lot of luck it’s possible he might have a career in the field of art.” What foresight that teacher had.
Paul rose to fame with his wonderful artistic talent, illustrating Roy Race’s deeds in the famous Tiger comic strip, providing a litany of drawings for various magazines and periodicals as well as capturing images of the highest in the land. His sketch of the Duke of Edinburgh was gratefully accepted before Paul managed, with the help of business acquaintances in 1955, to have a portrait of Churchill sent to the great war leader on his birthday. The outcome was a telephone call from Churchill. Paul recalls: “ I was handed the phone and a deep voice said: ‘Is that Trevillion ?’ I said: ‘Yes’. He said: ‘Winston here. I will be at the Bernard Sunley Buildings, Berkeley Square on Wednesday 10.30. Oblige.’ Down went the phone. But I thought that if he wanted to see me he must have liked the portrait.”
Paul’s apprehension at meeting Churchill was swiftly dispelled. The two-time Prime Minister, himself a passionately keen painter, picked up Paul’s portrait and asked him about his technique. Then, when Paul took a deep breath and asked Churchill if he would put in writing that he liked the portrait, he replied. “I will do better than that, young man …..I will sign it !” He did so and the portrait is now on display at the Professional Footballers Association headquarters in Manchester after a long, successful spell at the city’s National Football Museum. And if that remains Paul’s most cherished piece of work in a life that has also embraced stand-up comedy, marketing and a campaign against football hooliganism, his meetings with Dixie Dean are the most memorable of his lifetime involvement in the game.
In 1960, some 23 years after his enthralling first sight of Dixie at Tottenham but still hero worshipping the centre forward whose career ended on the eve of the Second World War, Paul sent two drawings of Dixie to the editor of the Liverpool Echo, with the suggestion that he would illustrate the Everton legend’s life story. “The editor invited me to the office in Liverpool, “ said Paul. “When I walked in there was my idol, Dixie Dean, sitting in a chair next to the editor’s desk. I was thrilled that he liked my drawings of him and also that he was impressed at how much I knew about his playing career and life off the field.” It began a long discussion about various events in Dixie’s life ….the motor cycle accident early in his Everton career – “They thought I’d never play again”, he told Paul - his 60-goal League record in 1928 and his pride at becoming the first player to wear the No 9 jersey when numbers were introduced at the 1933 FA Cup Final in which Everton beat Manchester City. And, yes, Dixie agreed for Paul to illustrate The Dixie Dean Story in the Liverpool Echo which ran and ran. “Originally it was to be a six-week series,” says Paul. “But such was the reaction to the first two they decided to cover Dixie’s life story in full. “It started in December and ended five months later at the end of the football season ! It spanned 20 weeks.”
Courtesy of the Liverpool Echo
And that day in the editor’s office led to an unforgettable tutorial session between Dixie and Paul in the art of heading a ball. “I asked Dixie a favour……would he take me to Goodison and head a ball for me to catch ? “He agreed and when we got to the stadium Dixie picked up a ball and told me to stand on the goal line. Then he said: ‘ Don’t move. Just hold your two hands out.’ “Dixie then stood on the penalty spot, threw the ball in the air and headed it upwards so it dropped gently into my hands. ‘ You never lose it, son,’ said Dixie. ‘ Now you can say you saved a Dixie Dean header.’ “ ‘Not true, Dixie’, I said, laughing. ‘You handed that ball to me with your head.’ He then proceed to show me his various methods of heading a ball …..the bullet header, the flick header, the glancing header ……any kind of header you could think of. “It’s an amazing memory for me. Standing there on the Goodison pitch with a personal demonstration from the greatest player ever to wear a No 9 jersey ! He was my hero then and he always will be.”
For artistic commissions to Paul please contact Peter Willis by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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