Tony Cullingham

Watford Advertising

 The Tutors 1962-present.





September 14th, 1962.

James Gandofini celebrated his first birthday.

The Flintstones first episode, Dino Goes Hollyrock, was transmitted in the USA.

And the Watford Copywriting Course opened its doors to 22 budding Oscar and Oscarina Wildes .

The Tutor who owned the keys to the doors was a portly, bearded chap named Bill Galley.

One of Watford's first students, Malcolm Gluck, (ex Creative Director,  and celebrated wine critic), remembers Bill.


"When I first met Bill Galley he was wearing an immaculate three-piece hounds-tooth check suit,silk bow tie with matching handkerchief in the top jacket pocket, and a gold watch chain across his capacious midriff. I felt I was being ushered into the presence of the last remaining living member of the Pickwick Club. He had grey and white whiskers and, (I'm not making this up) , a monocle (and do I remember a silver-handled cane? Do you know, I rather think I do )

It was April 1962 and he was interviewing me for admission to the first official year of the Watford Copywriting Course (in fact it was the second but the year before had not been official but an 'experiment' I was told).

I said I had no idea what advertising was, let alone that it was something that could be written, but since I had had no joy getting work on any newspaper as a junior journalist perhaps training for writing ad copy might be a useful alternative. He did not throw me out of the room. When later I received a letter from him offering me a place on the Watford Course,I gave up smoking and visits to Soho and saved up my dosh for a year of further education. Bill was a kindly gentleman,old-fashioned of course to my callow eye,always courteous,patient with student's stupidities and he had an eye for those he could turn into hungry-for-ideas commercial no-nonsense copywriters. He was a bachelor with a flat not far from Lambs Conduit Street if I recall  and he also ran,or certainly later started,William.R.Galley Associates,International Hotel Consultants, from an office in Gower Street. 


Modern UK advertising which began in London in 1964 with the arrival of Papert konig Lois and Doyle Dane Bernbach, found him as eccentric and as out of date as a City slicker today would find an Edwardian top-hatted stockbroker,but to me he was a lovable old codger who gave me my chance to get my crudely-booted foot on the bottom rung of the delicious ladder which led me to having 30 years of delirious fun in the trade, (and to Bill, copywriting was a trade).

Advertising has no individuals like Bill today. I suppose the closest one could get would be Robin Wight though Bill had only a fraction of robin's commercial nous but did share a good deal of his showmanship." 



Duncan Christie AKA Uncle Duncan. Circa 1970-1981


Debonair, suave , Duncan was  the archetypal gentleman tutor. He  had the authority of a colonial general and the warmth of a Tiger skin rug.  Very little is known about his advertising career other than he had been a creative director back in the day when an agency name sounded more like legal firm than a female emotion.

  Duncan did, however, pen one of the greatest  straplines of all time:

         'Bridge That Gap With Cadbury Snack.' 

Duncan's classroom critiques were warm and inspiring: his  eloquent words would waft your mind from a decaying art college in  Watford to the tea rooms  of Little Tissington, Derbyshire. Genial, urbane  and warm of heart. A lovely man in every respect.

Duncan retired to Oxfordshire taking a part-time job as a tour guide around Oxford University.

Maureen Purbrook. 1981-1988.Please submit a citation if you know Maureen

 Paul Gayter 1989-1995

I've only ever met three creative genius's in my life. Paul is one of them. He deserves to up there with Picasso, Da Vinci and Michaelangelo. My brain is still scorched with the ideas and laughter that Paul brought to Watford. 

Currently Paul  is President of Brainwave, a creative consultancy in the heart of Washington DC.

Noel Underhill 1987-1997.

Noel was the first person to say to me, " Tony you should say 'yes' to everything  and see what happens."

I've never looked back. 

Noel could change people's lives with a few well chosen words. 

He knew what was needed in every situation.

And he helped shape hundreds of young creative lives. 

He was our own Obe Wan Kenobe.

He was Mark Twain's irreverent  soul brother. 

He was Aristotle.

He was Peter Fonda in Easy Rider.

He was The Marlboro Man. 

And those like me, who were touched by his kindness and intelligence, will never forget this truly rermarkable man. 

Everyone should have a Noel in their life.

Mike Comley 1994-present.

Mike Comley has been bombing around the M25 to Watford for the past 15 years.

Strange , because he doesn't have to work another day for the rest of his life.

He could spend all his time in Comley Mansions painting bowls of naked fruit and clothed women, throwing his money in the air and playing with his football stickers.

But he doesn't want to.

He comes out to Watford because he genuinely cares about young people. He genuinely cares about the course. And he genuinely loves advertising.

Besides being a great tutor he is also the Course Agony Uncle.

When students are in emotional turmoil they make a bee-line for Uncle Mike.

Many students over the years have had their eyes dried under the warm breeze of Mike's reassuring words.

I've witnessed him wringing out the tears from his blue serge shirts.

 I've seen student's  despair disappear with consummate and beautifully art directed words.   

Mike and I have been partners and friends for a long time. 

Together we have written campaigns .

Together we have written and delivered Creative Workshops at the BBC and Sky TV. 

Together, when the time comes,  we will walk off the edge of Watford to the sound of  Neil Young's Southern Man. ( The live 17 minute version from the LP 4 Way Street).

Some of of the happier times at Watford have been with Mike by my side.

When Mike finally retires, ( I hope it's not for a few more years ), our lives will be one pentel short of a layout.