Dear Mr Crawford,
Thanks for your very interesting letter. I should have been more aware of the chronology of Punch, because when I joined the staff in the late 60s, Bernard Hollowood was still there. Not for long. I can't make any comment when you say that it was Alan Coren's epigones who dumbed Punch down, because I can't remember what an epigone is, and until this cat shifts from my lap, I can't get a dictionary. But I do remember that when Bill Davis arrived it moved away from good writing to famous names immediately. I can remember Bill storming down the corridor shrieking: "It's too literary, this magazine ! Everyone's too damned literary!". Anyway, I have my own feelings about all that, most of them discreditable and most tucked away in dusty old boxes marked Best Forgotten.
I had a letter from E S ( Ernest ) Turner, about the H F Ellis broadcast. Turner is now 92 and still writing. He said he could remember the lunch at which H F Ellis and Bill Davis realised they were never going to be on the same planet, but I haven't asked him for details yet. My wife often says that the Oldie now is what Punch should have been, which would please Ingrams, who always should have been editor of Punch....
The Independent had nothing on H F Ellis, so asked me to do an obit on the spot, and I cobbled one together as best as I could. I've printed one off for you. (Don't have to move the cat to do that.) And I have also looked up your postcode just to be nosy, on the Royal Mail website, thus flouting your clear disdain for the things.
PS I'll tell you who I always thought was a lot funnier than Coren or anyone, and that was Alexander Frater when doing his one-off travel bits. He once did a piece about a man who got his foot caught in a giant clam a mile off shore from a Pacific Island, in three feet of warm water, and was stuck there, which is the funniest thing I have ever read. (The man is relieved after a while to see a boat being rowed out to him, as he thinks it is help on its way, but it isn't; it's a man from the local paper come to interview him on what it's like to be stuck in a giant clam. Interview over, the man rows back again.)