Messages of love still flooding in for David Hicks

Cardies from all over the world pay tribute to Hicksy


Messages of love and respect are still flooding in from all over the world, paying tribute to David Hicks, one of the industry’s real icons who sadly died on Friday (April 8).

Having already shared more of the many tributes on PG Buzz on Tuesday (April 12), here are some further thoughts about the great man, whose life has been cut short by motor neurone disease…

Above: Chris James (far left) with David (third left) with agents (second left-right) Joanna McFarlane, Jo Bannister, and Paul Hobbs and his wife, on David’s boat
Above: Chris James (far left) with David (third left) with agents (second left-right) Joanna McFarlane, Jo Bannister, and Paul Hobbs and his wife, on David’s boat

Chris James, former sales director of Danilo

“Three words sum up my friend David for me – sarcasm, curiosity, kindness. There are many more, I’m sure, for others, but this is a very personal take on a more than 30-year relationship with a quite extraordinary man.

David was wickedly and fabulously sarcastic. However, each withering remark was always delivered together with that twinkle in his eye we all knew and loved. He would often refer to me as the only person he knew more sarcastic than him. Whether this was true or not I consider it a compliment from a master of the art.

David was a true polymath. His innate curiosity in pretty much everything and everybody made time spent with him stimulating, challenging, informative but, most of all, fun. I so remember that faraway look in his eye when some chance item triggered an idea in his head. I also recall a conversation about mustard that culminated in my enduring a tasting at Dove Pier of some of the most disgusting things I’ve ever put in my mouth! Thank goodness we were on deck so I could physically share my misery with the swans and ducks.

David showed kindness to everyone, I genuinely have never heard a bad word said against him. Here’s a somewhat insignificant but, to my mind, very telling story. We last had dinner together on March 15 at Chez Bruce, a lovely restaurant in South London and we both knew it would be the last time we would see one another.

When we left there was a bit of a kerfuffle surrounding David’s taxi so we didn’t really get to say goodbye properly. In the scheme of things it didn’t matter as we’d already talked matters through during the meal. Nevertheless, he called me when he got home apologising for the abruptness of his departure. With all he had going on, he thought to apologise to me for rushing off! Understated and natural kindness from a true gentleman.”

Above: Markus Keller with David
Above: Markus Keller with David

Markus Keller, ceo of Cart La Compagnie Des Arts, Switzerland

“I met David in the 90s when he first presented Soul at the NEC and I became his first export customer for this new company.

I was introduced by Mike Gray, who was running his sales at the time. His two companies were our very first suppliers of cards from England and helped shape the successful start of Cart in the 90s. The trends that David designed opened doors for us with many customers who were looking for a breath of fresh air in their assortment of cards.

When I met him, his direct humour, broad laugh and warm eyes immediately made me feel what a special person I was getting to know.

For many years we met at trade fairs all over the world, in London, New York, and Hong Kong, where we had eventful nights filled with eating and drinking. This man made me laugh so much with his intelligent, unerring, but never hurtful humour!

Our trip across Brazil was a highlight of our times together, where we explored boundaries and immersed ourselves in a wonderful culture.

David was an icon not only in the card business, he was an example of humanity and compassion for the lives of those close to him, a man of warmth with an incredible sense of humour, a paragon of generosity, creativity and intelligence. All my family has met him many times and he was considered as one of the most-loved persons by us. When he announced his disease to me, our daughter Alyne sat across from me and we both burst into tears.

I have always considered myself so lucky to have a friend like David – one day, far away yet, the sadness will be washed over by glorious memories and I will look back on our times together with love and joy. He will always be in our hearts.”

Above: Alan Harnik with David on the Really Good stand at Spring Fair in 2012
Above: Alan Harnik with David on the Really Good stand at Spring Fair in 2012

Father and daughter Alan and Vanessa Harnik, directors of Notes & Queries, the leading distributor of UK card publishers in the States, have enjoyed a long and close relationship with David. Pictured below is the message Vanessa sent to N&Q’s customers and partners on the day David died.

Tributes pic ?? Vanessa

Anna and Troy Nelson, co-owners of Rossana Rossi

“Our hearts are heavy hearing this news. One of the most genuine, kind-hearted beings we had the privilege to have known. Our last memory of David was a visit to his boat docked on the Thames. He cooked us a wonderful meal while watching the annual London boat race.

David’s death brings home just how precious life and loved ones are – travel often, laugh daily and try not to take life too seriously. David has taught us to open our eyes to travel often and see as much as possible. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes these moments in life to stop and appreciate what’s really. His cheeky smile and quirkiness will never be forgotten.”

Above: (from left) Rosanna Rossi’s Anna and Troy Nelson with David, Jeremy Corner of Blue Eyed Sun, and McMillan Cards’ Jenny Cummins at Markus Keller’s 50th birthday party
Above: (from left) Rosanna Rossi’s Anna and Troy Nelson with David, Jeremy Corner of Blue Eyed Sun, and McMillan Cards’ Jenny Cummins at Markus Keller’s 50th birthday party

Chris and Judy Cordingly, co-owners of Art Angels

“It’s very hard to do David justice in words because he was a uniquely original person – I can’t remember which Shakespeare play has the line ‘he was a man take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again’ (from Hamlet).

We’ve had so many lovely times with David, in the UK and on the other side of the world, in restaurants and pubs and on his boats, most recently in December when we met Nicole. He cooked a divine risotto, we drank a bottle of bubbly to celebrate their wedding a couple of days before and we talked about our journeys together, both in the card business and literally as travellers in foreign places.

He explained about the foundation he was setting up, the arrangements he had put in place and, although he didn’t mention Zurich, we both felt this was the most likely outcome. We all knew it was probably the last time we would eat together, but he was totally himself, his conversation as wide ranging as ever, his wit as mordant.

The bravery shown by both Nicole and David serves as model for us all and we mourn alongside Nicole the loss of such an extraordinary man.”

William and Sarah Allardice, co-owners of Archivist Gallery

“What horribly sad news. Our favourite rose in the garden is called The Generous Gardener…with regard to David, I would call him The Generous Publisher. He was always ready to share his thoughts and advice whenever I asked as it just wasn’t in his mindset to treat us competitors, just allies in the crazy world of paper products.”

Above: Art Angels’ Judy Cordingly (far left) with David and other industry chums in Hong Kong
Above: Art Angels’ Judy Cordingly (far left) with David and other industry chums in Hong Kong

Michelle Mills, Windles’ business development and marketing manager, on behalf of the whole Windles team

“David Hicks – what an absolute legend. A truly remarkable character who was so well loved by us all.
Years ago I recall David telling me about how he scootered around Oxford from one bar to the next. And who’d have thought that scootering would become a thing!

Donkeys’ years ago when greeting cards were more traditional in appearance, David published cards with words, just words, and it became a thing! And he was officially the first publisher who used the cold foil process, and that’s now a massive thing!
Thank you, David, from all of us at Windles, you shall remain eternal in our hearts, your legacy shall live on, peace be now with you ❤xx”

Greg and Maranda Warrington, co-owners of Sourcing Support Asia

“All of us know David was an extraordinary entrepreneur. Not satisfied with the odd hit, David’s eye for design saw him re-invent his success time and time again…no mean feat in our fabulous, creative industry. Beyond everything else, and as his business cards proudly testified, he was a Really Nice Man!

David had more true friends than any other person I know…more than friends really, we all absolutely love the man and he loved us back…true, genuine, friendship. Many were fortunate enough to have known David for 30 years plus and, in our case, we have been close friends for about 10 years, and one of the last things I said to him a couple of weeks ago was how I wish we had been this close much longer.

Of course, with our friendship came David’s lightning-speed wit…at a recent PG Live, I ambled up to Really Good’s stand, dressed in dark suit, white shirt and tie, David was holding court, dressed in a massively-oversized dungarees, that ended about a foot from his feet – well, you can’t buy dungarees that long – colourful t-shirt, and sandals. He looked up, and I could feel his eye assessing his kill… “Ah dear boy… the *******r’s here!” Probably not appropriate for this message… I’ll tell you privately. But, even though I was particularly fair game for David, I found his wit hilarious and took my insults lovingly, and regularly.

Like all David’s other friends, many of our special memories involve fabulous meals and lots of drink. One of our favourite annual nights was David’s birthday, which always fell during the Hong Kong Gift & Premium show. Our joint objective was being able to get up the next morning to man our separate stands at the show. Inevitably, after a fantastic evening, we would end up at Joe Banana’s, drinking and dancing until the early hours. Poor Lisa and Maranda usually succeeded in manning the stands by 9.30am, but David and I rarely did, leaving them to hold the fort while we nursed our outrageous hangovers.

Then our annual St David’s Day Massacre – this was our boat day on the Thames, named as so many of our friends are called David, and Massacre because the boat entry charge was a bottle of gin which had to be to consumed during the day. The first year was the worst, with Maranda pouring rather large measures, the drinks had that extra kick.

Having spent a lovely summer’s day on the water, eaten all of Maranda’s fabulous spring and Vietnamese rolls, by mid-afternoon, we were all peckish. David Macrae suggested a well-hidden pub near a lock we had just arrived at, so we parked up and walked to the pub. Arriving, David H grabbed a bottle of red and headed for the garden while the rest of us negotiated with the pub for the best part of 15 minutes trying to persuade them to open up the kitchen and feed us, but they wouldn’t have it. So we found David, who decided that the pub’s punishment for being so uncooperative was to nick the red wine and four glasses which we all shared while walking back to the boat. Food now became the priority for the rest of the day, and after many refusals, we eventually ended up at a very nice Indian restaurant in Marlow. Orders were taken, drinking and chat continued and, by the time the food eventually arrived, and for all of us that know David well, he was sound asleep! A great day among the many we have shared together.

News of David’s horrible and sudden illness came when he phoned me in the autumn of last year. It was one of those moments in life where everything seemed to stop, you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing. Since then, David and Nicole have stayed with us at our house on the South Coast and we have stayed with them on their wonderful houseboat in Wandsworth.

Our last meal with them was at Fiume with John and Jennie Proctor of Scribbler, Paul and Sarah Steele, and Maranda and I, a couple of weeks ago. David was on fantastic form, as usual. Nicole managed to hold it together despite everything she must be going through. It has been lovely getting to know Nicole over the last few years and we are very happy that we will remain close friends.

David has been so brave in sharing these last months with all his friends, helping us be part of his last journey and to understand his timing decision. David’s memory will always be with us, and we will miss him desperately. Along with the sadness, remembering him and that fabulous wit will always make us smile. I’ll see you later David – love you mate.”

Deidre Robinson, Image Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

“Over 30 years ago we approached David to distribute for New Zealand. We were still fairly new to the card business and were looking for humour and contemporary lines. Happy Hefalumps was big at the time and seemed the perfect fit. Shortly after, David arrived in Auckland to check the market out and it was the start of a long and very illustrious partnership.

My first memory is of this rather wacky, funny, very unusual man. So, at the end of a Thai meal with a lot of laughs and wine consumed on being asked if we wanted coffee, he pulled out this raspberry herbal tea bag from his jacket pocket and said with a beaming smile ‘cup of hot water please’.  It didn’t seem to quite fit the image that I had already developed.

Fast forward many years, I had the same feeling when first shown Soul – another herbal tea moment. This was a man with two distinct personalities – the tall, funny, opinionated, gregarious man, and then the contemplative, calm, peaceful, thoughtful, caring person working with pretty, lovely subjects.

Generous to a fault, in all the years of trade shows he never once missed taking us out for dinner or drinks, either with the team or other overseas distributors – be it Birmingham, Harrogate, London, New York or Hong Kong. Then there were the visits to stay in Oxford, on the boat in London or the pub at the end of the wharf, it always seemed to be a party.

Last time David, Edward and I saw David was in Hong Kong with Lisa and Nicole, yet again for drinks. Covid then stopped everything – and here in the hermit kingdom we finally opened our borders to the Aussies today – still no one else.

Associates here initially questioned my supporting some of David’s wackier brands, like Monkton, NPO and stationery gifts like the Brightside. I tell you, for several years I think every shop in NZ stocked Man Tins and it was not a short-lived wonder – it went on for years.

Closing down the business was a huge shock at the time, but the reasons given were totally valid – more travel, more photography, more life than just cards. So, when he told me about his disease halfway through last year, I just thought it was not fair. In the departure lounge but not ready to depart – a long time still to tick off the wish list but now cut short.

Another very good friend had just died from MND so we knew the path. We kept in touch regularly. Last week’s post about the loneliness of Namibia told me where he was at so, when I asked how he was coping last Thursday, his answer ‘in Zurich – I’ll be taking care of things soon’ was not unexpected. A wonderful person, who will be missed and never forgotten.”

Kishor Shah, managing director Xpressions and Zak UK

“This is a sad time for the industry. I knew David for at least 25 years, and I remember going to see him in the early years when he acquired the Big Unit in Oxford. He was so proud to show me around, and we had a great day, and in typical David fashion, he did it the best way. We became great friends and I also had the pleasure of doing a lot of licensing with him – Happy Hefalumps, Not Particularly Orange and Kid Art – which was great fun.

He was one of the most charismatic people in our Industry, always with a smile, always with something to say and always funny. He was his own man and did what he wanted and believed in. A true character. We will miss him. The industry has lost a gentleman and a true friend.”

Top: The one and only David Hicks

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