William Stickers (1897-1949) Workers Of the World Unit
Something of a Reg Shoe in his attitudes and approach to life, Bill is one of the many misfits and nearly-famous or got-there-second people in the cemetery. He would have invented Communism, only Karl Marx got there first. He would have fought in the Spanish Civil War, only he got on the wrong boat and ended up in Hull. Even after death, his luck failed him. Public subscription bought him a tombstone carved by a monumental mason who was on piecework - ie, being paid by the letter - and in a lamentable display of lack of solidarity with the international working classes, this artisan refused to carve the all-important final "e" on the inscription, claiming he'd only been paid up to the letter "t" in "unite". As there was certainly no chance of an exclamation mark, it was left as it stood... so while the tomb of Marx in London's Highgate Cemetery is visited by thousands, that of Bill Stickers, the almost-founder of Stickism, is left unloved and lonely in Blackbury.
Bill does not believe he is a ghost - they're a relic of an outmoded and discredited belief system. No, it's a perfectly understandable scientific phenomenon, to which Socialist science, unfettered by the chains of religion, has no doubt by now worked out an answer.
Bill is described as a large man in gold-rimmed spectacles with a beard that would conceal a cat. (By stunning coincidence, this is also a good description of Karl Marx, (well, except for the glasses, it was Trotsky who wore glasses).
Circumstantial evidence (there is a mention in Johnny and the Bomb of a Mr. Stickers who worked in 1941 as a print compositor) suggests he worked for the local paper. Traditionally, the printworkers' unions were among the strongest, most militant, and best-organised trade unions in Britain.
William's name derives from all those notices posted on walls saying Bill Stickers Will Be Prosecuted, to which generations of wags have added graffiti reading Bill Stickers is Innocent or Free Bill Stickers.
Terry wasn't the first to create a character from these slogans. Bass Ale once had an adverising campaign called The Amazing Adventures of Bill Sticker which consisted of a series of cartoons in which a fly poster (Bill Sticker) had put up posters saying Great Stuff, This Bass in unlikely places. Beer mats featuring this series of cartoons are apparently quite collectible, if you're into that sort of thing.
In the Richard Dimbleby lecture, broadcast on Monday 12st February 2010 on BBC1, Terry revealed that he worked for a chief reporter called George Topley, who would fling the young Pratchett's journalistic copy back in his face for the most minor breaches of style or grammar. He too would have fought in the Spanish Civil War, only he got on the wrong boat and ended up in Hull.
Was George the model for the fiery and passionate Bill Stickers? (Bill, remember, is the man the local police ring to resolve matters of grammar, punctuation and basic English)