Bill Pashley d: 2014 @ 80
Bill Pashley loved making clothes for opera singers, but also specialised in making wedding dresses for the rich and famous Public Domain
by Paul Bailey
My friend Bill Pashley, who has died aged 80, was a man who saw the funny side of almost everything, especially the debilitating illnesses that scarred his last years. For someone who had no religious convictions, he nevertheless exhibited those qualities many regard as truly Christian, not least in his refusal to pass instant judgment on others.
Bill was born into a farming family in Rotherham, south Yorkshire. His parents, William Wright and Blanche Pashley, were plainspoken folk, for whom a spade was generally a spade. Yet they put up little resistance when their son elected to become a dress designer in his teens and gained a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London. After graduating, he embarked on a career that gave him great happiness and satisfaction over several decades.
He loved making clothes for opera singers, in particular. Two of his longstanding clients were Margaret Price, whose singing he revered, and Gwyneth Jones. At his peak, he specialised in wedding dresses for the rich and posh, whom he treated with good-humoured irreverence. Diana Spencer and Sarah Ferguson were among his clients. Once Diana's engagement to the Prince of Wales was announced, royal etiquette decreed that a man could no longer see her in her underwear. Both Bill and the future princess found this terribly funny, because he never kept anyone in doubt concerning his sexual tastes.
I met him in the 1960s, when I was still a professional actor. He made me laugh, and continued to do so up to the very end of his life. Whenever I invited Beryl Bainbridge to dinner, she invariably insisted that I ask Bill as well, because his self-deprecating sense of humour greatly appealed to her.
He was of that generation of pre-liberated gay people who referred to other men as "she" or "her", and this habit never left him. In March this year, I visited him in Guy's hospital, London, to which he had been taken a couple of days earlier. There was a bad-tempered old man on the other side of the ward who was annoying the doctors and nurses with his incessant demands. Bill pointed him out to me: "She's a difficult customer, that one."
Bill was not a difficult customer. He rarely complained. In Trinity Hospice by Clapham Common, south London, he kept the staff giggling whenever he was capable. He is survived by his partner, Gilbert Olliffe, whom he met at a Halloween party in 1963, and by his sister, Jean, and many nieces and nephews.