CUSTOMERS at Bradford city centre’s Westminster Bank from the early 20th century to the 1950s will have been familiar with a cheerful clerk called Percy Monkman.

Percy worked at the Westminster, later the NatWest, in the same office at the bottom of Kirkgate for 40 years.

Much of his spare time was spent performing at local theatres, particularly the Bradford Civic (later the Playhouse), where he was a stalwart for over 20 years. Percy honed his skills as an actor and comic in First World War concert parties, and later entertaining convalescing troops during the Second World War.

He was also a talented artist, specialising in watercolour painting, and was a member of Bradford Arts Club (and chairman and president) from 1924 until he died in 1986, at the age of 93. He painted local landscapes, often heading off to the Dales with his paints and easel. In his later years he was a familiar sight around Baildon, where he lived in retirement, sitting with his sketch book and paints.

But it was the bank, where he spent his working life, that gave Percy inspiration as a cartoonist.

“Throughout his life Percy drew cartoons,” writes his grandson Martin Greenwood, in his book, Percy Monkman: An Extraordinary Bradfordian (PlashMill Press, £24.49). “In the bank he was known to doodle on backs of envelopes. At the Civic he liked to watch other actors at rehearsals so he could draw them. At work or leisure he looked for opportunities to communicate the humour of situations. From time to time an idea might develop so he could offer more finished versions to local newspapers; on many occasions they were published. Over this lifetime they revealed a real talent for visual humour.”

In the 1920s and 30s Percy had cartoons published in the Telegraph & Argus, giving commentary on sporting events, mainly Bradford City, of which he was a lifelong fan. One cartoon reflects on a match in November, 1927 when City beat Nelson 9-1, at the time the club’s highest victory.

Percy also explored the issue of sports club ground-sharing - a subject of much debate in the inter-war years - from the unusual perspective of cleaners. In a 1928 cartoon, called “Football Gossip”, a cleaner at Bradford Park Avenue sees herself a cut above the Mrs Mops from other Bradford clubs. “Bradford City supporters traditionally believed their Park Avenue soccer rivals thought themselves to be a superior club than their Manningham upstarts,” writes Martin.

Most of Percy’s cartoons were about football, but he did one cartoon about cricket, celebrating the occasion, in 1956, when Shipley-born Jim Laker, a spin bowler for England, broke a world record by taking 19 wickets in a Test Match against Australia. The cartoon, published in the T&A on August 1, 1956, showed Laker bowling, with wickets raining down on a sick man in bed, with the words: “Lakeritis, or ‘May Fever’. Symptoms: Falling wickets, dropping ashes and Old Trafford sunshine”.

It seems Percy’s talent as a cartoonist was inherited by his son, Harvey, who, aged nine, sketched JB Priestley, a childhood friend of Percy’s. The impressive caricature appeared in the T&A in 1932.

In 1939 the T&A ran a series of Percy’s caricatures of prominent people at the Civic, which also appeared in a booklet published by the theatre. Called Bradford Civic Playhouse Personalities, its cover featured JB Priestley as the theatre’s president. Forty-five years later these caricatures were used to decorate a celebration cake for Percy, commemorating his honourary life-membership of the Civic.

One sketch he did in a rehearsal, in 1944, captured the whole cast of Priestley’s play They Came To A City. The cartoon even includes Percy.

Two of his cartoons, appearing in The Westminster, the bank’s staff magazine, 20 years apart, show his observations of bank life. The first, in 1932, was a montage of 12 typical bank customers. “This reflects a view of the bank as it used to be, a place people visited almost as a social activity,” writes Martin. “The second is quite a contrast. Published in 1952 to mark his retirement, it had more of a satirical bite. Slogans such as ‘Overdrawn? Why worry? We don’t! Your interest is our interest’ might draw knowing laughs today. Percy had no reputation for satire, but had he learnt over his career that banking had become a different kind of institution, no longer quite as respectable as when he joined?”

As well as paying tribute to his grandfather’s colourful life, Martin’s book contains a potted social history of Bradford, setting the scene for the Victorian and Edwardian city that Percy grew up in, taking it to the present.

It refers to friends of Percy, "loyal collector of life-long friendships", including Yorkshire artist Ashley Jackson and JB Priestley, who grew up near Percy in the Toller Lane area. They played football together as boys, and both survived the First World War. The book also pays homage to Percy as a "long-suffering Bradford City fan" and a devoted family man; married to Doris for over 50 years, they had three children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Martin's affectionate, witty and thoroughly researched book captures a lost Bradford and one of its remarkable sons. Dipping through the pages, you can almost feel Percy's presence lighting up the room.