Eric Oliver was born in Bromley, Kent. the fifth of sixth children; his eldest brothers had all been educated at Dulwich, but Eric failed the Common Entrance examination, and his formal education ceased when he was 13. He drifted from job to job, and spent much of his time at race meetings and dog tracks.
Eric Oliver was introduced to the poet Denton Welch in November 1943 at a time when Oliver, a conscientious objector, was working on the land and Welch was living as a semi-invalid, following a road accident when he was 20, near Hadlow, in Kent.
Despite Oliver's boozy and often hurtful conduct, Denton Welch fell in love with him. The intensity of Welch's emotions was not returned, for on his own admission Oliver was incapable of love ("You must never take me seriously," he wrote in the only letter of his to Welch which survives), but, once they had sorted out the imbalance in their relationship, Oliver moved in with him
Eric Oliver seemed an incongruous choice of companion for a writer and painter as fastidious as Denton Welch. "It is just because you are different that I like you," Welch wrote to him in February 1944. "You wouldn't touch my imagination in the very least if you approximated more to my type." Oliver was virtually illiterate, and had little judgement about people, art or business.
As Welch's physical condition deteriorated Oliver nursed him with practical expertise. Welch relied heavily upon Oliver, and not just as a nurse; only four months before his death in 1948, the pair of them were proof-reading Welch's first collection of short stories, Brave and Cruel , published posthumously in 1949.
When Welch died on December 30, 1948, in Oliver's arms, the manuscript of his third and finest novel, A Voice Through a Cloud , lay by the bed, and Oliver was instrumental in John Lehmann's publishing it in 1950, with a foreword signed by Oliver but probably written by Lehmann.
They had lived together from 1943 to 1948: 5 years. Oliver said that knowing Denton Welch was the most important thing that ever happened to him.
Where Denton Welch was homosexual, Eric Oliver was without sexual morals or preferences. No sexual exploit initiated by him, however, ever superseded in audacity his conquest, shortly after Welch's death, of their 55-year-old housekeeper, Evie Sinclair; he divested her of her virginity in the bath.
Oliver kept an urn containing the writer's ashes for many years in his wardrobe, until he was persuaded to hand them over for safekeeping to a clergyman. His only reminder of Welch thereafter was a cigarette case Welch had given him as a birthday present. This he sold for 50 pounds to a young American journalist who wanted to give it to William Burroughs.
Eric Oliver died in Portslade, East Sussex, aged 80.