I wasn’t party to the conversational interaction that a certain Carol Thatcher has created a polemic with. I am not surprised at what might have been said. I am not clear who in this case her reported unfortunate comments related to, there are a number of characters whose names have been bandied about.

Interestingly, I hear that The Royal Sandringham Estate shop has now been placed in the position of having to take off sale a certain kind of soft black toy. In this day and age, you have to question why was it there for sale in the first place.

Going back in time, I remember there being Robertson’s Jams. The company had a gorgeous friendly black faced mascot called a Golliwog. As a very young child I loved this character for what it was, a bright eyed and friendly face. I remember collecting the tokens so I could be the proud owner of my very own badge and pin my little friend on my cardigan or coat.

When my Christian Church affiliated primary school added its first West Indian boy to its roll, he joined my class. I became distressed at the abuse, some of it physical, directed at him by some of the teaching staff. I was further distressed at the names he was called by the kids, including “Golliwog”. I was hurt at his pain. My happy little ‘jam’ reveries of my young childhood were severely shattered. Adults, those who we as kids were supposed to respect, had put their jaundiced and prejudiced imprint on him, making it ‘alright’ for this kid and others like him to be taunted and hounded. Children can be cruel, they don’t need tacit permission and encouragement. It was sickening, it was wrong.

Years later, as a young adult, I was walking in the rain, not far from home, when I saw my old classmate walking towards me. I called out his name. He stopped, looked a little confused and frightened, he kept his distance. I moved closer to him, he took a step back. I started to talk to him and I recalled one really horrid and memorable incident (effected by a teacher in the classroom)and said how I had felt about this. He relaxed a little and we talked. The space between us narrowed a little. I hoped we would see each other again sometime; we never did.

What had the system and people done to this lovely young man.

Media, icons of youth, people who pronounce in public must know where the boundaries of unacceptability lie. It is right, in my view, that gratuitous sentiments are stamped upon. There is too much pandering to the god of diminution and minimisation.



  1. What a lovely and sad post. I just feel downhearted when ‘freedom of speech’ defenders want freedom to use such terms.
    There was an excellent piece on R4’s ‘Today’ where Jay Hunt explained that it was said in The Green Room in front of 12 people and did not seem to be jocular. Thatcher has refused to give apology. The presenter ctually quoted Daily Mail at her (PC gone mad, joke, private conversation etc) and she rebutted and contextualised.

  2. Yes, children can be cruel.

    Adults, with much more practice can be far more cruel.

    Sticks and stones may break my bones, but 7.62mm is much more effective. Poor Richard.

    Apologies but I am much taken with Cote du Rhone and vivid memories are imposing an historican context way beyond mere insults.

  3. In my view, Victorian children having a multi-ethnic toy-box seems to be a GOOD thing. In my own childhood experiences from the 1950s, no kids I knew had anything but equal affection for their multi-ethnic soft toys. Our own toybox contained a Dutch doll, Gollywog, Chinese doll, Scots doll and rag-doll as well as the usual English stuff and they all lived together in total harmony and took equal part in our games without prejudice or social exclusion. Mind you, living in Norwich, Norfolk, UK, I was well over ten before I ever saw a real person of non-Caucasian extraction, so the toy-box was the only place I could discover multi-ethnicity. 🙂

    It was that old fascist Enid Blyton that brought the Golly into disrepute in the Noddy books. She could easily have found a different roll for her Gollywogs and all this furore would have been avoided.

  4. Yes I am sad about what has happened recently and increasingly sad because of the memories these unacceptable behaviours evoke. Indeed, some of the justifications by so called celebrities to these offensive act, are very disturbing.

    I heard that interview too. We still do not know exactly what caused the levels of offence. It is not necessary to repeat it and I am glad that to take action, it is not necessary to broadcast the actual offence. The interview left me feeling a little more hopeful that some balance of what is acceptable in society is now being delineated and held to. There is institutional racism in so many spheres. I don’t see these things as PC gone mad. People do get hurt and feel distressed.

  5. I think I understand the allusions here. Not just how offensive can you be, but how far back does it go! Crusaders were no great shakes in this perspective of modern discussion, neither were Saracens or any other fighting force, supposedly fighting for the ‘right’ side of belief. We see that today as well all tied up in the messy social knot.

  6. I love your detail of your multi-ethnic boxes and toys. One or two, I have vague memories of.

    Do you really think it was Enid Blyton, all on her own, who introduced racism? Much as I dislike it, she was a product of her society and time, writing and expressing what was okay then. Beatrix Potter does seem more interesting, it’s man you have to be wary of in her books.

    Strange to tell, I loved the Noddy books, amongst other things,they had my little black bright-eyed friend in them. I didn’t see racism in the books. Young children don’t; the dynamic interactions of adult society teach them that.

    When buying early reading books for my little one, Miffy became a major favourite character. There could be a lot set around and about that.

  7. I got my Robertson’s Golliwog badge too ! Had to eat industrial quantities of shredless marmalade to get that. Never had any inkling then that a golliwog image would be frowned upon now. Very sad.

    Used to have the stories of Epaminondas read to me also, complete with dialectic speech delivery. Just accepted it as a story.

    Brought up on comics of cowboys and indians too. Totally unaware then that ethnic cleansing of the North American indigenous population was being portrayed as a good thing. Cowboy good; indian bad. Now that really was offensive …


  8. Agreed, but as you say, young minds have no inkling of what the portrayals are about; their thinking is concrete, development of wider knowledge comes later. Adults play on this with their conditioning of their children and their propaganda

    If I had to eat vast quantities of shredless marmalade I would never have got my Golliwog badge. Jam only for me, and that took ages. There was negotiation who got first go. Fortunately, not all siblings were interested.

  9. P.S.

    I found this

    I do see what you mean. You could stick Dennis The Menace in the frame, or Billy Bunter, instead. The interpretations would not be much different between Billy and Epaminondas, though Dennis (or even (Just)William) would be open to vastly different thoughts, I am sure. These illustrations could be most interesting.

  10. “I don’t see these things as PC gone mad. People do get hurt and feel distressed.”
    Exactly! If I am slightly put out by having to think about my lanuage every now and then it seems a small price to pay to be sensitive towards others.

  11. We are totally agreed 🙂

    Now we have the BBC representative Clarkson, mouthing off his juvenile sentiments. What role models have we got? Who trained them and allowed them free reign to hurt and offend? I would hate to be working in close quarters with that individual. I dread to think what role he played amongst his peers (and others) in his school days.

  12. I managed to survive The Dreaded Dimble and listened to Any Questions and thought it got a good airing there. Anne Widdecombe admitted that it was an unwise remark but was convinced it wasn’t meant offensive and we of a certain age loved our gollies, PC gone mad etc but John Sergeant, Greg Dyke and Chuka Umunna were all utterly fabulous.

  13. Like you, I was totally unsure about Any Questions so, unlike you, I avoided it.

    I am so tired of the apologists for bad behaviour. A certain CT growing up with Gollies, does not give her the right to iterate horrid prejudices and have others of us who also grew up with our Gollies, doll or badge, smeared with the same negative sentiments. I am pleased to hear there were panellists who did not follow the line of diminution.

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