Bid to have a hand in children's TV history

Sooty fans have the chance to own one of the oldest existing puppets of the children's favourite as the loveable bear celebrates his 70th birthday.

Tuesday, 17th July 2018, 6:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th July 2018, 6:32 pm
Sooty gets ready for the auction

The yellow and black puppet was used by original owner Harry Corbett on the Sooty TV show in the 1950s.

The bear, slightly the worse for wear after getting ‘rather messed up’ on the TV programme according to Corbett, will be sold at Hansons Auctioneers on August 22 with an estimate of £2,000-£3,000.

The cheeky bear was created by Mr Corbett in 1948 when he bought a yellow puppet on Blackpool’s North Pier for seven shillings and six pence (37½p) to entertain his children on holiday. Later he used soot to blacken its ears and nose, hence the name Sooty.

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The much-loved and rare early puppet has come to auction thanks to a friendship that blossomed in Blackpool in the 1950s – which led to two children having their very own real Sooty to play with throughout their childhood.

The newly-discovered Sooty was gifted to Blackpool-based musician Arthur Abbott, who had the stage name Art Johnson, by Corbett, his friend and Sooty creator.

He sent a letter to Mr Abbott, on Sooty headed notepaper, dated September 16, 1957, which read: “Just a line to say thank you very much for the list of tunes which came in very, very handy on the cruise.

“I really did work my passage and found myself playing for dancing when the orchestra had finished at midnight and again playing in the dining room on – of all things – a piano accordion which one of the passengers had brought along.

“I have great pleasure in sending you one of the Sootys which I have used on television. Actually, he was in a programme where he got rather messed up, and he has since been washed. However, when he has a brush up I am sure he will look very nice. Again, many thanks and best wishes – Harry Corbett.”

Corbett and Arthur Abbott got to know each other in Blackpool in the 50s,.

Arthur’s son, Dr Steven Abbott, 58, from Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, now retired, said: “The puppet was in our toy box. We knew he was a genuine Sooty from the TV show but were allowed to play with him.

“After my sister and I left home, my mother kept Sooty as a reminder of when we were children. My parents have both now passed away and we thought it would be nice to let someone else enjoy the magic of Sooty.”

n Sooty will be sold in a toy auction at Hansons Auctioneers on August 22. To find out more, email [email protected] or call (01283) 733988.