Monday, August 24, 2009

Petra: A Dog for Everyone

A visit to my bookshelves comes up with Petra: A Dog for Everyone by Biddy Baxter and Edward Barnes.

It tells the story of Blue Peter's first dog - though it leaves out the fact that the original Petra died of distemper after her first appearance on the programme. Rather than face telling the nation's children that their new dog had died, they toured the pet shops of London until they found an identical replacement.

In September 1965 Petra had eight puppies - the father was Moss, a Shetland sheepdog. (These days he would have made a living afterwards by appearing in reality television shows.)

The eight puppies were named by a poll of Blue Peter viewers. They were called Candy, Patch, Peter, Prince, Rover, Rex, Bruce and Kim. Not a Britney or Jackiey in sight.

Of particular interest is what happened to the puppies. It tells us much about Britain in 1965.

Patch stayed on the programme with Petra, but died young. John Noakes famously cried on the programme when reading viewers' letters about him afterwards. Patch was replaced by the more famous Shep (no relation).

The "lively and friendly" Candy went to the British Rail Children's Home at Woking Grange. I don't know what has happened to the children since privatisation, but in 1965 they still wore short trousers and school sandals. Definitely well-behaved orphans. Peter and Kim also went to children's homes.

Rex and Bruce went to be farm dogs because they were "steady and reliable", but the book assures us they would live indoors with the farmers and not be kept outside as kennel dogs.

Prince "the smallest of the litter ... a quiet and gentle puppy" went to the Salvation Army Eventide Home near Marlow.

Rover, by far the biggest of the puppies, "was so lively and boisterous we thought he'd make a splendid Regimental Mascot. So he joined the Junior Leaders' Regiment of the Royal Engineers at Dover.

It all sounds like an aristocratic family: Patch stayed at home as the heir and the other dogs were found respectable careers. I do not remember all this from the television programme, but I was given a Blue Peter annual for Christmas that told the puppies' stories.

A D-list comedian on a Channel 4 clips shows says: We watched Magpie. Blue Peter was for posh kids.

Liberal England replies: Go away.


Mark Thompson said...

[Lazy Comedy]
Blue Peter!!? What was all that about!? Didn't they use, like washing up liquid bottles and, like double sided sticky tape on everything!? Helloooo! Where are you supposed to get double sided stick tape from!!?
[/Lazy Comedy]

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Tristan said...

In my day it was Goldie and then Bonnie.

And George the tortoise. I don't recall any cats though.

Looking at Wikipedia I see that George replace Maggie and Jim, who were named after Thatcher and Calahan... Neither survived the cold winter of 1982...

Simon Titley said...

One thing Magpie has going for it is some tenuous political connections.

Former presenter Jenny Hanley is sister of the former Tory MP for Richmond-on-Thames, Jeremy Hanley.

Another former presenter Tony Bastable gained notoriety as a National Front supporter.

And it is a little known fact that Lib Dem MP Richard Younger-Ross once won a Magpie badge.

Paul Walter said...

It wasn't double sided sticky tape they used to go on about. It was "sticky tape" which they used to avoid saying "Sellotape" and "sticky-backed plastic" which they used to avoid saying "Fablon" or "Coverlon".

Anonymous said...

Biddy Baxter comes from Leicester.

crewegwyn said...

I can update you on what happened to the Woking orphans post-privatisation:

They were sectorised - 3 became passenger business orphans (red jackets), 2 freight business orphans (blue) and 1 a parcels orphan (brown wrapping paper jackets). They were then invited to reapply for their own places, after which one passenger orphan was transferred to be a freight orphan, with one moving in the other direction.

Subsequently all of the orphans were encouraged to establish "performance-led targets for effective orphanage travel opportunities", and the passenger orphans were further divided between Stagecoach, Arriva and Virgin, and were prohibited from sharing their toys without an inter-sector exchange contract.

In the run up to 1997 John Prescott described the arrangement as a scandal. So scandalous that he kept it unchanged when he took over.

mark taha said...

Tony Bastable presented Magpie.