By my reckoning Sooty will now be at least 67 years old. I'm talking about the famous Sooty, the TV glove puppet bear created by Harry Corbett.

Harry, on holiday with his wife and two children in Blackpool, on the Lancashire coast, was trying to make the best out of a typical wet English summer.

The rain never seemed to stop during the day and Harry was finding it hard to amuse his three-year- old son, David. The rain kept them off the beach most of the holiday. The other son, Peter, was tucked away in his pram most of the time and left in the hands of his mother.

Most people know the story of how Harry took David for a walk on the rainswept North Pier.

 A sudden downpour drove Harry and David into a souvenir shop for shelter.

This, of course, was where Harry Corbett was attracted to a little yellow teddy bear glove puppet. Just the thing to amuse the children was Harry's idea.

Actually, he was also attracted by the puppet's innocent expression. This was the wet July of 1948 that makes the bear 67 years old, I suppose. But he was already in existence and could have been 'born' much earlier, which would make him older.


Then again, it was to be sometime before he actually became Sooty. The date here is uncertain. Sometime had passed before Harry blackened the bear's nose and ears and, as a result,
named him 'Sooty'.

The bear had already been discarded by David and Peter, and almost forgotten.

His reincarnation as Sooty was eventually to change the family's fortunes. Who could possibly have dreamt that this little Blackpool bear would become world famous? Harry Corbett was a talented pianist and something of a conjuror too.

He enjoyed presenting magic shows at local children's parties and schools and decided to introduce Sooty into these shows. It was a wise move indeed, and one that obviously went down very well with Harry's young audiences. So, in time, Harry's act was discovered by a TV producer and resulted in a  successful BBC contract. From then on, there was no looking back for Harry Corbett and Sooty, plus all Sooty's companions who were to join in the fun.

Sooty was really born the day when Harry sooted the bear's nose and ears, which makes him younger still! It doesn't really matter, such characters never appear to age, unlike their humans! Sooty no longer belongs to the Corbett family. Harry Corbett had handed over Sooty to his younger son Peter, after suffering serious illness.

Peter had entered showbusiness earlier as a musician and, because Equity, the performers' union, already had a Peter Corbett as a member, Harry had to change his name.

He became the Matthew Corbett who was to carry on presenting the Sooty shows after the death of his father!

Many items of Sooty memorabilia were produced across the years, all now highly collectable. One of the most evocative items being a set of 50 two inch square cigarette cards illustrating Sooty's activities in colour. Not real cigarette cards I must add - they came to an end in the early post-World War II years with the idea of turning youngster's attention away from the folly of

Later, even the issue of sugar cigarettes for kiddies was forbidden! These cards were issued around the 1950-60s by "Como Confectionery Products Ltd', of Regent Street, London and titled 'Sooty's New Adventures'.


The commonest item of Sooty memorabilia is probably the tin-plate xylophone that came in an illustrated tin box. Much rarer is the hard-to-find ingenious 'Mischievous Sooty' rolling ball game, a product of the Chad Valley company.

This game, 'Made by Arrangement with Harry Corbett' dates back to Sooty's parly days of the 1950s. It features an ingenious wire chute mechanism in which a series of glass marbles roll down, one at a time, in front of a vertical picture of Harry Corbett.

Harry's facial expression is the wary one he usually wears when Sooty gets up to his tricks! Each marble is deftly caught by Sooty who holds a wire cup and the marble's weight tips his arm down.

The marble is then released and allowed to roll in the box's base, hopefully into one of the numbered holes there.


 Totting up the numbers tells the winner, or if a game was a draw!  Matthew Corbett reluctantly took on the role of Sooty's presenter after his father suffered a stroke. Matthew was already in the entertainment business and was not too keen on taking over from his father.

However, he did so, and performed well enough to win an award from the Variety Club of Great Britain for his great support in helping them raise money for their charity designed to help the 'Sick, Handicapped, Orphaned, and Deprived Children throughout the United Kingdom.'

No longer a Corbett presentation, the little bear continues to entertain children with his ever-popular TV series.

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