Friday 11 May 2007


At a recent Bloomsboury Book Auction possibly the most NON-PC title imaginable went under the hammer...


A case of the Utterly Unacceptable in pursuit of the Indisputably Inedible!

Illustrated by Florence K Upton and with verses by her mother, Bertha Upton, The Golliwogg's Fox-hunt was published in 1905 and was one of a phenomenally successful series of thirteen books featuring two Dutch Dolls and their friend, a black-faced doll that Florence Upton named 'Golliwogg'.

Upton had begun their doll-and-golly books in 1895 and the name 'Golliwogg' was coined from a combination of 'pollywog', a word for tadpole (from the Middle-English 'polwigle' : 'pol' [head] and 'wiglen' [to wiggle]) and 'Golly!' as in an expression of surprise, since the character in question is depicted as permanently wearing a wide-eyed look of astonishment.

The name, which Upton omitted to copyright, eventually lost its final 'g' and became 'golliwog', as in the books by Enid Blyton and others.

Subsequently, Golliwog was further shortened back into 'Golly' and had a long, popular and successful career as a character in advertising and promotional campaigns for the preserve manufacturers James Roberton & Son, until they found themselves in a bit of a political-correctness jam and finally (and, most people would say, correctly) corrected the situation by showing Golly the door.

You can read about Upton's work on various sites on the web, including that of the Museum of Childhood, which also carries an informative feature entitled What's the Matter With Golly?, discussing the social history and racial implications of the golliwogg name and likeness.

Another detailed exploration of the term Golliwogg can be found on Wikipedia and you can find out all that you might want to know (and probably more) about Robertson's Golly at Golly Corner, including where to buy renegade golly badges now that you can no longer get them by collecting labels on jam jars.

[Image: Three Wise Gollys by Hills Brothers (Continuing the Golly Legend)]


Boll Weavil said...

The golly came back into my head after an absence of many years only this weekend.I never had the brooches but I did certainly have the the little band figures - quite a few of them as well. Walking round the tat shops in Scarborough on Saturday, I became aware that the golly, as a soft toy, was back in quantity. I've never seen them before and the type of shop they were in leads me to think they were imported but as an icon, it seems to be acceptable again. Whether that is good or bad I don't know and if I was you, I would have taken a picture of a basketful of them outside a shop with which to illustrate my comment.However, as I'm not, I'm afraid mere words must suffice !

Anonymous said...

I used to have a soft toy gollywog when I was a little girl and I loved him. Apparently, I ate all of its woollen hair! Which could explain a few things...

Good Dog said...

Cripes, we used to have some badges and a lot of the band figures.

Checked out Golly Corner. James Robertson & Sons still used the Golly image up until 2002? Oh good grief.

Then again, it was rewatching the Director's Cut of Kingdom of Heaven that I remembered having a set of Templar Crusaders figures as a kiddie. Obviously there were opponents of sorts.

Yorkshire Lass By Golly said...

These little fellows are very collectable now, especially the rare one like the Yorkshire County Cricket Golly Badge.
Im having to let al my chap go, Also a Scarborough lass, I collected mine shopping with gran on Newlands Shops. I hope this little man goes back to Yorkshire where he belongs. take a look.