Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Raymond Sheppard and Watch With Mother

A recent picture by Janet and Ann Grahame-Johnstone uploaded by "Philcom55" to ComicsUK Forum reminded me to write a little about Raymond Sheppard's drawings for "Watch with Mother".

Ann & Janet Grahame-Johnstone's artwork
As far as I can see there were very few books published using this popular TV programme's title as the theme. The series title appears in Andy Pandy  and also Rag, Tag and Bobtail pop-up books in the fifties  and a few story books in the sixties and then The Herbs, The Pogles and Teddy Edwards in the seventies. A few odds and ends were published later but I guess because of the 'naivety' of brand knowledge in the 1950s the - what would now be called - 'franchise' was not extensively used in books. The characters individually had many titles published, it's just "Watch with Mother" that didn't.  So I'm lucky to have a copy of this rarity. Sheppard's signature is missing from all his artwork in the book but his style speaks for itself.
The title page states:
Watch With Mother : Pictures, Stories, Puzzles, and Games based on 
Watch With Mother Programmes 
by arrangement with the BBC
Edited by Freda Lingstrom. 
The rest of the details are London: Publicity Products and bless the British Library who have [1955] as the date (in their case the date of receipt which is as close as I can get)

The White Squirrel by Maria Bird p.6

The stories - all credited - are by Maria Bird (3), Freda Lingstrom (2), Sam Williams, Louise Cochrane (3) and Marjorie Perraton. 
Maria Bird, who wrote the first Sheppard illustrated story, is mentioned on Wikipedia and together with Freda Lingstrom, lost her fiance in the war and lived together in a working relationship in the cottage next to Chartwell in Kent. Once again Steve Holland has captured plenty of information here on Bird, who apparently was not only as a producer, scriptwriter and wrote the lyrics for the early episodes of Andy Pandy but also narrated early episodes of a lot of Watch With Mother.

The artists listed (with no clues to which stories are theirs) are:
Raymond Sheppard, Reginald Jeffryes, Phlis Ladyman, Sam and Elizabeth Williams, Janet and Anne Grahame-Johnstone, Matvyn Wright, Monique Partridge, Kathleen Dance, 'Tim'. The latter drew many serials for Blue Peter in the sixties and his full name was William Timym, MBE (1901-1990) (or Wilhelm Timym as he was named at birth in Austria). He was an accomplished sculpture too - I well remember helping my son climb on the bronze statue of Guy The Gorilla at London Zoo. Read more here. Take a little while to visit Peter Richardson's overview of Anne and Janet here.

How many of these animals do you know?
The answer was published on the opposite page:

The beginnings of Watch with Mother were mid-1950 when Andy Pandy (created by Freda Lingstrom and Mary Adams) was broadcast. In 1952 the very fondly remembered “Flower Pot Men” were broadcast. Neither of these two children’s programmes came under the Watch with Mother umbrella until 1953, when, together with Rag, Tag and Bobtail, the broadcast went out 3 times a week. When two more were added in 1955, Watch With Mother  went out five times a week. There were others added to the series later (Tales Of The Riverbank, 1960 voiced by the wonderful Johnny Morris).
To tackle a mis-conception, apparently Muffin the Mule started in 1946 and was aimed at all children not just Watch With Mother's audience of pre-school toddlers and was not part of the package.

The Polite Monkeys by Marjorie Perraton, p51

p. 52



I couldn't find much about Marjorie Perraton besides her appearance as a writer for the BBC (mentioned on the wonderful BBC Genome Project)

In researching Watch with Mother Malcy B.’s website is referenced by many others, but is now no longer around. But God bless the Wayback Engine on archive.org - the last thing Malcy B. added to the Yahoo Group mentioned on the Wayback Engine captured page page was in 2008, so I wonder whether Malcy is no longer with us. 

Before I go, I ought to mention that Raymond Sheppard appeared on the BBC at least twice:

From the BBC Genome Project
I have checked using my contacts and neither are archived unfortunately. But that's what has been said about Doctor Who and many others and they have appeared, so who knows maybe we might still get to see Sheppard 'live'.