Wombles' creator Beresford dies

By Tim Moynihan,Pa
Saturday 25 December 2010 16:51

Elisabeth Beresford, the writer best known for creating The Wombles, has died.

The 84-year-old invented the characters of the Wombles of Wimbledon Common, who became household names in the 1970s.

She died at 10.30pm yesterday in the Mignot Memorial Hospital on Alderney in the Channel Islands after suffering heart failure, her son Marcus Robertson said.

Her father was the writer JD Beresford, a successful novelist who also worked as a book reviewer for many newspapers.

Her parents' friends included HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy and Somerset Maugham.

After 18 months as a Wren, she started work as a ghost writer, specialising in writing speeches, including for Conservative MPs, and met Sir Winston Churchill.

She began training as a journalist and wrote radio, film and television columns and worked for the BBC as a radio reporter.

Visiting Australia, South Africa and the West Indies with her sports commentator husband Max Robertson led to children's books and two TV series - Seven Days To Sydney and Come To The Caribbean.

The name the Wombles came from a mispronunciation by daughter Kate when she was a child on a Boxing Day stroll, and spoke of "Wombledon Common".

At home that same day, Beresford made out a list of names for characters, and soon Uncle Bulgaria, Tobermory and Orinoco became world famous.

The first Wombles book was published in 1968 and, after it was broadcast on Jackanory, the BBC decided to make an animated series.

The Wombles' motto "Make Good Use of Bad Rubbish" and their passion for recycling is widely seen as being way ahead of its time.

Children everywhere were inspired by it, starting Womble Clearing Up Groups.

Music from the show, by Mike Batt, made the pop charts.

Within 10 years Beresford wrote more than 20 Wombles books, translated into more than 40 languages, dozens of TV films and a Wombles stage show, one version of which ran in the West End.

She was awarded an MBE for her services to children's literature in the 1998 New Year's Honours List.

Beresford and Max Robertson were divorced in 1984. He died last year.

Her funeral is expected to take place on Alderney in early January.

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