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Hand puppet - Spike McPike

Spike McPike

  • Object:

    Hand puppet

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1962 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Peter Firmin, born 1928 - died 2018 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wool felt, wood, woven wool, synthetic fur plush, glass, card, leather

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Sean Whyton

  • Museum number:

    B.66:1, 2-2017

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

‘The Three Scampis’ was created in 1962, it took as its subject three out-of-work circus performers: Howard Williams, Spike McPike and Basil Brush. The latter two were hand puppets made by the artist, puppetmaker and animator Peter Firmin. This puppet, Spike McPike, was an aggressive Scottish hedgehog performed by the musician and presenter Wally Whyton (1929-1997). Whyton hosted ‘Small Time’, ITV’s children’s programming, from 1960-1966. Later, in the 1970s, Basil Brush (performed by Ivan Owen) achieved widespread fame in the UK as a ‘solo’ act.

Physical description

Hedgehog glove puppet, made from mixed materials. The body and head of the puppet are made from brown wool felt. Stuck into its back are dozens of wooden cocktail sticks, representing a hedgehog's spines. Sewn to its lower front is a rectangle of 'Royal Stewart' tartan, representing a kilt, with a sporran of synthetic plush, decorated with three black paint spots. At the puppet's neck is sewn a tartan bow tie. At the ends of each of its arms are four small leather claws. The end of the snout has a leather cap, representing the nose. Above the base of the snout are two blue glass eyes. On the top of the head are two ears. With the puppet is a high-crowned hat, made from card covered with grey felt, with a red twill ribbon and and red and blue string trim around the brim.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1962 (made)

Artist/maker

Peter Firmin, born 1928 - died 2018 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Wool felt, wood, woven wool, synthetic fur plush, glass, card, leather

Dimensions

Height: 33 cm, Width: 23 cm arms outstretched, Depth: 16 cm maximum

Object history note

Peter Firmin created Spike McPike in 1962, as one third of the 'cast' of a children's programme named The Three Scampis. This show was the first appearance of the popular character Basil Brush. Spike McPike, an agressive Scottish hedgehog, was personally performed by Wally Whyon, the presenter of Small Time (ITV's children's programming). The puppet passed to Wally Whyton's son, Sean, who offered it as a gift to the Museum in 2016, along with Ollie Beak (B.64-2017) and Joe Crow (B.65-2017) [2017/432]

Peter Firmin recalled in 2017: 'Then in 1962 I was asked to create two puppets for a new series called "The Three Scampies" about an out-of-work circus act devised by Howard Williams, Wally Whyton and Ivan Owen. They were planning to have two Tiger Cubs, but I convinced them that they would be too large as hand puppets and they agreed that I should make a fox for Ivan and a hedgehog for Wally.

The fox was to be a "Huntin' shootin' fishin'" type character and I based him on Terry-Thomas, with two front teeth, a check cape and a silk scarf. Ivan brought him to life with a cheeky wit and they called him Basil Brush. He was made of teddy bear cloth, dyed foxy brown and had a real fox's brush which I got from a furrier.

The third puppet that Sean Whyton has given you is the hedgehog, 'Spike McPike', a feisty Scottish character, always ready for a scrap. He was made of brown cloth, covered in cocktail sticks with a kilt and a sporran, if I remember correctly.'

Historical context note

The Television Act of 1954 was designed to break the monopoly of the BBC over Britain’s television programming. Independent Television (ITV) began broadcasting as an alternative, commercial provider in 1955. Small Time, regular programming designed for under-fives, akin to today’s CITV, debuted on that network the same year. Small Time had several incarnations through to its cancellation in 1966. The puppet maker and artist Peter Firmin (b.1928) devised a nursery rhyme-inspired segment, The Musical Box, first shown in 1959 with Rolf Harris as its presenter. Harris was replaced in 1960 by the musician Wally Whyton (1929-1997), who became one of the best-known faces of early British children’s television.

Broadcast live, the host interacted with the puppets in a variety of segments. Joe Crow first appeared in March 1960. The puppet was apparently purchased in Germany by Whyton, and Firmin created a scarecrow named Simon for it to perch on. Whyton conducted impromptu conversations with both of these characters as part of the show.

The most popular character in the show’s early phase was a cat named Pussycat Willum. When Willum’s animator, Janet Nichols, went on holiday in 1962, Firmin was asked to create a puppet to temporarily replace him. Whyton suggested an owl character, and a puppet was created by Firmin and his wife, Joan, with a school cap added by Whyton’s wife, Mary. Whyton himself invented the name Ollie Beak, and provided him with his cheeky character and Merseyside accent. Ollie Beak proved so popular in his initial appearances that he became the star of his own show, The Five O’Clock Club, later renamed Ollie and Fred’s Five O’Clock Club to reflect Ollie’s popularity, and that of his ‘co-host’, the dog Fred Barker. This new show was actually a later incarnation of Small Time, it was broadcast every Tuesday and Friday from 1963-1966.

In 1962, Peter Firmin was also asked to create another new children’s programme, so he devised The Three Scampis, about an out-of-work circus act, for which he also made the puppets. This show was the first appearance of the still-popular character Basil Brush, performed by Ivan Owen (1927-2000). Another of the Scampis was an aggressive Scottish hedgehog named Spike McPike, performed by Wally Whyton.

Descriptive line

Hedgehog glove puppet, 'Spike McPike', mixed materials including wool and wood, created in 1962 by Peter Firmin and Wally Whyton

Materials

Wool; Wood; Card; Plush; Leather; Glass

Techniques

Hand sewing

Subjects depicted

Hedgehog; Tartan

Categories

Puppetry; Television; Children's entertainment; Scotland

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Museum of Childhood

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