Elisabeth Beresford, the creator of famous children’s show The Wombles, has died in hospital at the age of 84.
She died at 10.30pm on Friday in the Mignot Memorial Hospital on Alderney in the Channel Islands after suffering heart failure, her son Marcus Robertson said.
She created the Wombles, which went on to become a household name in the 1970s, after a Boxing Day walk on London’s Wimbledon Common with her children. She was inspired when her daughter called the park Wombledon Common.
“Over Christmas I had to keep the children quiet as their grandparents were visiting, so on Boxing Day, after the grandparents left, we got in my car and went to Wimbledon Common,” The Daily Mail cites Beresford as saying during an interview with BBC Guernsey last month.
‘The three of us ran backwards and forwards screaming at the top of our voices and it was my daughter who said to me ‘oh ma, isn’t it great on Wombledon Common?’ and I said ‘That’s where the Wombles live’.”
In 1968, the first Wombles book was published, featuring the pointy-nosed creatures of Wimbledon Common with many of the characters inspired by Beresford’s family.
“Great Uncle Bulgaria was my father-in-law, Madame Cholet was from my daughter Kate. My brother had two children and John was a very clever boy who went to Wellington College, which is where Wellington came from… and Orinoco I just picked off a map,” the writer said, according to the Daily Mail.
After the book was read on a storytime show, the BBC commissioned a stop animation series of the story and the first episode was broadcast in 1973.
Beresford wrote over 20 Wombles books within a decade, which were translated into more than 40 languages, the Guardian reports. She also wrote a Wombles stage show, one version of which ran in the West End.
Beresford was born in Paris in 1928, although her family home was in England. The writer, whose father was successful novelist JD Beresford and whose friends included the likes of HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw and John Galsworthy, according to the Press Association, began her career as a ghost writer of speeches for Conservative MPs.
Later, she went on to train as a radio journalist and obtained work at the BBC. In 1949, she married sports commentator Max Robertson, with whom she travelled to Australia, South Africa and the West Indies. The couple had a son and daughter together, the Guardian states.
In 1998, Beresford was awarded an MBE for her services to children’s literature and said at the time: “The Queen’s a mad Womble fan,” the Daily Mail reports.
As well as the Wombles she wrote two TV series, Seven Days to Sydney and Come to the Caribbean.
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