Daniel Postgate: Cenhadaeth Nadolig — Bluebell
An Ivor the Engine Story
Pictures by Peter Firmin
Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad 2009
Grown-up British children of a certain age will surely remember Ivor the Engine, a stop-motion 2D animated series created by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin sixty years ago, in 1959. While primitive by today’s standards—originally black-and-white before becoming colour, and very jerky—that was all part of its charm, along with its slow gentle narratives and quirky deadpan narration. Accompanying picture books and annuals meant one could keep the enjoyment going, reading them to younger children (as I did with our kids, for example with The Dragon).
Fifty years after its first appearance and a year after the death of Oliver Postgate his son Daniel revived the series’ characters for this one-off picture book in aid of veterinary charity SPANA, with versions in both English and Welsh. With a very rudimentary knowledge of the language and memories of the original TV broadcasts I’ve struggled through the Welsh version at leisure, but with pleasure too.
Bluebell’s Christmas Mission includes in its opening sentence a time-honoured phrase: ym mhen cornel chwith o Gymru (“in the top left-hand corner of Wales”). This is where the Merioneth and Llantisilly Railway Traction Company Limited operates with its engine Ivor, which in Welsh would be Ifor (pronounced ‘Ee-vore’). We meet Ivor’s driver Jones the Steam, Dai the Llaniog station-master, Englishwoman Mrs Porty who owns Bluebell the donkey and Mr Pugh who requires the following items delivered to his farm on Christmas morning — twrci, cracers a pwdin (no translation required, I’m guessing).
But that doesn’t allow for heavy snow in what is, after all, the appropriately named Snowdonia. Ivor’s POOP-POOP-POOPETI-POOP punctuates Bluebell’s Ee-haw! as Jones tries to work out how to get the essentials up to Mr Pugh’s. How will the Christmas parcel be delivered through the drifts so that the farmer can have his Christmas dinner? And where do bisgedi Custard Creams come into the story?
As money raised by the sale of the booklet was in aid of the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad it’s entirely fitting that a star of the short publication (just five pages of text) is Bluebell the donkey. Now out of print, I was fortunate enough to get a copy of this stori am Ifor y Peiriant from Jake at Tygertale.com when he first drew drew attention to it in a post.
More on the background to this booklet can be found here. Peter Firmin died in 2018.
A post for the 2019 Wales Readathon, Dewithon19