Ifor y Peiriant … who?

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?

Ivor the Engine, Jones the Steam and Idris the Dragon

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.


Illustration by Peter Firmin

More on the background to this booklet can be found here. Peter Firmin died in 2018.

A post for the 2019 Wales Readathon, Dewithon19


27 thoughts on “Ifor y Peiriant … who?

  1. Pingback: Wales Readathon 2019 – Book Jotter

  2. Oliver Postgate was wonderful and the Welsh language is wonderful too. Although I didn’t get myself organised to join in, I’m really enjoying following all this Welshness – thank you so much!

    1. Thanks, Jane! I myself have been super organised this time but I know it won’t last, I’m usually both lazy and a great procrastinator! We’ll see how long the impetus continues but I suspect April will be a rather more random affair… 😁

  3. Ah, there’s lovely! I have the fondest memories of Ivor, of course – and Idris the dragon and the fact everyone was called ‘Jones the post’ etc. My husband had the great privilege of meeting Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin years ago – and he got to hold and original Bagpuss! Oliver Postgate’s voice will forever be imprinted on my memory – part of my childhood

    1. Oh how wonderful to have met those two geniuses and to have actually held Bagpuss! The cat was our daughters’ favourite, and at different times they each had a toy Bagpuss of their own to cuddle.

      I’ve now added a YouTube clip of the first colour episode, for those of a nostalgic frame of mind!

      1. Other half said they were very charming people too – nice to know. I loved Bagpuss too, though having watched a few episodes as an adult, there was a lot more folk music than I remembered! Thanks for the lovely clip, Chris 🙂

  4. What a lovely story! A few years ago my kids would have loved this. How quickly interests change among the young: from My Little Pony to Bill Nye the Science Guy; from Thomas the Tank Engine to Transformers. Makes me wonder if my own tastes went through such transformations so quickly.

    1. There’s so much choice these days, Jean, that there’s usually something that will fit each child precisely at each stage of development — I’m pretty damn sure this wasn’t the case when I was growing up, and may have been the same for you (if to a lesser extent, perhaps).

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