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The Wombles, the original recyclers, now museum item

Alderney | Published:

THEY burrowed their way into millions of hearts worldwide and their dedication to re-purposing rubbish was years ahead of its time.

Ros Wittome and Jan Walker, from the Alderney branch of Cancer Research, with a scrapbook chronicling the life of Wombles creator Liza Beresford, which will be at Alderney Museum alongside the first display of the original toys. (Picture by Emma Pinch)

Now, Wombles creator Liza Beresford’s collection of the loveable characters is on display for the first time at Alderney Museum.

Ms Beresford lived in Alderney for more than 30 years and became a pillar of the local community. She even created a Womble character named after the island.

She came to Alderney on holiday and in the mid-70s, when Womble fever was gripping the world, then moved to the island with her husband, broadcaster Max Robertson, and children, Kate and Marcus.

Kate, who sparked the inspiration for the Wombles when she mispronounced Wimbledon Common during a Boxing Day stroll, donated the toys to the Alderney branch of Cancer Research.

Jan Walker, fundraising team leader for Cancer Research on Alderney, said the author had become part of Alderney’s history. It seemed right, she said, to commemorate her with an exhibit of her most famous creations.

‘After Liza Beresford died in 2011, Kate was sorting though her house and she called us to come and collect some jumble for Cancer Research.

‘So we packed the cars with a lot of jumble and as we were leaving Kate came up to us with two black rubbish bags and told us not to take them to the jumble sale but sell them for Cancer Research. When we got home we looked inside and there were the Wombles.’

They auctioned off Orinoco to an island family but the rest ended up at Mrs Walker’s house in 2014 when their original custodian died.

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‘They’ve been in my house ever since – some around the house, some packed away and my favourite, Uncle Bulgaria, sat on my dressing table,’ she said.

‘We realised we had to do something with them so we contacted the museum to see if they wanted them so everybody could enjoy the Wombles and learn about Liza and her life in Alderney.’

A scrapbook has been compiled to sit alongside the exhibition chronicling her life on Alderney. People who knew her are being invited to share their stories.

‘Liza was here so long and so involved with things she became very well known. They remember going to her house, having stories read by her, working with her on productions and plays.

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‘I’m hoping that when the museum re-opens in the spring that we will have gathered more of those stories and more memorabilia.’

They are hoping that original Wombles narrator Bernard Cribbin will narrate a story to go with the exhibition.

Karen Hill, Alderney Museum administrator, said the exhibit provided a valuable piece of social history, adding something different to the museum’s offer.

‘It’s a fantastic addition to the museum,’ she said. ‘I remember watching the Wombles as a child and they were fantastic creatures. The fact they were all about recycling and reusing is very “Alderney” and very topical right now.

‘We’ve got schoolchildren coming in later this month and it will be great to introduce the Wombles to a new generation.’

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