I was always a little suspicious of gollies when I was a child. They just didn't look British, but those big eyes, great big smile and wide open arms made them look trustworthy enough.
My childhood suspicions proved to be justified. Beloved by children in the UK for over a hundred years they may be, but true Brits they are not. The golliwog was nurtured in Britain but it actually has an American heritage.
The British golliwog doll was originally based on a a character in a book written by an American woman who emigrated to Britain while still a child.
The famous Robertson's Gollies seen on jam jars in the UK weren't even a truly British icon. One of the company's principals saw children playing with golliwog dolls in the United States and transferred the idea to his company's products (with huge success) in the UK. Enamel "Golly" badges could be earned by collecting labels from Robertson's jam jars. The company finally dropped Robertson's Golly badges in 2001 following much controversy stimulated by the political correctness movement.
Golliwogs are difficult to find in Britain now due to the prevailing politically correct atmosphere there. Fortunately, they are still made for export and can be found at Blighty's where we don't attach any deep significance to the imagery associated with them beyond knowing that children love them.
"Comedy always works best when it is mean-spirited" - John Cleese
Author John Corby also writes as "Bulldogge" for the British Canadian newspaper.
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