Christmas removed from Thomas the Tank Engine to be politically correct
Published 10/10/2011 | 08:43
The daughter of the clergyman author who created Thomas the Tank Engine has criticised television producers for writing Christmas out of a new series.
Hilary Fortnam said that her father, the Rev W Awdry, would have been distressed after executives decided to omit religious references from one his adventures.
The Rev Awdry was himself the son of a Hampshire vicar and brought his three children up in the traditions of the Church of England.
His relatives have now protested after the television company which is recording new adventures for the little blue engine rebranded Christmas as "the holidays" in its latest storyline, to comply with “politically correct” thinking.
“He would feel very strongly about this politically correct age and that those who now write his stories should not have taken Christ out of Christmas. Political correctness against Christian beliefs offends,” Mrs Fortnam said in a letter to the Daily Telegraph.
She explained that her father, who worked as a vicar for nearly 30 years, “always impressed on reporters and publishers that he ‘was a priest first and a children’s author second.’”
In the offending TV episode called “Keeping up with James”, the trains compete to carry presents to children against a background with a fir tree decorated with baubles and a choir.
But instead of using the word Christmas, the programme talks of the “winter holidays” and a “holiday tree.”
Mrs Fortnam added yesterday that she was worried that people would think her father had dropped the idea of Christmas from his books.
“It’s frustrating to me because I don’t want people thinking my father wrote those words,” she said. “The television programmes say they are based on the books of Rev W Awdry and I don’t want people thinking a vicar would write that.”
She said she feared political correctness was eroding Christmas even though other faiths were comfortable with the festival.
“A lot of children just receive presents at Christmas and don’t know why they do it,” she said.
“Local councils won’t advertise Christmas carols and nativity plays in case they are sued for not being inclusive.”
Mrs Fortnam, 65, said she and her sister, Veronica, and brother, Christopher, acted as arbiters of the storylines when they were children.
“Dad would come and read to us at mealtimes and if we didn’t like the stories, we would say so, and he would go back and re-write and read them again and again until he got them right,” she said.
He wrote 26 books between 1945 and 1972 and his son Christopher, for whom they were orignally created, then took over the writing duties, completing another 42.
The television series and DVDs, along with spin-off books, are produced by Hit Entertainment, which is also behind TV shows Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam, Barney and Pingu.
It is headed by Jeffrey Dunn, an American and the former director of marketing for one of the largest banks in the US. In the past the company has tried to rename the “Fat Controller” in order to avoid offending obese people.
Mrs Fortnam said she and her brother and sister were invited to London for occasional meetings to discuss the series but added: “This came out of the blue.”
Hit Entertainment has said references to Christmas were removed because the DVD on which it featured was designed to be sold all the year round.