Monday 27 January 2020

Michael Bond – the TV cameraman turned Paddington Bear creator

The creator of the marmalade-loving bear has died at the age of 91.

Michael Bond has died at 91 (Nick Ansell/PA)
Michael Bond has died at 91 (Nick Ansell/PA)

By Laura Harding, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

As the author of the Paddington Bear books, Michael Bond created a character beloved by different generations all around the world.

He first came up with the idea for the small bear from Peru in 1956 while working as a television cameraman for the BBC, and his books proved so popular they have been on shelves ever since they were first published in 1958.

Over his lifetime, Bond penned 150 books, including his first title A Bear Called Paddington, and 25 others about the marmalade-loving bear in a duffle coat, hat and wellingtons.

Michael Bond(John Stillwell/PA)

He was inspired to create the character after he bought a small toy bear on Christmas Eve in 1956 when he saw it left on a shelf in London department store Selfridges and felt sorry for it.

Bond took it home as a present for his wife and named it Paddington because they were living near the railway station of the same name at the time.

He started writing stories about the bear for fun, but after 10 days realised he had a book on his hands and sent it to his agent.

Publishers did not immediately see its potential, but it was eventually accepted by the publishing house now known as HarperCollins, who commissioned illustrator Peggy Fortnum to create the pictures and the book was published on October 13 1958.

Michael Bond (Edmond Terakopian/PA)

By 1965, the books were so successful he was able to give up his job at the BBC to become a full-time writer – and they have now sold more than 35 million copies worldwide and have been translated into more than 40 different languages, including Latin.

Born in Newbury in Berkshire on January 13 1926, Bond was educated at Presentation College in Reading.

During the Second World War, he served in both the Royal Air Force and the Middlesex Regiment of the British Army and began writing in 1945 whilst stationed with the Army in Cairo, selling his first short story to a magazine called London Opinion.

He once said: “When I was small I never went to bed without a story. But I doubt my mother ever pictured me writing for a living. In fact, when I eventually gave up working for the BBC in order to write full time, I think both my parents were worried that I had given up a nice, safe job for what sounded to them like a very precarious existence.”

As well as the popular Paddington stories, he also wrote a children’s television series The Herbs, a series of books about a guinea pig called Olga da Polga, inspired by his own pet, and a string of novels for adults about a French detective called Monsieur Pamplemousse, as well as various other titles including a guide to Paris.

Paddington Bear (PA Archive/PA)

He continued to write throughout his life, living not far from the station that gave the bear his name, and his most recent Paddington title, Love From Paddington, was published in 2014.

It was the first Paddington novel to be written in the bear’s own voice, in a series of letters written to his Aunt Lucy in darkest Peru, detailing his adventures in London.

A big screen film about the bear’s first meeting with the Brown family was released in the same year, with a sequel currently in production.

In 1997, he was awarded an OBE for services to children’s literature, followed by a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2015 – and his autobiography Bears And Forebears was published in 1996.

Bond died at his home after a short illness aged 91 on June 27.

He is survived by his wife and two adult children.

PA Media

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