13 October 1958: Paddington Bear arrives in Britain

The little bear from "darkest Peru" appeared for the first time when "A Bear Called Paddington" was published on this day in 1958.

BBC cameraman Michael Bond felt a pang of sympathy for the teddy bear he spied sitting alone and unloved on a shop shelf on Christmas Eve in 1956. So he bought the bear and gave it to his wife, Brenda, as a present. Ten days later, Bond had written the first of many books inspired by the stuffed toy – A Bear Called Paddington, published on 13 October 1958. It chronicles the discovery of the Peruvian bear sitting on his suitcase at Paddington railway station, with a label around his neck that read: “Please look after this bear”.

The hungry little “stowaway” tells the Brown family, who happen upon him, how he had travelled from “darkest Peru” to Britain, hiding in a lifeboat, after his aunt Lucy went to live in a “home for retired bears”. All he had to go on during his long journey was a jar of marmalade. The Brown family take pity on him and offer him a home, despite the initial misgivings of Mr Brown, who works as a stuffy risk analyst in the City. Named Paddington, after the railway station by the Browns, the hapless bear goes off to live with his adoptive family for many an amusing misadventure.

During the Second World War, Bond had been moved by the sight of thousands of children with cardboard tags around their necks. Even though the children were being sent away for their safety, the name tags implied a certain dehumanisation. In the opening chapter to A Bear Called Paddington, Mrs Brown tells her husband, “And for goodness' sake, when you get a moment, take that label off his neck. It makes him look like a parcel.”

Despite the book being over 60 years old, the theme of migration and flight is perhaps more relevant today than ever, given the heated political rhetoric over immigration and the “migrant crisis”. As part of Paddington's 50th anniversary celebrations in 2008, Bond wrote a new, updated book in the series for the 21st century: Paddington Here and Now. In it, little Paddington finds himself in trouble with the police and is questioned over his “refugee” status. “There is this side of Paddington the Browns don't really understand at all”, said Bond: “what it's like to be a refugee, not to be in your own country”.

Recommended

Why we should scrap the Budget
Budget

Why we should scrap the Budget

The yearly Budget, big set-piece of British politics, encourages the very worst from the government, says Matthew Lynn.
24 Oct 2021
The charts that matter: bond yields turn back up and a new bitcoin record
Global Economy

The charts that matter: bond yields turn back up and a new bitcoin record

Bitcoin hit a new all-time high, while government bond yields turned back up. Here’s how that has affected the charts that matter most to the global e…
23 Oct 2021
Larry Fink: the undisputed king of Wall Street
People

Larry Fink: the undisputed king of Wall Street

Larry Fink survived two big financial crises and went on to build a massive asset manager, doing for investing what Henry Ford did for cars. He has hi…
23 Oct 2021
Cryptocurrency roundup: bitcoin hits a new record high
Bitcoin & crypto

Cryptocurrency roundup: bitcoin hits a new record high

In the week when bitcoin hit a new high, we look at what’s been going on in the world of cryptocurrencies this week.
22 Oct 2021

Most Popular

Properties for sale for around £1m
Houses for sale

Properties for sale for around £1m

From a stone-built farmhouse in the Snowdonia National Park, to a Victorian terraced house close to London’s Regent’s Canal, eight of the best propert…
15 Oct 2021
How to invest as we move to a hydrogen economy
Energy

How to invest as we move to a hydrogen economy

The government has started to roll out its plans for switching us over from fossil fuels to hydrogen and renewable energy. Should investors buy in? St…
8 Oct 2021
How to invest in SMRs – the future of green energy
Energy

How to invest in SMRs – the future of green energy

The UK’s electricity supply needs to be more robust for days when the wind doesn’t blow. We need nuclear power, says Dominic Frisby. And the future of…
6 Oct 2021