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.

Author Michael Bond with Paddington Bear © Malcolm Clarke/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Author Michael Bond with Paddington
(Image credit: © Malcolm Clarke/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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.”

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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”.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

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