First shown in November 1950, among the characters featured was Mr Turnip – described as “the obnoxious string puppet” by the turnipnet.com website. He appeared with “his hapless stooge Humphrey Lestocq, known to all as HL” and was voiced by Peter Hawkins who later provided the voices for Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men and many other TV characters.
Mr Turnip was dreamt up by BBC producer Michael Westmore who was looking for puppet characters to appear on Whirligig.
Mr Turnip was operated by the young puppeteer Joy Laurey for the six years he was on the show. During the war Laurey (the great-grand-daughter of the famous Drury Lane clown Sam Laurey) had worked with her mother and sister in the Entertainments National Service Association, amusing troops with the puppets they were already making.
On June 23 at Teesside saleroom Vectis (20.83% buyer’s premium), an original 22in (56cm) papier-mâché and limewood Mr Turnip puppet prop, handmade by Laurey, was offered with an estimate of £1200-2200 as part of a BBC TV Archive collection.
It came within a carrying case bearing a paper handwritten label to the inner lid reading Joy Laurey Puppet Studio Tiptree Essex.
Vectis said the buyer at £4800 was a collector and a Whirligig fan. “He said he had been looking for the puppet for a very long time. He arranged a phone bid as he didn’t want to miss out.”
Several other lots with items relating to Laurey were offered at Vectis, with one of the best performers being Mr Turnip original artwork and sketches which made £840 against an estimate of £40-60.