09 June 2012

The Riddlers

One day in 1989, feeling a little jaded after a heavy night out, I sat down in front of the telly and was startled to see a boggle-eyed, bushy eye-browed fellow called Mossop lecturing a Boy George clone called Tiddler. Both of these intriguing fellows were apparently Riddlers, little people (English cousins of the Irish Leprechauns?) who lived at the bottom of a well in the garden of Miss Marjorie Dawe's cottage at Riddleton End. 

The Riddlers was a new tots' programme from Yorkshire TV which went on to run until 1998 - 226 episodes, all written by Rick Vanes, with a story in each episode - many of them by Shirley Isherwood.

Marjorie Dawe, played by Victoria Williams (of the excellent children's series The Changes over a decade before), wrote and illustrated children's books. She was the show's voice of reason - providing friendship and guidance for Mossop and Tiddler.

Mr Grimley (Peter Llewellyn Jones), Marjorie's neighbour, was, well, a little on the common side. He became a chimney sweep and was there for amusement value and to show that adults sometimes get things wrong too. But Mr Grimley, dear old Montgomery, could also be depended upon to come up with occasional nuggets of good advice for Mossop and Tiddler. 

The Riddlers programme is fondly remembered by my cousin's children, who were of the right age to be watching, but me and my mates, twenty-four going on four, loved it too - although we were never convinced by the Riddlers characters' insistence that Tiddler, the Boy George/Pete Burns clone (who was voiced by puppeteer Mike Gallant), was in fact a girl. What did they take us for?!

"Hello, you two!"

Around the Internet, there are many references to The Riddlers starting in 1986, but I believe this is incorrect as I was certainly "in at the beginning" and remember it being rather later. The show's writer Rick Vanes states that it began in 1989 on his website, and actress Victoria Williams commented of her central role as Marjorie Dawe in 1996: "I've done that for seven years."

In the story, Tiddler was initially a trainee Riddler, with good hearted and sometimes big headed Mossop fulfilling the role of tutor.

Tiddler graduated to full-Riddler status after answering correctly a series of "Ezup's Foibles" (does that sound vaguely familiar?!).

Marjorie Dawe was declared an honorary Riddler and invited to the dawn graduation ceremony in the back garden at Riddleton End.

Tiddler was then able to choose a new name to take him/her/it through adult life, and opted for Tiddlup.

There's no accounting for taste.

A happy group at Riddleton End - Marjorie, Mr Grimley and the little fellas.

Other Riddleton End regulars included a third Riddler called Middler, a hedgehog called Postie (all Riddler mail is delivered by hedgehogs), a squirrel called Filbert and a hoover called Edgar.

Richard Robinson, puppeteer, a founder member of the Spitting Image team, also worked on The Riddlers - he made the puppets and provided the voices for Mossop and Middler.

One of the most delightful things about the show was its detailed studio set, which comprised Marjorie's living room; the back of her cottage; her conservatory and garden wall (complete with imposing iron gates); the garden (complete with well and Riddling tree); part of Mr Grimley's garden; and the side of his cottage. 

It was all very skillfully constructed, but, of course, it is easy to tell studio from open air, and this slightly unreal look to the scenario worked in the show's favour - giving it, I always thought, a rather magical feel.

Me and der lads loved it.

Tiddler, Marjorie and Mossop. Tiddler was a trainee Riddler who graduated and became Tiddlup, Marjorie was the show's token sensible adult and Mossop, a fully-fledged Riddler, was a little on the bumptious side.

1989 - a "Riddlers" book called "Marjorie's Ring" - part of the Parent and Child Programme, written by Shirley Isherwood.


Sarah Jane said...

Oh yes I remember this well. It replaced Puddle Lane on the Thursday lunchtime 12.30 slot. I remember I got a bit old for it around the time Tiddler became Tiddlup!

Drew said...

I was thirty-three when it ended so maybe slightly too old for it, but I watched till it finished anyway. :)

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else totally fancy Marjorie, me and my mate Phil used to watch it religiously even though we suspect it was not made for the twenty-something blokes we were.

Whatever happened to Victoria Williams?

Anonymous said...

I loved this show! I had all the VHS tapes of this programme! The thing that makes me upset is I've never met anyone who also watched this programme when they were a kid, I always ask people have you heard of the Riddlers and there like, "what! What's a Riddler?"
I think Victoria, the actress of Marjorie is still an actress. As for Peter Llewellyn Jones, the guy who played Mr Grimley, I think he specializes now is sigh language at the University of Leeds. I did read somewhere once that the puppets of the Riddlers went into auction and are now stored away in boxes after they were sold, but not too sure.

Drew said...

I remember Victoria well for "The Changes", a series I watched as a kid. But now she's forever Marjorie to me! Poor old Mr Grimley. Interesting to hear about Peter Llewellyn Jones.

Unknown said...

Vicky Williams!!!!