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24 September 2014

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Postman Pat

Postman Pat in front of his van with Jess.

Greetings from Greendale.

The world's most famous postman, Pat, delivers mail in the heart of the Lake District.

Here, his creator John Cunliffe tells us about his experiences in Kendal which led to the Postman Pat stories.


View comments and questions about Postman Pat sent in by BBC Cumbria readers, then add your own.

Official Postman Pat website
Ideal for children. This site makes good use of animation.

Postman Pat website
Good interactive sections and plenty of free downloads!

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How much do you know about Postman Pat? Many of us grew up enjoying the entertaining animations on TV or learning to read with John Cunliffe's books. Most people could sing the theme tune without much trouble.

But do you know how the author dreamed up the stories? It's a myth that he gained ideas by accompanying a postman friend on his rounds.

The real-life inspiration for Pat came later, with Ivor Wood, when they began work on the show. They photographed a postman with his van as part of their research into settings.

At this stage, the whole series had already taken shape in the mind of the creator...

From John Cunliffe:
I love Cumbria, and every part of the Lake District, and wish I still lived there. I'm not so far away, in Yorkshire, but I still dream of the days I spent walking over the hills and mountains of Cumbria.

An education in Kendal
I lived in a small terraced cottage on Greenside, up the hill from Kendal Town Hall. There was a little post-office at the end of my street in Kendal, and I often chatted to the friendly man who kept the shop.

Kendal Town Hall
Kendal Town Hall

He told me quite a bit about how the country postmen go about their work, and that went into my writing.

But it was Molly Clifton who gave me most help. She was a teacher at Castle Park School, where I was in my first teaching job, and she had many friends in farming.

Real life research
She spent a day, taking me around farms in the Kendal area, introducing me to the people, giving me a wonderful insight into their way of life.

I soon saw what wonderful people they were; friendly and hospitable; always ready to help, or to offer a cup of tea to the thirsty traveller.

They were very much in my mind when I sat down to draw the map of Greendale, and to people it with farmers and their families, the post-mistress, Ted Glen, Granny Dryden, and all the others, and to write my stories about them.

Delivering a service
Thirty years before I wrote Postman Pat, I ran the Wooler mobile library service in Northumberland. This experience contributed a great deal to the TV series as well.

Like Pat, I travelled around a rural area, and met a great many farmers and other rural dwellers, who were kind and generous in the way that the people of Greendale are. It was all there, in my memory.

So Greendale is Northumberland as well as Cumbria; but Cumbria takes the lead, as that is where I set it, and where I wrote it.

Pat delivering a letter. (Source: Visual Media)
Posting an idea.

Push in the right direction
There was another person in Kendal who was even more important in the birth of Postman Pat. She was the parent of one of the children in my class. (I've forgotten her name.)

One day, she came into school, and said to me,
"You write stories for children, don't you ?"
"Yes," I said. "I do."
"Well, I heard a talk last night, given by a lady from the BBC. She said they were looking for new writers, for a new TV series. Why don't you send her some of your books?"
So I did just that.

Then, there was a job advertised for a producer for children's programmes, and I applied for it.

Wrong job but the right time
To my surprise, I was invited to London for an interview. This turned out to be with the same lady from the BBC, Cynthia Felgate.

She did not offer me the job, but she said,
"We would like to work with you as a writer. We want to start a new series for pre-school children, set in the countryside. Do you think you could write it ?"
"Yes," I said, wondering if I could..."What about having a post-man as the central character ?"
"Sounds good," she said.

I went back to Kendal, and sat down to create Postman Pat... and the rest is history! That's how it happened.

Kendal sunset
The sun sets below the Kendal skyline.

Tell us what you think...
Know any interesting tidbits of trivia about Postman Pat? Tell us what you enjoyed most about it. Email us your comments at:

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