Harry W. Whanslaw (Whanny) who was a President of the Puppet Guild, taught Mary’s mother to make marionettes. She soon formed “The Kerry Puppets” and as a family group, they were taking shows around the local district. Also performing at the prestigious Guild Exhibitions in London and meeting up with other amateur and professional puppeteers. In those early days of TV, puppets were mostly worked live, and they assisted Whanny in a few of the BBC Saturday afternoon children’s programmes.
A new film company had made a successful innovative series, “The Adventures of Twizzle,” which, unlike the live TV, could be edited. Puppeteers worked with the marionettes on 8-foot-long strings from a bridge over the stage. Mary started with the company on their next series, “Torchy the Battery Boy” puppets already being made by Christine Glanville. In the following series, “Four Feather Falls,” set in the Wild West, Mary was making them as well. There were many new innovations, - electronic lip sync, and heads being cast in fibreglass.
Christine and Mary continued modelling most of the main characters for all the following series – “Supercar”,” Fireball XL5”, “Stingray”, then the most popular of them all - “Thunderbirds”. Regrettably, change came. The company realised (after all that had passed!) that the puppets were not in human proportions! So, in “Capt. Scarlet” series they had to scale them to a 6- foot man – which left them making heads half the former size and consequently more difficult to work. It may have helped the company achieve their aim to make films with humans!
Two more series, “Joe 90, and “Secret Service”, and puppeteers were redundant.
One of the company directors, John Read, the lighting cameraman, also left, and they formed a partnership. After a time of working separately for other companies, they had a commission from ATV to make a TV series of “Rupert Bear” the daily Express character who was celebrating a 50-year anniversary. At completion, it was “We can show this to future generations, - Goodbye.” – Before long, they were back for more as it had sold well abroad.
The next series for them was from a book “Here Comes Mumfie”, the adventures of a young elephant. The two voice artists later going into ‘The Archers’.
At last, ATV were interested in their own ideas with “Cloppa Castle,” a humorous series set in the Dark Ages with caricature characters (also put out on DVDs a few years ago). During gaps in making these series, Mary did many other jobs, including a short animal series for Canada, ventriloquist figures, including a Lord Charles for Ray Alan, and life-size puppets for Angela Carter’s ‘The Magic Toyshop’ film.
Mary’s last TV series was from a book “Meet the Munch Bunch” with fruit and veg characters. Things were moving on. The Muppet style of puppet had come in and TV franchises had changed. Mary decided to call it a day and retire to the British Toymakers Guild to make Automata.