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Gordon Murray

Gordon Murray was born in Wandsworth Common, south-west London in 1921, the youngest of four children. “I have been interested in puppets ever since I was a child,” he said in 1999. After the war he worked as an actor in repertory theatre, where he met the ballet dancer Enid Martin, who had appeared in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 film The Red Shoes; she became his wife in 1955. He also established his own puppet company, Murray’s Marionettes, touring theatres in the UK. The BBC producer Freda Lingstrom was invited to one performance and, reportedly, was so impressed she offered him work operating Spotty Dog for the BBC children’s show The Woodentops (1955-57).

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Murray subsequently became a producer in the formative years of the BBC children’s department, producing shows such as Sketch Club (1958-61) and Captain Pugwash. In 1964, he left the BBC to set up an independent production company, Gordon Murray Puppets Productions, based in a converted church in north London. Murray created the puppets and the sets but Hardwick and Bura animated them. First came Camberwick Green (1966), depicting an English village where everyone was gainfully employed in a trade and any threats to civil order would be snuffed out by the toy soldier troop from Pippin Fort in their army truck.

Then came Trumpton (1967), with its weekly excitement over the deployment of Captain Flack’s fire brigade. “Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb,” went the moustachioed captain’s roll call before his men set off in their engine to attend some emergency – one that would be speedily resolved so that each episode could conclude with Flack’s men playing at a bandstand concert, still wearing their smart tunics and impressive helmets, before an appreciative, waltzing citizenry. Finally, in 1969, Murray created Chigley, featuring the weekly adventures of Lord Belborough and his little train. The Trumptonshire trilogy, each consisting of 13 15-minute episodes, was aired on the BBC for nearly 20 years and later broadcast on Channel 4 and Nickelodeon Junior.

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“There’s no crime in Trumptonshire,” Murray told an interviewer in 1995. “It’s a happy world and a lot of people say ‘Well you shouldn’t encourage children to think that the world’s like that.’ Some people throw their children into the deep end of the swimming bath at an early age and say ‘Swim’. You know, that’s the way to learn. His wife died in 2001. He is survived by two daughters, Emma and Rose, and four grandchildren. Gordon Murray, puppeteer, TV producer and writer, born 3 May 1921; died 30 June 2016

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