Outdated gollies have no place in today's society

THE fact gollies - or golliwogs as they are historically known - are being sold in J Deamer & Son, a hardware store on Stevenage High Street, has provoked much debate in The Comet office. There are those who view the golly as an innocent toy, popular with

THE fact gollies - or golliwogs as they are historically known - are being sold in J Deamer & Son, a hardware store on Stevenage High Street, has provoked much debate in The Comet office.

There are those who view the golly as an innocent toy, popular with children in bygone years, and there are those aghast that something which has developed such strong racist connotations over time has a place at all on shop shelves today.

Some argue that the golly should be fondly preserved as a traditional child's toy, whereas others view it as an offensive racist caricature.

The golliwog was dreamt up by cartoonist and author Florence Upton in the 1890s, and she went on to write a series of children's books which featured the rag doll.


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The golliwog was eventually abbreviated to golly due to the fact that from the 1950s 'wog' became an English slur towards black people, but the abbreviation has done nothing to distance the golly's association with racism.

Its status as a powerful symbol of racism can be measured by the reaction the use of its image provokes. For instance, if the image was powerless as a symbol of racism it would not have sparked a debate in The Comet office in the first place.

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British jam manufacturer James Robertson and Sons used a golly as its mascot from 1910, and began producing promotional golly badges in the 1920s. In 1983, the company's products were boycotted by the Greater London Council as offensive. In 1988 the character stopped being used in television advertising, and the promotion was withdrawn in 2001.

In 2008, a woman in Stockport was arrested, fingerprinted, and had a DNA sample taken by the police for having a golly in her window. The police called it a "race-related" issue.

In 2006, three gollies were seized from a shop in Hertfordshire under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which makes it an offence to display material which could be threatening, abusive or insulting.

In 2007, Greater Manchester Police seized two gollies from a shop after a complaint that the dolls were offensive.

Toys and images, like words, bear the meaning that we give to them, and their meanings can evolve and change with time. Gay, straight, crack, smack and screw are just a few examples of words which have altered their sense over time, giving them a dual meaning.

While the golliwog may well have been inoffensively created and treasured as a toy by many a child during a more innocent era, we must accept that its meaning has altered greatly over time and, despite feeble attempts to break away from its developed link with racism by rebranding it as the golly, it is no longer an acceptable image.

Society is constantly evolving and, as with everything, we must move with the times. The golly is an outdated image with no place whatsoever in today's society.

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