Tingha and Tucker

The Tingha and Tucker Club

1962 - United Kingdom

Former ATV in-vision continuity announcer Jean Morton received two koala-bear stuffed toys in 1962 from Australia and the story goes that one evening, whilst doing her gig in front of the cameras, one of the studio staff waved them around behind her. The positive response from viewers led to Morton writing a script for a full programme which was then taken on by ATV and broadcast on late Monday afternoons at 5.25 in the Midlands.

Tingha and Tucker, as she named them, became a massive success. The original toys were replaced by puppets and Peter Harris, one of the puppeteers, went on to direct The Muppet Show as well as creating another children's favourite Tiswas.

Jean Morton not only wrote each 30-minute episode, she was also one of the producers. Morton presented the programme as 'Auntie Jean' and regaled her juvenile audience with songs and stories such as The Adventures of Pinocchio and The Wizard of Oz, all conjured up with the help of a magic boomerang - which has led to some confusion over whether the show was Australian or British. It was distinctly British.

When The Tingha and Tucker Club was formed it attracted 750,000 members until finally, ATV, unable to cope with the volume of mail, were forced to close it.

The show was mostly studio bound but occasionally it ventured outside onto the streets where the puppets met some famous faces (such as Cliff Richard for example). There were also huge meetings of Tingha and Tucker Fan Club members and one in particular, at Woburn in Bedfordshire, was attended by ATV's chairman Lew Grade who was bemused by thousands of children who appeared to be picking their noses! But they were actually giving the Tingha and Tucker Club secret sign, which was to place your index finger on the bridge of your nose and wink your eye.

In 1964 there was a single released by Pye Records; "Woomerang Boomerang" b/w "Over the Rickety Bridge" and inexplicably a release from Century 21 (the record label that released episodes of the Gerry Anderson series such as Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons), entitled Tingha and Tucker Present the New Wombaville Band, which included the puppets covering several Beatles songs! However, you may remember another song that they sang which became a firm favourite: "The Wibbly Wobbly Way."

In the late 1960s there was a Sunday series, called The Tree House Family, a programme with a religious tilt featuring Tingha and Tucker and Willie Wombat reading bible stories.

The Tingha and Tucker Club

In 1970 the show was finally cancelled and soon after Tingha and Tucker were stolen from a store cupboard at ATV, never to be seen again. Very few tapes of the original series were thought to have survived. But a discovery of a cache of film material was discovered allowing three more editions to be reconstructed and presented on a DVD which included a host of extras such as a Tingha and Tucker promotional film, a live stage performance in Blackpool, an interview with "Auntie" Jean (Morton) and PDF materials including the Tingha and Tucker annuals (which were issued each year between 1967 and 1971).

After the series finished, Morton continued with ATV as a presenter and producer eventually becoming head of programme correspondence at ATV and its successor, Central Independent Television, which took over the ITV Midlands franchise. She retired in 1985 to Ibiza with her husband, Bobbie Daniel, whom she married in 1947. After he passed away she returned to Britain and lived her remaining days there. Jean Morton passed away on 26 May 2012, aged 91 years.

A generation of television viewers grew up to the antics of the two Koala puppets and their friends, Willie (the Wombat), Kiki (a Kangaroo) and Ermintrude (an Emu). And they sang along, watched along and laughed along. "Yo-ho-ho, Auntie Jean."

Published on February 7th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.

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