Mr Whoppit

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Mr Whoppit
Mr Whoppit in cockpit with Campbell 1964.jpg
Mr Whoppit in the cockpit with Campbell at Lake Eyre in 1964
Team BP
Description teddy bear

Mr Whoppit was the teddy bear mascot of Donald Campbell, the land and water speed record holder. Writing in his 2011 book, Donald Campbell: The Man Behind The Mask, journalist David Tremayne described Whoppit as Campbell's "magic talisman".[1]

As was his father Sir Malcolm Campbell, Donald Campbell was highly superstitious.[2][3] Both consulted spiritualist mediums and fortune tellers, Donald also placed his faith in a lucky mascot, Mr Whoppit. He refused to drive unless Whoppit was with him.[2] One of his wife Tonia's tasks was to hand Whoppit to him on entering the cockpit.[4][5][6] Whoppit was noted in 2003 by reporter Frank Bennett as being part of the "threesome" arriving for the 1964 record run – the others being Campbell himself, and his wife. Bennett remarked that the mascot was in the cockpit each time, along with other memorabilia.[7]

Whoppit was with Campbell during his serious crash during a land-speed record attempt at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1960, driving the Proteus Bluebird.

Campbell was killed during a record attempt on Coniston in 1967, while driving the jet hydroplane Bluebird K7. His body wasn't recovered, although Mr Whoppit floated free and was found almost immediately by Leo Villa.[8] Campbell's body was finally located and recovered in 2001.

Campbell also named one of his dogs 'Whoppit'.[4] Another teddy bear mascot was found as a 'wife' for Whoppit, named 'Mrs Whacko',[6] who did not ride with Whoppit but stayed with Tonia and the pit crew.

Mr Whoppit's origins[edit]

'Woppit' first appeared as a cartoon strip 'The story of Woppit' about a toy teddy bear, from the first issue of the comic Robin in 1953.[9] In 1956, Merrythought manufactured a 9-inch tall Woppit bear wearing a red felt jacket[10] and one of these was given to Donald by his close friend and manager Peter Barker.[11]

I used to be on the edge of the toy trade when I was at Hulton's because we used to do what was called licensed merchandise for children's comics. Whoppit was a sample from a firm called Merrythought. I had it for a long time on my desk and in 1956, I think, I said, "Don, you ought to have a mascot. I think this one is very appropriate." And he said, "Oh, fine, fine." After that, Whoppit was always there.

On joining the Bluebird team, Woppit acquired a miniature of their "Bluebird" patch sewn to his jacket, later followed by a one-piece flight suit. His name also changed slightly to 'Mr Whoppit'.[12] In 1959, both Campbell and Mr Whoppit were photographed together in Robin.

In the late 1990s, Merrythought re-issued a limited production of 5,000 replicas of Mr Whoppit, with the original red jacket now sporting the Bluebird motif.[13]

With Gina Campbell[edit]

In later years, Donald's daughter Gina Campbell also adopted Whoppit as a mascot for her own water record-breaking attempts.[12] These led to Whoppit's third high-speed crash.

In 1995 she offered him for auction, together with other Campbell memorabilia. He was to sell for about £60,000 but failed to reach the reserve and so remained in her possession.[14][15][16] The decision to auction off Mr Whoppit was a cause of acrimony between Gina Campbell and Donald's widow Tonia Bern-Campbell, which re-surfaced again during the recovery of Bluebird in 2001. [17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ David Tremayne (30 September 2011). Donald Campbell: The Man Behind The Mask. Transworld. p. 227. ISBN 978-1-4464-3849-7. 
  2. ^ a b Knowles, Arthur (2001). The Bluebird Years. Sigma Leisure. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-85058-766-8. 
  3. ^ Knowles The Bluebird Years, p. 136
  4. ^ a b Tonia Bern-Campbell (2002). My Speed King. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-2931-6. 
  5. ^ Pearson, John (2002). Bluebird and the Dead Lake. Aurum Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-78131-172-1. 
  6. ^ a b Holter, Steve (2002). Leap Into Legend. Sigma Press. p. 111. ISBN 1-85058-794-9. 
  7. ^ Negus, George (12 May 2003). "Donald Campbell's 'Bluebird'". ABC Online. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  8. ^ Holter 2002, pp. 145,155
  9. ^ Peter Bull (1969), The Teddy Bear Book, p. 102, ISBN 0394730801, Another bear to be proud of is Mr. Woppit, who belonged to the late Donald Campbell, C.B.E. ... He is named after a character which appeared in the first number of a popular children's comic called "Robin". 
  10. ^ Maniera, Leyla (2003). Christie's Century of Teddy Bears. Pavilion. p. 1962. ISBN 978-1862055957. 
  11. ^ Tremayne, David (2005). Donald Campbell: The Man Behind the Mask. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-81511-3. 
  12. ^ a b Leyla Maniera (2003). Christie's Century of Teddy Bears. Pavilion. ISBN 1-86205-595-5. 
  13. ^ "Bears with Rich History" Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, April 18, 2012, p.18
  14. ^ "Bear retires from life in the fast lane", The Independent, 24 October 1995 
  15. ^ "Bare Auction", The Straits Times, 13 December 1995: 37, The world's fastest teddy bear "Mr Whoppit", once owned by speed ace Donald Campbell, failed to reach its reserve price ... 
  16. ^ Sally Taylor (1996), Collecting Teddy Bears, p. 84, ISBN 0765196220, Mr Whoppit was all that survived the horrendous crash ... finally coming up for sale at Christies Christmas teddy bear auction in 1995. 
  17. ^ Daniel Foggo (19 June 2001). "Campbells feud over Bluebird wreck". Daily Telegraph.