1 9 5 9 – 1 9 9 9 (Australia)
Pencil-nosed marionette Mr Squiggle has the privilege of being the longest-running character on Australian television.
The creation of artist and puppeteer Norman Hetherington (pictured above), Mr Squiggle began entertaining young ABC viewers on 1 July 1959, when he was chosen to fill a six-week gap on the fledgeling national television service for another children’s puppet programme called Nicky and Noodle.
Mr Squiggle came down from his home on the moon each episode in his rocket (which was called Rocket!) and returned home – to 93 Crater Crescent – at the close of each show.
Mr Squiggle would joke and chat with the female presenter and then turn a viewer’s cryptic squiggle into a complete picture. He was joined during his long television career by several “friends”, including Bill Steamshovel (who joined the show in 1962), Gus the snail (who was added in 1977) and grumpy old Blackboard.
Hetherington would draw with the puppet’s nose (a felt tip pen originally and eventually crayons and chalk), controlling him from above – hence Mr Squiggle’s “Upside down! Upside down!” catchphrase as the image was flipped and revealed at the end.
His wife, Margaret, wrote the scripts for every episode.
Gina Curtis was the first person to keep Squiggle under control, but she left the programme to join the Australian stage production of My Fair Lady and was never heard of again.
Although he developed over the years Mr Squiggle remained a gentle character, a little man who needs help, and terribly polite.
He always called his co-presenters and ‘minders’ – Gina Curtis, Pat Lovell (pictured at left), and Jane Fennell (pictured below right) – “miss”.
Hetherington received the Order of Australia in 1990 and had his creation honoured on an Australian postage stamp. After a long illness, he died on 6 December 2010 in Greenwich, Sydney, aged 89.
In February 2019 the Royal Australian Mint released a series of two-dollar coins to mark the 60th anniversary of the first broadcast of the programme. The coins featured images of Mr Squiggle himself, Gus the Snail, Bill Steamshovel, and Blackboard.