Doctor Who fan solicits Abu autograph

An interesting fan letter from 2005 found among a collection of TV memorabilia. A very polite and thoughtfully composed letter from an ultra-keen collector of 'The Doctor.' He even goes as far as enclosing a pen, a good idea for an autograph hound on the street but unusual in a soliciting letter (surely?). 850 autographs is pretty good going...could only find one photo of Terence Brown in his role as Abu. By the way the factoid about the early use of dry ice sounds convincing but how true is it?

Dear Mr Brown

I am writing in the hope that you can add to my collection of Doctor Who autographs.

If possible, I should be grateful if you would sign the enclosed cards, which relate to the Doctor Who story The Krotons in which you appeared as the doomed Gond  student "Abu."  His death at the hands of the croutons  was one of the first major uses of dry ice in television drama, and was the catalyst for the Doctor and his friends becoming involved in Gond society. Also enclosed is a pen, which should help with signing certain cards, and a return envelope with sufficient postage for both the cards and a pen.

Of course, I appreciate that Doctor Who is only a very small part of your career, and that you make the firm not to sign certain cards, but I should be grateful if you would return them in any event.

Terence Brown as Abu

Please could you also let me have a signed photograph. I have made one using images from the Doctor Who website, as I realise you may not have any available, but please accept my apologies for the quality. I much prefer a signed picture of the actor, rather than their role in Doctor Who, so I should be grateful for a current photograph if at all possible. These items are solely for my personal collection of over 850 actors and crew from the programme, and I'm quite happy if you would like to dedicate them.

The Krotons is one of the Doctor Who stories for which I have only been able to obtain a couple of autographs, most recently from actor Gilbert Wynne.

I do hope that you will find the time to reply…


Poor Mr Kitching…

The worship of celebrity is certainly nothing new. Autograph collecting in Britain started to be a craze from the mid Victorian period, possibly due to the cult of personality that grew up around Prince Albert and Alfred Tennyson. If this letter from sometime MP W. S. Shirley is any indication, even the autographed letters of sitting and former members of parliament, however comparatively modest their achievements, became the target of collectors.

It would seem that Shirley’s lawyer friend, Alfred Goodall, was one such autograph-hunter, and so was sent whole letters that Shirley had accumulated while sitting in the Commons as MP for Doncaster. Here’s what Shirley wrote in his undated covering letter:

Dear Goodall,

One or two autographs you can have viz:
S. D. Waddy, Q.C. M.P.
A. G. Kitching ex M.P.
Sir Walter Foster, M.P.
B. Pickard, M.P.
 All, except Kitching’s will improve in value as time goes on…

Oh dear! What can Mr Kitching have done to have gone down so low in Mr Shirley’s estimation ? A bit of delving, however, reveals that Shirley was a pretty accurate talent spotter. S.D. Waddy was already a busy QC and went on to establish himself as a respected writer on theological issues. Sir Walter Foster was already a man of substance. But it is with B(enjamin) Pickard that Shirley hit gold.

Having begun his working life as a miner at the age of 12, Pickard rapidly rose, Scargill-like, through the ranks of the Yorkshire miners’ union and in 1885 was chosen in a Liberal/miners pact to represent Normanton in Parliament. Already very active in the International Federation of Mineworkers from 1890, in 1893 he led miners in the biggest industrial dispute the UK had ever known. Pickard died, still MP for Normanton, in 1904.

As for the alleged nonentity Kitching, Shirley turns out to have been right. A stockbroker when he entered Parliament as member for Maldon in 1885, Kitching  remained one when  he was flung out at the General Election a year later.

Makes you think. How many autographs of our current crop of MPs are or will be collected? [RMH]