By Golly!

Robertson’s golly first appeared on jars in 1910. The character became one of the UK’s longest running consumer loyalty schemes.

Robertson’s Iconic Logo

Sometimes the more mundane metal detecting finds are the most interesting – like the Golly jam lid shared by detectorist John Lewis. Golly is probably best known in England, appearing during the 1920s as the advertising logo for Robertson’s Jams. From the time the scheme began in 1928 until it ended in 2001, more than 20 million badges were sent out. If you have found one, please share so I can add to the blog.

The Golly was as much a victim of racism as any other. He was a large part of most children’s childhood and stood for no more than jam and the fun of collecting his many friends.

The badges became so popular that other items of Golly advertising merchandise became available and each year brought new items. It is a little known fact that the badges became a great strain on the company as nearly all monies raised from sales were donated to the various charities that Robertson’s supported. These charities included Cancer Research, Cystic Fibrosis, The Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Leukaemia Research and the 2001 Children in need Appeal.

Eventually Golly suffered at the hands of the PC brigade and the continual habit of linking him to the word ‘Golliwog’ finally saw him off. It is believed that the firm was so taken aback that anybody could even think their company brand stood for racist views that they didn’t attempt to defend themselves and instead chose to retire Golly even though several surveys supported them.

So, Roberson’s, one of the greatest ever supporters of charities, who stood for healthy eating, recycling, and our children’s safety whilst promoting sport and fitness, was finally seen off in the name of racism.

Free Golliwog Brooches

Actually, the Golly was as much a victim of racism as any other. He was a large part of most children’s childhood – including mine – and stood for no more than jam and the fun of collecting his many friends. With his natty bow tie and and flowing jacket, the minstrel doll was – depending on your point of view – either an innocent nursery-land character run over by the PC bandwagon or a grossly offensive racial slur. YOU decide. I reckon he should have been recognised as the pride of his era! Instead, he was removed from labels in 2002.

‘A golliwog brooch will be sent in return for six paper gollies (one paper golly with each jar of Robertsons jams or marmalades) There are four types of brooch: Standard Golliwog, Scout Golliwog, Piper Golliwog and Guitarist Golliwog. Ask your grocer for details.’ from the 1969 advertisement on the left.

Advert from 1968

Some of the Badges I Have Found

© JW : Centre, bottom – Coco the monkey – Kellogg’s corn flakes advertising brooch lapel. Bottom, right – Canadian sweetheart badge. Top, right – Anglers Association. Top, middle – Transport and General Workers Union. Bottom left – Railway Shed Plate. Top left – Crusaders badge

I haven’t been able to identify the badge top left. Can you help? My thanks go to the administrators, Wayne ‘Maize Runner’ and member John Lewis on the NRH forum for their help in the preparation of this post. Also to the guys who have allowed me to feature their finds.


Ian, the magicman, suggested a lead for the badge, (top left ) and I followed it up. The CRUSADERS founded in 1906 were an evangelist organisation whose aim was to introduce younger children to the Bible. They are still active and are now known as Urban Saints.

Detectorists are now sharing their finds. This rather dirty guitarist was found by Gary Michalczuk a few years ago.

© Gary

The examples below – nurse and hockey player – were found by ‘TheJim’ of Detecting Scotland. Nice one! Or should that be TWO – in almost pristine condition.

© Jim

I was able to find a couple on the PAS database.

© PAS – LANCUM 935317

And, the rather distorted example below.

© PAS – LANCUM AB54145

The Wikipedia entry (quoted by PAS) is worth a look because it gives more information about Robertson’s Golly.

Golly Gosh

This next example is a Bramah! Detectorist Steven Gaisford of The Metal Detectives FB Group loves Gollies and has been collecting them for years. No prize for guessing his nickname – Golly. I love his submission, and I think you will too! I guess that tat is a pirate Golly . . . don’t think Robertson’s had one of those. Unless you know different.

Pirate Golly on Steven’s leg/knee – © Steven Gaisford

A version of this post was originally published in the NHR magazine of June 2016

23 thoughts on “By Golly!”

  1. Indirectly I worked for Mr Robinson for a while as he also owned shares in a certain small engineering company.He would turn up once in a while for a board meeting using his maroon Rolls Royce. He had a large factory in Bristol and many had him to thank for their employment. keep Safe.Jerry.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post was originally published a few years ago, but is now inaccessible. Maybe you saw it firtst time around, Jerry. Now restored, it will be fresh to many and deserves a place in my new blog.


  3. I have heard the term Golliwog before John.. but I had no idea a as to its’ origins.. Thank you for this.

    I remember some things from my youth that today would today be considered racist.. little black sambo for example.

    Ah.. the joys of a PC world.. LOL


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Golly Gosh! brings back wonderful memories. I see myself now about six years old sticking the “Golly” from the jam jar on to a card, from memory I think you had to fill the whole card to receive a Badge.
    Now you have got me searching the whole house to fine it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Did you manage to find it on the web? I had a quick look but couldn’t find one. I emailed a friend that may have a pic, but he hasn’t got back.


    Liked by 1 person

  6. What sad times we live in now .. what was innocent fun for us kids collecting the badges now deemed racist by so many

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s sad that things we knew in our youth to be innocent and fun, have turned out to be racist or racists perceived.

    Have we gone too far in the PC race or not far enough? I suppose it depends on the colour of your skin, and your financial position in life.

    I cringe now at some of the terms I was brought up with and know them to be racists and don’t use, whilst at the same time trying to find a link between the rest?

    I used to call my white affluent grandparents Mammy and Pappy….you figure that one out?

    Anyway interesting article John, I especially like the one of Gary playing his guitar.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Some food for thought there, John.
    If you liked Gary’s offering, wait till you see the next one. 🙂


  9. It is sad the way things are going … Until quite recently I still had a knitted Golly kept from childhood I would not dare pass it on today … PC has a lot to answer for

    Liked by 1 person

  10. my 103yr old white Southern grandfather would also tell you how racist and discriminatory and unbelievable it is and an embarrassment to all humans. 😦


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