Rod Hull's Emu smashes estimate at auction

Orville the Duck and George from Rainbow have a new housemate after one of Rod Hull's last surviving Emu puppets was sold at an auction for almost nine times its estimate.

Puppeteer Phil Fletcher - the man behind CBBC's popular Hacker the Dog - snapped up the famous bird to join his growing collection of vintage characters from children's TV shows of years gone by.

The successful £8,860 bid came in to Chippenham Auction Rooms in Wiltshire over the phone, with Mr Fletcher paying well over the anticipated price of between £750 and £1,000.

Emu - who cost £10,000 to make - will sit on the sofa at Mr Fletcher's Wigan home alongside the pink hippo George, Keith Harris' Orville, and the iconic duo of Sooty and Sweep.

"I'm 41 so I vividly remember seeing Emu on television when I was growing up," said Mr Fletcher, who has been operating Hacker the Dog since 2009.

"Rod Hull was one of the best puppeteers, but also criminally under-rated. Because audiences totally bought into the character of Emu, they forgot that Rod was operating him. He was brilliant."

The Emu picked up by Mr Fletcher - sold by a private collector from Somerset - is in excellent condition despite its age, with TV producers at Endemol having opted to use a different version of the puppet back in the 1980s and keep this one in reserve.

Principal auctioneer Richard Edmonds said: "There was some fierce bidding over the phone and internet for the Emu puppet.

"Collectors and puppet aficionados clearly feel very passionately about this character. I don't think Mr Fletcher's other puppets are going to know what's hit them when Emu arrives in Wigan."

Hull and Emu made their debut on an Australian TV show, before returning to the UK to further establish the act.

In 1976 the pair sealed their fame after Emu repeatedly pecked Michael Parkinson on his TV show - only a threat from Billy Connolly kept the puppet under control.

Their popularity peaked in the late 1970s and 1980s, when the pair had a show on ITV, but by the end of the second decade they had lost popularity and the puppeteer ended up in debt.

Rod Hull died in 1999 when he fell from the roof of his home while attempting to adjust his television aerial.

Sky News

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