Saturday 6 February 2010


You were not a properly equipped child of the 60s if you didn't have

a collection of I-Spy books.
In black and white for 6d

or full colour for 1/-

 these were produced by Big Chief I-SPY 
at the News Chronicle Wigwam
in Bouverie Street, London E.C.4.

Actually Big Chief I-SPY moved about a bit over the years 
and could also be found at
Wigwam-by-the-Water, Upper Thames Street.
Anyway, all you needed to become a member of the I-Spy tribe
was sixpence, or 1/- or 2s.6d
depending on how early you were born
and then

you would receive an I-SPY membership pack with
a badge, (an Open Sesame to all kinds of places),
a Tally Card, and a Book of Secret Codes
for decoding messages in the News Chronicle & Daily Dispatch,
News Chronicle, or Daily Mail
again depending on your generation.
In one book there was even a secret sign 
but they seem to have dropped that later.

But of course the main point of all this 
was to be a member of a Great Tribe
of explorers, discoverers, trackers and spotters.
Between 5 and 30 points were awarded
depending on scarcity, for each entry.
A philosophical attitude was encouraged,

'Some days are better than other. You may get a run of blank ones. 
And then along comes a real red-letter day - 
you spot the very thing you've been wanting for months. 
And your score takes a great leap upwards.
Don't expect to be lucky EVERY day'.

Finally, when you reached 1,500 points your record was to be examined 
by a teacher or parent and signed off as being genuine,
before being sent in (with a 3d stamp for its return)
to claim your

Order of Merit, with the Big Chief's Seal.
I never got as far as this, even though 
I may well have been tempted to cheat a little with my spotting 
as I was not a very patient child.

  I heard on the radio this morning that
they have been re-issued by Michelin.
Now you must collect 1000 pints before you can join the club
and I don't think you get a badge or a secret code anymore
but it doesn't surprise me that these little books
could prove to be as enduring as their creator
Charles Warrell, who died when he was 106.


  1. But did you graduate on to "The Observer Books"?'s_Books

    Possibly, you have come across several references to me in one volume of this authoritative series. I believe it was "The Observer Book of Pond Life"

  2. My dear. I illustrated one of them - the Observer Book of Rocks and Minerals. Strange but true.

  3. A Renaissance woman, no less.