"I rarely met anyone kinder or more gentle:" Doncaster TV star Jeremy Clarkson's sadness at death of Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond

Shirley Clarkson with Paddington and photos of her children, Jeremy and Joanna.
Shirley Clarkson with Paddington and photos of her children, Jeremy and Joanna.
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Doncaster TV star Jeremy Clarkson has spoken of his sadness at the death of Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond, saying he "rarely met anyone kinder or more gentle."

It was announced earlier today that Mr Bond, who created the children's favourite back in 1958, had died on Tuesday at the age of 91.

Paddington of course has strong Doncaster connections - it was in the town that Clarkson was the recipient of the very first stuffed toy bear, created by his mum Shirley who went on to form a company selling the bears around the world

Following the news, the The Grand Tour star tweeted: "Very sad to hear Michael Bond has died. I knew him for 45 years and rarely met anyone kinder or more gentle."

He died at his home on following a short illness, a statement from his publisher Harper Collins said.

Bond published his first book, A Bear Called Paddington, in 1958 and he character, a marmalade-loving bear from "deepest, darkest Peru" who comes to live in London, went on to inspire a series of books, an animated TV series and a successful 2014 film.

Clarkson's mother Shirley made the first Paddington toy figure as a Christmas present for her son and daughter Joanna in 1971, complete with little duffel coats, wellies - and of a course, a miniature suitcase for those all important marmalade sandwiches.

The bears were so widely admired that she decided to make and sell them, first from the family home in Burghwallis and then later, as business boomed, Gabrielle Designs was formed and premises found alongside the A1.

Inspired by the books, the family’s farmhouse kitchen was the production line for many years before the arrival of The Bear Garden, as it was dubbed.

When the then owner of the property, Alistair Owens put Home Farm up for sale in 2012 after buying it from the Clarksons in 1987, he said: “The house was best known for Paddington when we bought it and we certainly had one or two people knocking at the door asking to meet him when we first moved in.

“I know Eddie (Shirley’s husband) used to make marmalade sandwiches for any children that visited,” he said.

Speaking at the time of the closure, she said: “I designed the very first Paddington Bear for their Christmas present. It is very sad. Paddington was British from top to toe.”

She had sold the firm just a few years earlier and died in 2014, aged 79.

In 2014, it was revealed that Mr Bond had once considered suing Mr and Mrs Clarkson after hearing of their business venture.

In an interview with The Sunday Times Bond said that he was alerted to the fact that Shirley and Eddie were selling the toys when a Surrey shopkeeper called him with the news in the early 1960's.

Bond said he "went to the lawyer about it" to discuss suing the pair for copyright infringement but later gave them a license after becoming "friends" in a lift.

"I got in the lift with Shirley and Eddie. They were terribly nice and pretended it had all been a mistake — and we were friends by the time we got out of the lift. I gave them a licence.”