As we approach the 60th anniversary of the death of A.A. Milne, I thought it might be interesting to research who Christopher Robin really was & what happened to him after his 6th birthday! But, as usual I got side tracked & engrossed in the story of the bear that featured in so many of my childhood memories.
Born Alan Alexander Milne, A.A. Milne wrote 2 of my favourite books from my childhood. I was fascinated by Christopher Robin & the various rhymes which captured my imagination. I would read the books at my Nanny Townsend’s house & was delighted when one day she said I could take them home to keep. They had been my Dad’s books & one of the books has the message “Love to Ray from Mum & Dad, Xmas 1942“, given to him when he was six which of course has special meaning to me.
I still have my copies of “Now We Are Six” & “When We Were Very Young”. In later years I grabbed a copy of “Now We Are Sixty” & smiled as I read through the pages. I must mention that I am not yet sixty but the humour of an adult version (written by Christopher Matthew) of my favourite books brought back that “warm & cosy” feeling often felt when reading a book that takes me completely off into another world where life is simple & always rhymes!
British author, A.A. Milne was born in London on 18th January 1882 & passed away on 31st January 1956 in Sussex. His son Christopher was the inspiration & focus of these books along with his teddy bear, Winnie the Pooh.
It all began when Harry Colebourn, a Canadian soldier from Winnipeg, bought a female bear cub from a hunter who had killed her mother in August 1914. He named her Winnipeg (which was quickly shortened to Winnie) after his home town & the cute little bear cub soon became the regiment’s mascot, travelling with them to the UK in 1914. Harry made the decision to donate the little bear to London Zoo in 1919 as his regiment prepared to go to war in France.
Meanwhile, Christopher Robin Milne was born 96 years ago on 21st August 1920 & during a visit to London Zoo, he fell in love with the Canadian Bear. This prompted his parents to buy him a teddy bear which he adored & would eventually become one of his Father’s characters, Winnie the Pooh. Originally Christopher had named his bear Edward but he changed it to Winnie after the bear at the zoo & the name Pooh actually belonged to a local swan that Christopher liked to feed.
Since 1987 the toys have been on display at the Central Children’s Room at the Donnel Center, a branch of the New York City Library, where they are on display in a large glass case inside a room with a viewing window.
In 2014 the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn came to the UK to follow her great-grandfather’s journey. The BBC followed her journey & arranged for her to meet Derek de Selincourt, the cousin of the late Christopher Robin Milne. She showed Mr de Selincourt extracts from Harry Colebourn’s wartime diary including the day that he bought Winnie on 24th August 1914.
Winnie died 12th May 1934 but on 19th July 1995 the statue of Winnie & Harry was presented to London Zoo by the people of Manitoba, Canada.
How wonderful that the two families eventually met to discuss how these fabulous stories had affected both of their lives.