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Herne Bay’s Telly-Go-Round: the why and how and what

David Curtiss at the famous Tele-Go-Round
David Curtiss at the famous Tele-Go-Round
Scores of you were touched by the Herne Bay Rotary Club’s appeal to help maintain the much-loved Telly-Go-Round.It was the idea of two Herne Bay men. George Jones, who ran an electrical shop in the town and is now 92, was one of the original creators. He still works on the attraction every winter, improving on it while it is laid up and repainted ready to entertain in summer.Here are 19 things to know about the popular seafront attraction and its history.

  1. The Magic Cave was created for a Christmas fundraiser in 1966 and occupied an empty shop on the corner of Bank Street and the High Street. It was a one-off and raised money for the Rotary’s Christmas parcel distribution and a kidney unit.
  2. It was in 1967 that the first idea for a seafront display was agreed by members in the form of Dougal and the Lighthouse.
  3. The total cost was set at £100.
  4. Herne Bay Urban District Council gave permission for the Rotarians to put their display at the entrance to the town’s pier where the Guinness clock had stood.
  5. The attraction was created in a basement under the then Auction Mart and built from plywood using boatbuilding methods. Among those who helped create the original display were Barrie Smith, Poggy Pilcher, Eric Heselden and Geoff Longley.
  6. The lighthouse’s central feature was a circular trough of water and ‘rock’ wall with a coin chute.
  7. A washing machine engine circulated the water on which floated washing-up bowls containing characters from the popular TV show the Magic Roundabout. The object of the game was to try to roll a coin into one of the bowls.
  8. The BBC gave permission for the Rotarians to make replicas of the Magic Roundabout characters which were carved from wood.
  9. Another feature of the display was Wally the Whale. Not a TV character but a model whale who resided in a fishpond. Wally rose to the surface and ‘blew’ when someone put a coin in the slot.
  10. The lighthouse display had to be supervised all the time it was operating. Rotarian ran it for two years.
  11. It was in 1970s the Rotary Club agreed to the creation of a new attraction – another lighthouse – which would be fully automated.
  12. In this incarnation, the lighthouse had three ‘hutches’. A light was above each and people dropped a coin into the coin box when the lamp was lit above the character they wanted to see.
  13. The characters, still from the Magic Roundabout, were Florence, Dougal and Brian. Zebedee was included in the new lighthouse and bobbed up and down when a coin was inserted. Wally the Whale also remained.
  14. It was agreed to work on the Tele-Go-Round in 1983. Eric Hall suggested the name.
  15. The Rotarians wanted to make their own Muppet characters but the series creator Jim Hanson declined to give permission so the group purchased readymade ones.
  16. Building the Tele-Go-Round cost £150. A ball drops into a section of the wheel which determines which character is revealed. If the ball drops into the ‘jackpot’ section all the characters are revealed.
  17. The original Magic Roundabout train has been replaced by Thomas the Tank Engine.
  18. Characters added over the years include Wiggli Willi and Postman Pat. In the 1990s the group replaced the train with models from International Rescue, but they did not prove as popular and the train was reintroduced.
  19. Over a summer it is estimated that 350,000 coins are dropped into the slot, helping to raise some £4,000 for charities and good causes supported by the Rotarians.

The Rotary Club is looking for volunteers to help maintain the Tele-Go-Round. Contact Chris French on 01227 367386.

Many thanks to Herne Bay Rotary Club in particular for a history written by members Barrie Smith and Mike Baker from where much of this information (and photos) are taken.

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