‘Thmile, thmile, thmile!’ Sheffield’s Gloops Club

By Sue Roe

The GLOOPS CLUB was mentioned by several of our interviewees – Florence Cowood, Mary S and Doreen Gill – and they had fond memories of it.

Gloops was a cartoon character created by an employee of the Sheffield Star in 1928. The Gloops Club was launched in 1929, when the Sheffield Star started a children’s section to the Saturday supplement and continued until war broke out in 1939. The Club was run by children’s columnist ‘Aunty Edith’, and allowed members aged up to 14. Lists of members with their names and addresses were published regularly in the newspaper with an update on numbers.

There was also a membership card outlining the rules of the Gloops Club. Every junior Glooper was given a number and a badge (see above. Doreen Gill remembered ‘a little teddy, fat teddy’, while Mary S thought of a ‘cartoon cat’). In return they had to perform at least one act of kindness every day. We can see from the rules the values the club was promoting: friendship, equality, compassion. Members also had to donate money from their savings or pocket money to help children less fortunate than themselves. Gloops members could earn medals for: heroism, scholastic and athletic success, school records, acts of kindness and self-sacrifice. For example a Silver Disc was awarded to children who attended school or Sunday School for three years with no absence, and a Silver Star for life-saving acts or acts of bravery

The Gloops Club was hugely successful. By 1939, it had 365,000* children as members and by 1957 it had raised more than £25,000 for charity. In 1928, a Gloops Holiday Home was opened in Skegness, which could accommodate 60 sick children each week, and there is evidence of another home opening in 1931 in Mablethorpe. In addition, the Club funded 12 hospital beds in the Sheffield area. Members sent chocolates, toys and comics to children in hospital.

There were other Gloops clubs in other newspapers, including the Evening Chronicle on Tyneside (the mother of website editor Val Hewson was a member in 1930s Newcastle). The Gloops character was revived after the Second World War and continued into the 1950s and possibly even the 1960s. In 1972, in another revival, and in a new costume created by the Crucible Theatre, Gloops switched on the Sheffield’s Christmas lights. In 1984, Gloops Superstar did everything from skydiving to escaping from a mock fire. Gloops then toured Sheffield in a vintage Star van to entertain children at summer parties and fetes.

In the 1980s, The Star asked readers to share their memories. Patricia Ellis said:

Gloops has very special memories for me. As a little girl I spent many happy hours touring round with the Gloops concert party. The climax of the concerts was the Gloopers’ Motto, which I still sing today if I’m feeling downhearted:

Smile, Smile, that’s the Gloopers’ motto

Always happy, always gay

Always smiling all the day

Never be downhearted

It isn’t worth your while

So be like Gloops and smile, smile, smile.

The Star reported that ‘smile’ was pronounced ‘thmile’, until Sheffield Council suggested changing it because children were copying the incorrect pronunciation.

 

* This figure must be a national one. The total population of Sheffield at this time was between 560,000 and 570,000. At any rate, 365,000 children is an enormous number.

4 thoughts on “‘Thmile, thmile, thmile!’ Sheffield’s Gloops Club

  1. I am writing my biography and wanted to include an illustration of a Gloops cartoon strip. I know we went to the Gloops’ Galas but have not been able to find any references to them in my research so far.

    Can anyone help?

    • Hi. Have you looked at the images on Sheffield Libraries’ and Archives’ Picture Sheffield? There may be something suitable there. Or if you can get access to it, you might try the Sheffield newspapers on the online British Newspaper Archives.

  2. I have an old cutting from the Star about my mum Jean Gordon who was a Glooper. She was the first Glooper to pass the juvenile Tap Examination of the British Ballet Organisation.She was the first sheffield child to gain this Distinction.
    The cutting is faded and I wondered if it was possible to obtain a copy from the archives.

    • Hi Andrew. Nice to hear from you. The Local History Library (on the 1st floor of the Central Library) has local newspapers on microfiche. You can search for and print articles but TBH the quality is not great. A better option might be to search on the British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk). You can save articles as pdfs and pront them if you like. You’d have to pay a small fee to get access. Hope this helps.

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