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Last Updated: Monday, 10 May, 2004, 00:57 GMT 01:57 UK
Farewell to Blue Peter's George
George
George worked with 20 Blue Peter presenters
He was not the quickest member of the cast but George was one of Blue Peter's most beloved.

The tortoise, a regular on the children's show since 1982, died last week at the grand old age of 83.

George made his last Blue Peter appearance in April, alongside Shelley the female tortoise, 22 years on from his small screen debut.

He is to be buried on Monday by the show's cast and a shrub and plaque will mark his final resting place.

"It is a real shock when a favourite pet dies but it is something all pet owners have to face," said presenter Matt Baker. "We hope that by having a share in our Blue Peter pets, children can be helped to deal with that sad fact."

Greatly loved

The Mediterranean spur-thigh tortoise was a consistent favourite with BBC One viewers.

He received plenty of fan mail, and the show will honour his memory by continuing to send children his photo card.

But George's television career did have some challenges. In 1986, host Mark Curry began his first day on the show by striding into the Blue Peter studio and stepping on the pet, sending him spinning across the floor.

Then, in 1988, burglars broke into the home of George's owners and left his cage door open. George dashed out of the garden, and crawled three miles away.

Without a doubt he has helped to get generations of children interested in tortoises
Sandra Kay
Chair, British Tortoise Society

The show had prepared a memorial episode to explain to viewers what had happened to George, but that broadcast was circumvented when a woman out walking her dog found the tortoise in some undergrowth.

Then, guest Kris Akabusi later had an unwelcome introduction to George, who urinated on the former 400m hurdler during a broadcast.

Viewers' choice

Tortoise lovers say George's appearances on the show taught millions of children how to properly care for their pets.

Sandra Kay, chairwoman of the British Tortoise Society, said: "It's a terrible shame that George has died but without a doubt he has helped to get generations of children interested in tortoises.

The Blue Peter cast
George was the fourth tortoise to join the Blue Peter cast
"We do road shows across the country and every time we arrive with our tortoises, at least one child will always mention George. They all loved him and he definitely became a celebrity."

The annual episode that showed him preparing for his hibernation was eagerly anticipated.

His original name was Pork Pie, but viewers renamed him George after he was offered to the show by the then Blue Peter pet keeper Edith Menezes following changes to legislation governing the sale of tortoises.




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