Tufty

Tufty Fluffytail is RoSPA’s iconic red squirrel who was instrumental in helping millions of children to learn about road safety from the 1950s-1990s.

Created in 1953 by Elsie Mills MBE, who worked on child safety initiatives at RoSPA, Tufty helped to communicate simple safety messages to children across the UK.

In 1961, his influence was cemented through the formation of the Tufty Club – a nationwide network of local road safety groups for children. At its peak, there were 24,500 registered Tufty Clubs, with membership passing two million children in 1972.

Although focusing on road safety education, Tufty and his Furryfolk friends, including Policeman Badger, Willy Weasel, Minnie Mole and Mrs Owl, also made forays into other areas of child safety, including home and water safety.

Story books, TV fillers (some voiced by Bernard Cribbins), comics, board games, handkerchiefs, jigsaw puzzles, stickers, colouring books, Christmas cards, soft toys, ceramic figures, puppets, toothbrushes, mealtime sets, knitting patterns, nightwear fabric and song sheets were among the items that helped to maintain Tufty’s profile.

Tufty’s image was changed to keep up with the times in 1979 and again in 1993, before new methods of helping children to learn about road safety came to the fore. In 2007, Tufty once again rose to national prominence when he made a guest appearance in the cult BBC series Life on Mars.

Reproductions of vintage Tufty posters are available at https://www.rospaprints.com and Tufty artwork also features in Safety First, a beautiful coffee-table book by Paul Rennie. More information is available on our vintage safety posters webpage.

The history of the Tufty Club

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    1953

    Tufty Fluffytail created.

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    1961

    The Tufty Club for under-fives was launched. More than 30,000 books about road safety were issued to parents.

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    1962

    More than 60,000 children joined the Tufty Club, which was expanded to include older children.

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    1965

    The Tufty Club was featured in a scene in Cyril Fletcher's Christmas pantomime.

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    1966

    There were now more than 2,000 Tufty Clubs.

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    1972

    Tufty Club membership passed two million.

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    1973

    The Transport and Road Research Laboratory reported favourably on the value of the Tufty Club, which now had 10,000 affiliated clubs.

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    1979

    HRH Princess Michael of Kent became the president of the Tufty Club, and Tufty’s image was updated.

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    1982

    The Tufty Club celebrated its 21st birthday with a national roadshow.

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    1984

    Comedian Ted Rogers invited Tufty to appear in pantomime in Bournemouth to pass on road safety tips to his young audience.

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    1993

    Tufty was re-styled and modernised to bring him into the 1990s.

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    1994

    Tufty went on a nationwide tour.

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    2007

    Tufty featured in the BBC’s Life on Mars, when DCI Gene Hunt (played by Philip Glenister) donned a Tufty costume to escape detection when being sought for murder.

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What is Tufty doing now?

While other methods of helping children to learn about road safety have now come to the fore, like many in his generation Tufty has not retired! In 2018, his image was incorporated on to RoSPA’s Keeping Kids Safe packs which are providing accident prevention tips and tools to help thousands of families with under-fives, and he was also the subject of some safety activities for children at an exhibition to mark RoSPA’s centenary in 2017.

RoSPA continues to champion pedestrian training for primary school children, believing that it is an important first step of a lifelong approach to road safety and because it can encourage active lifestyles which are good for health and wellbeing. In the national accident prevention strategy for England, which was launched in 2018, the importance of small-group training conducted in real-world environments and covering modern scenarios, like the potential for distraction by mobile devices, is highlighted. Among the strategy’s key recommendations is that children at Key Stages 1 and 2 should have opportunities to undertake pedestrian training, with a particular focus on promoting safe and active travel.

The “Tufty generation”

That Tufty reached the age of 65 in 2018 is poignant because over-65s are among the groups most at risk of being seriously injured in accidents, especially from falls in the home, and they are a key priority group in the national accident prevention strategy for England.

Among the strategy’s recommendations for the over-65s age group are: continued action on falls prevention; the development of local partnerships that address multiple safety, health and wellbeing issues such as fire safety, falls prevention and social isolation; and the promotion of self-assessment tools to enable older drivers to think about how they can drive safer for longer. Recognising the opportunities and challenges of an ageing workforce, RoSPA is also working with employers to promote sustainable working lives and some firms are beginning to develop carry-over programmes that take safety learning from the workplace into other parts of life, especially on falls prevention.

You can find out more about RoSPA’s work on older people’s safety at:

Tufty memories

Tufty loves to receive messages from people who remember him. You can write to him at tufty@rospa.com.


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