GOLLY gosh. The controversial Golly character that first appeared on jam jars in 1910, courtesy of James Robertsons and Son of Paisley, has finally been dumped by its producers.

Condemned as a racist symbol throughout the 1980s, the inch-high black character with bow-tie and red and yellow suit will be replaced by Roald Dahl characters, including Fantastic Mr Fox and The Twits.

Ginny Knox, brand director for Robertson's, said the decision to remove the Golly was taken after research found that children were not familiar with the character, although it still appealed to the older generations. She denied Golly was being ''retired'' because it was an offensive image.

''We sell 45 million jars of jam and marmalade each year and they have pretty much all got Golly on them,'' said Ms Knox. ''We also sell 250,000 Golly badges to collectors and only get 10 letters a year from people who don't like the Golly.

''Whereas we are concerned about those people and it's not our intention to be offensive with the Golly, we have to look at what our research says and what the sales say.''

Golly will be replaced by the World of Roald Dahl, with seven characters, illustrated by Quentin Blake. The Big Friendly Giant, Matilda, James & the Giant Peach, and Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, all will appear.

The new characters will start appearing on jars of Robertson's jams and Golden Shred marmalade from September 1. But the Golly will continue to feature on the company's mincemeat until Christmas.

The character, originally called the Golliwogg, was seen by John Robertson, son of the company founder, James, on a business trip to America.

He noticed lots of children playing with a little rag doll made from their mothers' discarded black skirts and white blouses, and was intrigued by their popular appeal.

The launch of the Golly Collectors' Scheme in 1928 showed its appeal extended far beyond mere children.

People were invited to send in coupons collected from the jar label in exchange for a badge, showing Golly dressed as a golfer, wearing a waistcoat with the words Golden Shred.

This formed the first in a series of badges featuring Golly playing various sports. In 1932, Robertson's moved away from Golly and sports, issuing a set of six fruit badges which was continued until 1939, when the metal was requisitioned to support the war effort.

The scheme returned in 1946 and, since then, the company has produced a wide range of Golly figures, all now considered valuable collector's items.

Others, however, were less impressed. Left-wing groups protested throughout the 1980s, demanding the company drop the image, which they said was derogatory to all ethnic people.

In 1983, the Greater London Council stopped buying the firm's jam and marmalade, saying the Golly was racist.

Earlier that year, left-wing groups in Liverpool criticised the decision to use the Golly in the city's international garden festival. In 1984, councillors in the London borough of Islington banned a Golly-bearing road safety exhibition poster.

Milestones in a TOY STORY

l The Golly began life as a story book character, and only later appeared as a toy for children.

l Florence Kate Upton, who was born in 1873 in Flushing, New York, created the Golliwogg character. His name was

originally spelt with two gs, but the second was eventually dropped.

l Collectors prefer to refer to him by the shortened version of his name, Golly or Golli, to avoid causing any racist offence.

l The Golliwogg was based on a toy Florence had played with as a child and was probably a black minstrel-type doll that came from an American fair.

l During the early 1900s, many soft toy manufacturers started producing their own versions of Golliwogs. Many home-made versions were also made, as the simple, unjointed, rag doll type Golliwog was easy to copy.

l During the first half of the twentieth century, the Golliwog was a children's favourite, exceeded in popularity only by the Teddy Bear.