Writer and creator of Postman Pat

Born: June 16, 1933;

Died: September 20, 2018

JOHN Cunliffe, who has died aged 85, was a writer who created the children's TV classics Postman Pat, the jovial cat-lover who delivers mail in a country village, and Rosie And Jim, two ragdolls who come to life and live on a narrow boat.

Postman Pat, which was set in a rural landscape inspired by the author's childhood in the Lake District, first appeared on TV in 1981. The BBC series has aired in more than 55 countries.

Cunliffe was a familiar face on children's TV himself, appearing as the "fizzgog" driver of the narrowboat barge in Rosie And Jim.

The rag doll characters were introduced to children in 1990, with Cunliffe cast as the first owner of the boat.

He penned around 190 books for children, including picture books and volumes of poetry.

John Arthur Cunliffe was born at Colne in Lancashire and was educated at the local school. After leaving school, he worked as a librarian and primary teacher but started writing for children while still working in schools. His first books were about a farmer but in the late 1970s he was asked to come up with an idea for a children's series based in the countryside.

His idea was Postman Pat, a character and situation much inspired by his experiences in the village in the Lake District - indeed, some of the characters were directly inspired by people he knew.

In later life he moved to Ilkley, West Yorkshire, where he was a well-known figure at the town's literary festival.

A spokesman for Royal Mail said: "Royal Mail was saddened to hear of the death of John Cunliffe. He created a character loved by young and old alike, while highlighting the unique role that postmen and women, in their red vans, play in communities across the country."

Director of BBC Children's Alice Webb said: "We are saddened to hear the news of John's death. Postman Pat has been a hugely popular character on the BBC for nearly 40 years and was an absolute favourite from my own childhood. Postman Pat's enduring popularity speaks to the genuine charm and warmth that John imbued in the characters that populate Greendale.

"It's a world you'd like to be part of - a community that cares, is full of heart and full of fun - and that is a lovely thing to show audiences, both young and old.

"John created a real and relatable world that will continue to entertain our audience for a long time to come and I count myself lucky to be one of millions of children whose childhoods were enriched by John's creations."

A death notice printed in the Ilkley Gazette in Yorkshire said he had "left his Ilkley home in a deluge of rain on Thursday, September 20, never to return.

"Even the skies wept for John the gifted creator of Postman Pat, Rosie And Jim and author of many earlier published collections of poetry and picture story books for children.

"John's last poetry collection, significantly entitled Dare You Go, has now come to fruition for John has dared to go and he has gone."

The Gazette reported a private funeral had taken place six days after his death. It is believed he was living in the West Yorkshire town at the time of his

He is survived by his wife, Sylvia, and by a son.