THE life and work of the creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, a cultural phenomenon which has enchanted many millions of children for the past 65 years, will be celebrated at this month’s Wisbech Society lecture.

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Reverend Wilbert Awdry, the clergyman, railway enthusiast and author of ‘Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends’, wrote his first book, The Three Railway Engines, in 1945 and his Railway Series has sold 200 million copies to this day.

He was made an OBE in the New Year’s Honours List 1996 and passed away the following year aged 85.

The talk will also reflect on the history of The Old Vicarage in Emneth, where he spent much of his life,

Reverend Awdry was the vicar of the village and wrote 13 books of the popular series between 1953 and 1965 before moving to Gloucestershire.

It all began in 1943 when Awdry settled down at the bedside of his two-year-old son Christopher - then ill with measles - to tell him a story, and drew from his imagination the tales of Edward, Henry and Gordon.

The stories were written down, simply because the young Christopher demanded to hear them again and again and Wilbert’s wife Margaret, sensing they could have a wider appeal, sent the scribbled words to a literary agent.

The lecture takes place on January 14 at 7.30pm at the Dwight Centre, Wisbech Grammar School, and will be given by Mark and Flo Thatcher, the current owners of the Old Vicarage.

Access is via the gated roadway on North Brink, near the Rose Tavern.

Tickets are £2 for visitors, while Wisbech Society members get in for free.

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