Back in 2012, Paul Hart put this transfer sheet up for auction on eBay. It came in an ordinary envelope with a cryptic scribble on it…
Tom: "Paul, I Googled "Fingammus" (& fingamus, which is Latin), but there were zero results."
Paul: "All I know is what was on the packet where the collector catalogued them!"
Tom: "Well, then — it's a mystery. And we're relying on the hearsay evidence of a collector's envelope jottings, which from previous experience means that everything he's written will quite likely turn out to be entirely misleading — if not a shopping list! Still, you can't expect every mystery to be solved at one stroke; where's the fun in that? Perhaps 'Fingammus' is the name of his cat…!"
I tried every way I could think of to make this cryptic comment make sense; I researched "Finger Mouse" (which was far too late), & even thought it might be a spoof of some kind, since "fingamus" is more-or-less Latin for "let's pretend" — which if anything is going to make you paranoid, should do the trick.
I spent considerable time researching Rowntree's products &, since this was what they appeared to be in the photo, milk chocolate finger biscuits; bizarrely, there was nothing to be found. Apparently Rowntree's don't do history.
Eight years later, Martin Townsend was very helpful in sending me photos of various Letraset transfers belonging to his late father, & posted me a link to the book "Wrapper's Delight", which is essentially a selection of many of the best items from the John Townsend collection.
I bought the book (which I can highly recommend), & to my surprise & — yes — delight, it revealed that the mystery transfer was for a Rowntree's biscuit called "Fingammies"! We had simply misread the handwriting.
I never would have guessed the right answer in a million years. If only I'd known back then what to search for…
Except for the fact that even so, searching the Internet armed with this new information, the only links I could find all led back to "Wrapper's Delight"…
Then Martin Townsend came to the rescue again, & kindly sent me his own close-up photos of the packets.
However, one puzzle has been replaced by another: what on Earth did Rowntree's mean by calling their biscuits "Fingammies"? Is it a dialect I'm not familiar with? I don't suppose anyone might happen to know the explanation?
I also found that the jingle for the product launch in 1970 was composed by Howard Blake, & apparently the launch ad is available as part of a show reel online — if you ask for permission to access it.
For more of 'this kind of thing', search for oldtom85 on eBay.
And "Wrapper's Delight" by Jonny Trunk is available from the Guardian bookshop (FUEL Publishing).• Next Page: A&BC Footballer  →
Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives — Martin Townsend & the John Townsend Collection
© Tom Vinelott 2020