Tim and the Hidden People

Published Categorised as Art & Design, Book scans, Books, Popular Posts, Retro Stuff 2 Comments on Tim and the Hidden People

Tim and the Hidden People is a series of children’s school read­ing books from the late 70s/​early 80s that a lot of schools had. They have a strange, bleak folk-horror atmo­sphere, and the illus­tra­tions in the first three collec­tions are a little uncanny valley. Tim is always walk­ing along lonely canal paths with strict instruc­tions to not look over his shoulder and tie the silver string around a partic­u­lar tree or else.

They’re not aimed at begin­ner read­ers- more for chil­dren to read them­selves or use in class story time. I was doing some picture research of the illus­tra­tions, and ended up with a digit­al edition of the whole series. I just expec­ted to flick through the stor­ies look­ing for inter­est­ing illus­tra­tions without read­ing them much, because I was sure that they wouldn’t be half as eerie as I remembered them as a child, but they’re actu­ally also quite enga­ging for adults.

They’re writ­ten by Sheila McCul­lagh, who also created the Puddle Lane books that pretty much every school in the UK had in the 80s (along with the tv show storytime version presen­ted by Neil Innes of the Rutles). The first three collec­tions are illus­trated by Pat Cook, who I can’t find out anything about on the inter­net.

Tim is an orphan boy who lives in a fairly depress­ing board­ing house by a canal some­where in the Midlands. He finds a magic key that enables him to see a whole secret world of “Hidden People” around him, who draw him into danger and complic­ated polit­ics.

Tim lives with his aunt, who is always short of money and has to put up with extremely unpleas­ant people living in her house to pay the bills.

Some of the Hidden People are friendly, some of them are extremely hostile, but pretty much all of them bought their entire ward­robe in 1750. Tim helps this guy out with some magic­al smug­gling via canal boat.

To add to the creep­i­ness, Tim lives on a square of run-down old houses, with an empty house that seems haunted.

Tim is constantly being asked to run magic­al errands in creepy wood­lands infes­ted with terri­fy­ing Stump people.


In the third collec­tion, Tim meets these super­nat­ur­al chil­dren whose parents have been kidnapped, and then they all go on the run togeth­er to their grandfather’s house in Scot­land. There’s lots of stow­ing away on lorries and hiding from enemies in caves. The curly-haired boy is gener­ally a pain in the arse.


The last collec­tion of stor­ies is illus­trated by Ray Mutimer- a well-known children’s illus­trat­or. He has a much firmer grasp of things like perspect­ive and human anatomy than Pat Cook, but the illus­tra­tions as a result aren’t quite so eerie.

In the final series, Tim just wants to go camp­ing with his friend (plus magic­al cat who insisted on tagging along), but gets caught up in magic­al bull­shit yet again.


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  1. Thanks for this!

    I remem­ber read­ing some of these as a kid in school but never got to complete the story.

    May I ask if you have a scan of the complete set which you might share?

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