Robertson’s was started by James Robertson of Paisley in Scotland. He had been working at the local thread mills, however decided to change trades and became a grocer.
In 1859 he married his wife and they started up a grocer’s shop in Paisley. One day they purchased a barrel of oranges from a salesman they took pity on, and not wanting them going to waste, Mrs Robertson made them into a sweet tasting marmalade.
It was an instant success and before long they added jam and mincemeat to their range. By 1891 they built a new factory in Manchester.
Just before World War I, John Robertson, son of James Robertson, was on a tour of the United States. Whilst there he had noticed some children playing with little black rag dolls with white eyes. Seeing the popularity of the golly (the name being the children’s interpretation of the dolly), he thought it would make a good mascot for the Robertson’s brand of products.
Golly first appeared on Robertson’s literature in 1910 and then in the 1920’s they were approached by H Miller who was a skilled enameller with the idea of making enamelled mascots. The first design was te Golly golfer.
The 1930 saw many new styles including fruit designs and more sporting gollys, however in 1939 the scheme can to an end as the metal was needed for the war effort. then in 1946, it was back on. In the 1970s, the design of all Gollies changed from the old Golly with “pop eyes” to the present day Golly with eyes looking to the left. The words “Golden Shred” were removed from his waistcoat, his legs straightened and smile broadened. At about the same time a range of 11 Footballer and 12 Musician Golly figures were produced in pottery, standing about 2.5″ high.
The golly has now disappeared from Robertson’s products. Here’s an article from 2008 detailing the decision here
Further information can be found here