Dear Prince Charles and Prime Minister, please help the reds

Pupils at the Dukes Middle School in Alnwick with their letter from Downing Street
Pupils at the Dukes Middle School in Alnwick with their letter from Downing Street

Schoolchildren have joined an author’s campaign to save red squirrels by calling on the Prime Minister and Prince Charles to take urgent action.

And their efforts have been rewarded after the youngsters received replies from 10 Downing Street and individual, personalised letters from Buckingham Palace.

Ernie Gordon with a copy of his latest book.

Ernie Gordon with a copy of his latest book.

Nearly 30 nine and 10-year-olds from the Duke’s Middle School, in Alnwick, fired off correspondence to David Cameron and the Prince to urge them to protect the ever-diminishing population of indigenous reds from deadly disease-carrying invasive greys.

The children were inspired to write the letters after reading about red squirrel Rusty Redcoat, the storybook creation of 81-year-old Ernie Gordon, from Alnwick.

Among the letters, Molly Bishop urged the Prince, who is the patron of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, to persuade the Government ‘to do something’ about the problem, while Chloe Hamlet warned the Prime Minister that ‘if we don’t do anything, within 10 years all the red squirrels will be gone’.

Charlotte-Ann Kelly called on the Prince to put a team together to build sanctuaries for red and grey squirrels and to ‘put aside money for researching a cure’ for squirrel pox, while Yigit Sabanci suggested that more pine forests should be planted for the reds.

Last week, the children received a reply from 10 Downing Street informing them that Mr Cameron has asked for their letters to be passed to Defra so that they may be responded to directly.

Then the pupils received a delivery from Buckingham Palace with individual responses from Prince Charles’ secretary. Each letter was personally addressed to the pupils and commented directly upon the ideas in their correspondence to him. They were also each given a booklet on The Prince of Wales.

Deputy headteacher Anne Puddephatt said: “The pupils were inspired by Ernie’s tales. After attending his recent book launch and seeing his films of red squirrels, they researched the plight of the species in greater detail to find out what could be done.”


Ernie Gordon’s Rusty Redcoat series tells the tale of Rusty’s fight for survival. The books carry a strong message about the threat of greys to the red squirrel community. Volume Two was launched in Alnwick in November, seven years after the publication of Volume One.


Ernie has produced DVDs showing his interaction with red squirrels. A sample was sent to Sir David Attenborough who wished Ernie luck in his campaign. Ernie won a competition for a film showing him playing harmonica to a red squirrel.


“There has been an appalling lack of serious action in recent decades to halt the spread of non-indigenous diseased grey squirrels in England.” He hopes the pupils’ letters will help.