Tolliver Groat was one of the last two postmen remaining at the Ankh-Morpork Post Office at the beginning of Going Postal - a long serving Junior Postman. He had remained Junior Postman because none of the the Postmasters survived long enough to promote him. He wore what appeared to be a cheap, almost sentient and ambulatory wig (which escapes from a locked cupboard at the hospital to return to its master) which he explains to Moist von Lipwig is "all mine, you know, not a prunes". The explanation reveals that in Dimwell Rhyming Slang, "syrup of prunes" means wig. (In Cockney Rhyming Slang, the expected derivation would be "syrup of figs."). He is fluent in Dimwell Rhyming Slang, the only rhyming slang known to the Discworld or Roundworld that does not actually rhyme. He severely distrusts doctors, not surprising given the quality of most medical professionals in Ankh-Morpork, so he brews his own medicine and has his own little cures to keep himself in good condition, a take off on homeopathy and naturopathic medicine and their practitioners distrust of the medical establishment. Paradoxically, several years' worth of an application of bread pudding and goose grease to his chest (Tolliver is not a believer in baths) actually did save his life when he was attacked by a wild banshee who mistook him for Moist von Lipwig because he was wearing the Postmaster's Hat at the time. This meant that the long killing claws merely gashed his chest and did not penetrate any deeper. His trousers, permeated as they were with charcoal, nitre and sulphur to keep disease at bay, were the only known subject of a controlled detonation in a medical environment. As he resisted all attempts to give him a bath while in the care of the Lady Sybil Free Hospital, Dr John Lawn was more than happy to discharge him into the care of Moist, for a large "donation" of course.
When Moist von Lipwig was made Postmaster General and reopened the Post Office, Tolliver and his assistant Stanley Howler had been hording the mail for years in the post office, rather than delivering it. Moist made him Senior Postman and he eventually rose to Deputy Postmaster. He worked out the route from Ankh-Morpork to Uberwald, by post office cart.
In Making Money, Groat was elevated from Senior Postmaster to Acting Postmaster, with full Hat-wearing privileges, to cover for Moist von Lipwig while he was busy with the Bank and the Mint -not bad for the oldest Junior Postman in town... and things continued to look up for Mr. Groat, as in Wintersmith we learn that he was "walking out" with a widow who had the same attitude to self-medication that he had. Evidently she had no sense of smell, and certainly the Deputy Postmaster-General was a more desirable catch than a mere Senior Postman/
The name, the character description, and the Post office building, are straight out of Mervyn Peake but whether Pratchett had Gormenghast in mind when he created Tolliver is unknown. Tolliver Groat's personal take on the grotesque and his dogged adherence to rule and ritual, having practically memorised the Post Office rulebook long after the system has effectively collapsed and his insistence that the rules still be followed because they are the Rules, is reminiscent of Ghormenghast's Master of Ceremonies, the ageing, repellent, and soap-innocent Barquentine. Moist von Lipwig has arrived in the Post Office system in time to be a less malevolent Steerpike - ie, the character who shakes the system up and reinvigorates it.
The name Tolliver has a decidedly Dickensian ring to it and a 'groat' is a coin from the Middle Ages on Roundworld. Although it was worth four pence (the name coming from the German 'Gross' because of its extra thickness) and was only officially discontinued in Britain in 1860, it is now used in 21st century writing/filming as a generic medieval coin of little value.
In the TV adaptation of Going Postal, Groat is portrayed by Andrew Sachs.
Groat's various positions and titles are:
- Junior Postman (due to no one being able to promote him)
- Senior Postman (when Moist von Lipwig was made Postmaster)
- Deputy Postmaster
- Postmaster (when Moist von Lipwig was made Manager of the Mint)