What was your favourite childhood toy? We ask Cork people to share theirs...

Ahead of tonight's Late Late Toy Show, we asked people what their favourite childhood toy was
What was your favourite childhood toy? We ask Cork people to share theirs...

Marcela Whelan Kelly's teddy, called Tessie Bear.

In this week's Women on Wednesday we asked Cork women to tell us about their memories of some of their much cherished toys, ahead of tonight's Late Late Toy Show.

Marcela Whelan Kelly, Cork City Council Events Co-ordinator

(Tessie the Teddy)

I remember the feeling of joy and love when I first hugged Tessie Bear, on Christmas morning, 1973. She was bright gold and fluffy then, and I could feel the real straw she is stuffed with.

My sister and I used to marry our teddies on the landing at the top of the stairs. Growly was the groom. He was a panda, and had a box inside him so he growled when you tipped him over, hence the name.

We made Tessie a tutu and veil of white netting. I can’t remember what happened that the back of her leg ripped, maybe it was when she was clamped onto the back of my bike under the spring-loaded carrier, but I remember my brother Eoin stitching it with nylon thread - probably fishing line - and the care of a surgeon. The bad, red stitching in front is more recent, and mine, I’m afraid.

My kids growing up knew Tessie was very, very special, although they were allowed the occasional, careful cuddle. Especially if bedtime wasn’t bringing sleep, Tessie was a good companion / guard bear.

Then, there was an idea that did the rounds early in lockdown, where people would put teddies in their front windows, so kids out walking within their 2km limit could ‘Go on a Bear Hunt’ – Tessie took her place for this generation too, and my now-grown daughter told me she saw Tessie on Facebook, where a mum was telling how she and her child had seen this ancient old bear on their walk, and their child commented that she was obviously very much loved in her long, long life, because all her fur was rubbed off. And she was right.

GLOW opens this weekend and will see Bishop Lucey Park transformed into a festive wonderland based on the song The 12 Days of Christmas. Pre-booking is essential. See www.glowcork.ie

Catherine Mahon Buckley's doll Belinda.
Catherine Mahon Buckley's doll Belinda.

Catherine Mahon Buckley

(Belinda the doll)

Christmas morning, 5am. Bing! My eyes open wide. Out of the bed and down the stairs. Bursting into the room, I look around. My stocking is hanging on the mantelpiece. A few games, books under the tree. How miserable is that? Then I racked my brain wondering “Was I really bold during the year?”

I could feel the tears flowing down my face. Suddenly, behind the tree a gigantic box wrapped in pink Christmas paper. OMG, my name was on the bow. Yippee. I nearly knocked the tree flying to get the box out and onto the middle of the room.

I still feel the energy when I think about that moment, my heart pounding, while I ripped open the paper. Inside the box was a real life like doll. Blonde hair, blue eyes, plump hands and legs and the most beautiful pink baby dress with matching socks. Belinda is her name and she is the most beautiful doll I ever owned. In fact, she was so real life that I couldn’t believe she was mine.

At the end of the box, she had a wardrobe of clothes, an outfit for each day of the week. Including a replica of an outfit that I was going to wear that Christmas morning. I found out afterwards that my mum designed and made the outfits.

Later in the morning, we had to visit my great-granny in hospital. Of course, I brought Belinda with me, dressed in her best. As we entered the hospital a nurse came rushing over to us and said “no babies allowed”. She thought Belinda was a human baby. I also insisted that she had her own chair at the dinner table that evening.

Why was Belinda the best present? She became my friend and mentor and many a secret I shared with her. My favourite stories I read to her and I was convinced she loved them. I loved playing games with her, snakes and ladders and ludo, because she always allowed me win.

Belinda, my favourite toy, walked many a journey with me. Guess what, after all those years she still holds a special place in one of my bedrooms. Still dressed in her best beige outfit. It might be weird and strange to other people but when I look at her, the superb memories of my wonderful Christmas come back to me. Belinda, my toy, holds a place in my heart and my memories.

  • Catherine is the director & producer of Cork’s Annual Traditional Pantomine at The Everyman. This year’s Panto, which opens on December 8, is Aladdin, which is sure to enchant children and their grown-ups! Booking on www.everymancork.com

Niamh Hennessy and daughter Aoibhe Jacob with their Care Bears.
Niamh Hennessy and daughter Aoibhe Jacob with their Care Bears.

Niamh Hennessy, Healy Communications (Care Bears)

My absolute favourite toy growing up was Care Bears. I had two Care Bears, Cheer Bear and Lotsa Heart, and my sister had one bear - Sunshine Bear. I still have them today and was able to pass them onto my daughter, who is seven and looks after them now. She also has her own Care Bear she got a few years ago.

I remember one Christmas my sister asked for a second Care Bear from Santa but it seemed the elves must have been unable to fulfil the request and she got a Roger Rabbit teddy instead. She was not impressed at all.

My most memorable toy, however, was a doll’s cot I got from Santa with my name on it. It was pink and white and I just couldn’t believe Santa had brought me a cot for my dolls with my own name on it. It was the first time I had ever seen anything like that. It was so beautiful and I adored it.

Other toys I remember getting were a doll I called Roisin who was able to walk, a Gameboy, and one year I even got a printer for our home computer. I’m still questioning that one however!

Karen O'Reilly, Employflex
Karen O'Reilly, Employflex

Karen O’Reilly, Founder of Employflex

(Roller Disco Boots)

After years of having strap skates that barely moved on the footpaths in our estate, one year, my sister and I finally got Roller Disco Boots from Santa. The excitement was off the Richter Scale as we sped around the neighbourhood thinking we were the coolest things ever.

Recognise these?
Recognise these?

My blue and yellow boots matched my sister’s yellow and blue ones as we perfected our routines, twirling and swirling in the cul de sac on our road. 

The smoothest footpaths, steepest hills and empty car parks were sought out as a gang of us would fearlessly fly around the place at all hours of the day and night.

We finally graduated onto Triumph 20 bikes and with our walkie talkies, we WERE Jon and Ponch from CHiPs as we patrolled the ’hood with our synchronised cycling, solving ‘crimes’ and doing very important business ( usually going to the shop for bread and milk!). Innocent times!

Catherine Sheridan, Chief Operating Officer at EI-H2
Catherine Sheridan, Chief Operating Officer at EI-H2

Catherine Sheridan, Chief Operating Officer at EI-H2 - Little People

When growing up in the 1980s, there was one toy we Sheridans returned to over and over - the Fisher Price Little People. So simple in concept – they were about the size of a cocktail sausage, no arms or legs but so much personality.

Now, as it turns out they were also a choking hazard, but hey, this was a time when our mother told us “if you fall out of a tree and break your leg, don’t come running to me” so safety wasn’t the be all and end all.

Oh, those Little People. I played with them in the bath, the garden, the hotpress, under my bed, the boiler house. Again, safety wasn’t my driver here, it was peace and solitude from my five brothers and sister so I could be lost in the storytelling world of imagination, where I was the omniscient god who controlled the destiny of these beings.

When I moved onto Lego, an obsession that continues to this day (what do you mean, 44-year -olds can’t play with lego?), my Little People, their bus and plane were given to my cousins who had emigrated to Hong Kong for the 1990s.

From there these little people made it to Perth where they lived out the naughties. To my absolute delight, they were returned to Ireland to spend five years with my children, maybe their features were a little worn but overall they were as delightful as ever. It was with a mixture of delight and pain that I sent them to London to continue their world tour with Eddi, the daughter of my cousin. I am a little ashamed to say that I kept back a dog and a motorbike for myself. However, when I place them on my mantelpiece with pride each Christmas, I’d be lying if the dog didn’t do a quick wheelie.

For we don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.

Roisin Flynn Business Development Manager for The Imperial Hotel
Roisin Flynn Business Development Manager for The Imperial Hotel

Roisin Flynn, Business Development Manager, The Imperial Hotel

(Barbie)

I grew up in a house full of boys, so even as much as I absolutely idolised Barbie for her high-end fashion and glam lifestyle, I also was thrilled when my brothers got a WWF wrestling ring and wrestling figures in their Santa gifts in the early 1990s!

One of my very favourite Barbies was a really cool rollerblader whose rollerblades sparked as she moved. I was totally and completely obsessed! She had a white outfit, a really colourful headband and a silver backpack. I thought she was the epitome of cool.

Barbie doll.
Barbie doll.

I actually think she was recalled due to the rollerblade sparks being a fire hazard - LOL, ’90s kids eh?! The same year I got the bright pink Barbie car, a Jaguar XJS whose only interesting feature was that the boot opened. I used to hide my pocket money in there!

The WWF (now WWE) ring and figures were on another level, however. Jake the Snake, the Million Dollar Man, The Undertaker, Bret the Hitman Heart, and my absolute favourite, even though he scared the living daylights out of me, was Papa Shango - The Vodoo King!

My brothers thought it was hilarious to tell me stories about the spells he could put on people. Absolutely terrifying, but it didn’t stop me watching wrestling every Saturday morning with them, making forts with the living room cushions and trying to escape wrestling-related injuries as I was always the guinea pig!

Maria Dickensen, of Dubray on Patrick Street.
Maria Dickensen, of Dubray on Patrick Street.

Maria Dickenson, General Manager of Dubray, on Patrick Street

(First Books)

I was very lucky as a child to be encouraged in my reading – every few weeks dad would come home from work and leave a brown paper bag on the dinner table with a new book enclosed.

Choosing a favourite is a very hard task. 

Picture books from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak to Richard Scarry’s Busy Busy World bring back strong memories of early adventures with books, but if I had to pick just one it would have to be Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. 

Anne is a wonderfully relatable character for a child starting to find her way in the world. She is a bit of an outsider, prone to mistakes and ‘scrapes’, but always striving and always hopeful. She has a loyal, loving heart, a huge imagination, a strong sense of curiosity and an inspirational love of nature.

The cast of characters surrounding her - from glamourous best friend Diana, to budding love interest Gilbert, stern adoptive mother Marilla and gentle father Matthew - bring the Green Gables world to life beautifully. It encompasses friendship, grief and a huge appetite for life, and I read it and the rest of the series again and again (and still do from time to time!).

Linda Kenny.
Linda Kenny.

Singer Linda Kenny 

(Sindy Doll)

For years, no toy could even come close to the joy of playing with my Sindy doll. She was elegant, dignified, beautifully dressed and even had a boyfriend.

Now, I’m not sure my brothers would ever have approved had they realised that their Action Man played such a role in my play time but, when he’d rock up in his army jeep, in full battle gear, to pick her up for a drive to the other side of the sitting room and back again, it felt so sophisticated and grown up.

Our golden cocker dog, Lady, was always chewing things and one of the most upsetting days was finding her gnawing her way through Sindy’s multicoloured selection of foot wear. Sindy and I shared a mutual love of shoes and Lady showed a blatant disregard for that.

Sindy Doll.
Sindy Doll.

One Christmas, Santa brought me Sindy’s bed. My Dad had made a little puppet theatre, out of teak, months earlier for my brothers and I to play with. Complete with curtains. And I surreptitiously appropriated it for Sindy, instantly transforming her simple bed into a majestic four-poster palatial dwelling.

When Granny went to London to visit her sister Maureen, she brought a Barbie doll back for me. I could never warm to her. She seemed so tacky in comparison to Sindy.

Barbie was Skinny, über glam, more rock-star/model than Sindy’s girl- next-door image, and seemed so unrelatable as a consequence.

I think there was a bit of Sindy doll in us all.

Linda Kenny stars in A Rat Pack Christmas at the Everyman on Sunday, December 12th. Prepare yourself for the stories, the laughs, and most of all, for the songs. Complete with a giant screen with song lyrics, it’s a sing along evening brought to you by Linda and her willing accomplices, Alf McCarthy, Damian Smith, Alan Carney, and the Songbook Band. Booking on 021 4501673 or www.everymancork.com

Sarah Collins, Marketing Manager from Ballymaloe Foods
Sarah Collins, Marketing Manager from Ballymaloe Foods

Sarah Collins, Marketing Manager with Ballymaloe Foods

(Barbie) 

It can be hard to think back to your childhood and pick just one favourite toy but the standout for me was my Barbie collection. I remember one year I got a bright pink convertible and mobile home and I imagine I was the happiest child in Cork on that Christmas Day. I got hours and hours of entertainment and I am in no doubt that we had lots of great trips and adventures heading off in the convertible. Growing up in Ireland in the 90s with no YouTube kids or iPhone you really had to harness the power of your imagination a lot more.

A woman photographs a wall of Barbie dolls in the Mattel display in New York.
A woman photographs a wall of Barbie dolls in the Mattel display in New York.

My mum had the foresight to keep my collection and fast forward 25 years later my nieces were discovering the same collection and putting them all to good use. 

When we opened that suitcase for the first time after so many years it really was a trip down memory lane. I did think that perhaps the outfits might have looked a bit bizarre after so many years, but I guess you could class my barbies as vintage at this stage.

Group Brand and Communications Manager, Trigon Hotels, Sandra Murphy.
Group Brand and Communications Manager, Trigon Hotels, Sandra Murphy.

Sandra Murphy, Group Brand & Communications Manager, Trigon Hotels 

(My Fisher Price School House)

In 1983, Santa brought me a Fisher Price School House for Christmas. Santa was always really kind at Christmas, but god love him the previous year, he delivered a beautiful vintage pram for my dolls but one of the wheels fell off in transit and so I had a 3-wheeled pram until a few days after Christmas when a 4th wheel was sourced from the toy shop. 

Every year at Christmas, my parents laughed back to that 1982 Christmas and the 3-wheeled pram. Luckily for them, I was too young to notice and spent the day playing with the box the pram came in, rather than the pram itself.

But, the Fisher Price Schoolhouse was such a treat. It has a magnetic roof where you could stick on letters from the alphabet and also numbers. It has desks for the children and a teachers desk at the top – and it also had a slide and merry-go-round for the yard during the lunchtime. There was a bell on the roof of the school to signify break times. I actually still have that school house. All 4 of my nephews have had endless fun as small children with that very same toy.

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