The story of Suzy, a doll belonging to Clare Wilkinson

The story of Suzy, a doll belonging to Clare Wilkinson

Clare says “When I was 2 years old my parents split up and my Mum decided to move back to Ireland to be with her mother, my Nan. My Mum got a job at an insurance company and became very friendly with a lady called Betty, who was in her fifties at the time. She had no family and used to come to ours for tea. She became like a second grandmother to me and was always bringing me presents.

One day when she came for tea shesaid she had a special present for me: Suzy.  She told me that Suzy was already an old doll, who had been given to Betty when she was a little girl. I was a thrilled, mainly because she was black: I had never had a black doll before and I don’t think they were very common at the time. She became my forever friend.

I am 61 years old now so Suzy must be well over a hundred. She has had many outfits over the years. She has been everywhere with me … she came to university, and she has shared every house I have ever lived in. However, in my last house she was left in the loft for protection, because her arms, legs and head were all broken.

Five years ago, I moved to an old farmhouse just outside of Newcastle and she became part of my life again, living in my bedroom. However, she looked awful, as she is  so badly damaged, and my grand children didn’t like her. They thought she was scary, because her eyes rolled into the back of her head and her head rolled round.

With Covid we decided to do out the stables that were attached to the house. We have made into another room where I do my Yoga and my husband does a gym session. It’s very cozy and Suzy lives in the rafters where she looks down on us. I had to put her somewhere safe!

                                                                      I decided then that she needed to be fixed!!

So here she is at Leith Toy Hospital waiting to be mended. She is now in the capable hands of Kate who tells me she had a voice box that I didn’t know about, which also controls her legs and arms. It has obviously not worked for years, so that needs to be fixed! There can be no price on Suzy: she is my pride and joy, and over the years she has given me great pleasure.

I have a new dress waiting at home for her and a new band for her head.

I would like to think that when I pass my grand children will take her and look after her.

Thank you Kate at Leith Toy Hospital for taking on this project.”

The story of Polie, a polar bear belonging to Tobias Miller

Tobias says: “Polie was given to me by my grandma on the day I was born in 1993. My earliest memory of him is that he lost his eye under the foundations of my family home’s extension when I was very young. He has been a one-eyed bear even since, and I wouldn’t change that.

His primary communication method was to whisper in my ear, as only I could understand him. He went with me on the first day of school, where I accidentally dropped him in the mud, and I cried (establishing my macho reputation among all the other kids).

Sylvester the stuffed cat (of Looney Toons fame) was my brother’s counterpart to Polie, and he was Polie’s nemesis. Sylvester was responsible for all the damage ever done to Polie – but retaliation also came poor Sylvester’s way (even once having his head put down the loo). Luckily a truce emerged in our teenage years, though Polie still bears some scars. Once Polie was even decapitated in the seemingly endless war my brother and I had against each other’s stuffed toys. Historically he’s had about every repair you could think of! Grandma carried out repairs for the first twenty years, and I took over almost ten years ago. Sadly, my skills are poor and so Polie had several holes which were beyond my skill to fix. After a lifetime of repairs, he had also lost a considerable amount of stuffing. Now he has had patches and seam repairs at the toy hospital. My Grandma, now into her 90’s (though if you ask, she will tell you she’s 35) is almost as happy as I am with Polie being repaired. She wishes she could have done it herself, but age has snuck up on her.

 

Polie has been with me through the good times and the bad times, happy and sad – a constant of my life, even with me the morning of my wedding in 2019. Up until recently, I tended to take him on nearly every trip I made – from more local countries such as France, Spain, Portugal to places as far out as Japan, so he is quite possibly one of the more extensively-travelled polar bears out there.

He even once made a trip without me! When I was still young, about 8 years old, we had driven down to the south of France for a family holiday. On the final day, my parents were checking out of the hotel while my brother and I were fighting as usual at a table nearby. My parents quickly ushered us out and into the car – unbeknownst to me, Polie was still sat at the table, probably waiting for someone to bring him breakfast. I didn’t realise until we were almost back in England that he was gone. My parents did call the hotel, but the staff had changed over and they didn’t know anything of it.

I cried for two weeks, utterly heartbroken. One morning however, a package for me showed up in the post. It wasn’t Christmas or my Birthday, and I was too young to have discovered the evils of online shopping, so I had no idea what (or who) it would be. It turned out that a lady from Manchester had seen us leaving, before noticing that Polie had been unintentionally left behind. She scooped him up and went to the reception desk to ask for our surname and address (obviously GDPR would never allow this now!) With our name and address in hand, she took Polie all the way back to Manchester with her, before kindly proceeding to carry out some repairs of her own (my poor bear did go through the wars early on). Repairs complete, she boxed him up and sent him off, together with a lovely letter to me apologizing for the fact she couldn’t find the correct eye to give him!

I was overjoyed; and to this day I often think on the kindness shown by this complete stranger to me. I will be forever grateful to her for reuniting us.

 

Polie will now be having a few quiet months to recover, nestled on my bed. However, when the world reopens after Covid, I’m sure his adventurous side will take hold and we’ll be exploring again!

The story of Rupert, a bear who lives with Robert Watson.

Rupert when he arrived at the hospital

Robert said “Rupert arrived uninvited to my house – a first floor tenement flat in Bread Street, Edinburgh – at Christmas in 1949, when I was two months old. I don’t know where he came from: he arrived unexpectedly and never left. He rang the bell and when my dad opened the door, he looked left and right but could see no one. When Dad looked down, Rupert was standing there looking up at him and the little bear asked “Does Bobby Watson live here?”. When he was told “yes”, he walked between my dad’s legs into the flat, and climbed into my cot beside me. And that was the last time he ever spoke.

Rupert likes to stay at home. He left Edinburgh with me in 1957 and only returned recently, to go to the hospital in 2019. He came to the hospital to have some love and attention on his 70th birthday. He needed four new paw pads, two new eyes, a new nose and mouth, a new squeaker, some patches and seam repairs, as well as surface cleaning.

Rupert has been with my family for so long that I think of him as a member of the family. He was passed onto my children and will be passed onto future generations. My son is currently writing Rupert’s biography!”

Rupert ready to go home to his family

The story of Billy, a Panda belonging to Jane Evans

Jane says: “I was given Billy Panda in 1956, when I was five or six, by the teenage son of a neighbour. Billy had been his toy but he had out grown him. I remember being given Billy and immediately falling in love with him.

By the time I got to my late teens, Billy was very much the worse for wear due to many years of hugs and love. He was built on a metal frame and his right arm had worn to such an extent that he had a hook instead of a paw! At some point he had been (badly) repaired and had been stitched up the middle with red thread which made it look like he’d got a big red scar on his tummy. Although he stayed with me, he was relegated to a toy box until 2020, when he went on a visit to Leith Toy Hospital. He needed extensive surgery:  Pawdiotry; Furmatology; Bear, Nose and Throat and Internal Tedicine It’s lovely to have him back in my bedroom now!”

The story of Jane Bride, a doll belonging to Helen Powell

Helen and Jane Bride in the garden, August 1966

Helen says: “I spotted this doll in a toy shop window in Wimbledon, just before Christmas 1965, when I was five. She was dressed in a cream bridal dress, and there was something about her which appealed to me as soon as I saw her. I didn’t dare think that she would be there on Christmas morning, but there she was, under the tree! From then on, she was always my close companion My two younger sisters always liked her but she always stayed in my care. She even accompanied me on all our early childhood holidays to Yorkshire, to the Norfolk Broads and to the South Coast.

My grandmother was a trained seamstress and made many amazing clothes for her which I still have. All were beautifully hand sewn and finished to a very high standard. you can see some photos below. The jacket and blouse were made by hand with lovely detail including the “gold” buttons, and the dress with the jewel was a replacement dress for the rather inferior dress in which the Bride doll was dressed when my parents bought her!

She has been treasured and loved but is now having some essential repairs. Her eyes had not shut properly for some time so needed replacing. Her hair also needed attention, and she needed a good clean! I have one granddaughter who may inherit her one day., but now she is repaired, she has a place in my house where she can be admired.”

The story of Mummy Teddy, a toy belonging to Gemma Scotney

When I was little, Mummy Teddy (also known as Buster and Doggy Scotney) came to live with us.  He came with a little brother and they both wore beige fluffy body warmers. Sadly his little brother was eaten by a family dog; Ted lost his nose to the same dog too, but got off lightly in comparison.

Over the years he has had lots of loving and his neck has got weaker and weaker. We used a little green scarf to help him out but when his hole got too big, he was resigned to the shelf as we were scared he would get even more injured. He had head surgery a few years ago (administered by me). He used to enjoy being in the washing machine.

He has been travelling with me, even to the west coast of the USA where he travelled down highway 1, and saw the grand canyon and Vegas. There he also met one of his best friends,a giraffe with huge brown suede hooves, fondly known as Elvis.  

Our family loves their teds and they all have a special place in our hearts. He has always been there for me in difficult times, and now he not only helps me, he helps my own two children who cannot wait to get him back on the circuit for cuddling! I’m planning that he will stay with me forever. I think he would like to appear in a book of many adventures with his other pals; I also think he would like to play the trumpet!

The other character in the photo is DT (Daddy Teddy), one of his best friends. DT has also enjoyed a long life, and these two have pride of place in the grown-ups bedroom. DT has a powerful somnambulatory effect – snuggle his ear and off you go!!

The story of Teddy, an old bear belonging to Sue Busby

Teddy in the Edinburgh garden, c.1916

Teddy’s family, the Mackay’s, lived on a rubber plantation, Tebrau Estate (26 miles from Singapore) in what was then called Malaya and is now Malaysia.  In 1915 their first child Norman was born. He wasn’t a very healthy baby and wasn’t thriving in Singapore, so his mother took him to the UK for a few months hoping his health would improve.  They travelled by sea for six weeks on merchant ships. They were torpedoed in the Mediterranean, but mother and baby survived and continued their journey to Scotland, to stay with  Norman’s grandparents, who were retired and living in Edinburgh at this time. Teddy has always been called Teddy and we think he may have been purchased in Edinburgh in 1916.

 

 

After a few months in Scotland they took Teddy  to Tebrau in Singapore. This photo shows them in early 1917. Norman is nearly two years old. 

In 1925 the Mackay’s had another child, Ann, known as Andy.  The three photos below show Teddy with Ann at Tebrau, in Scotland, and again at Tebrau. We know that both Norman and Ann were sent to school in Scotland when they were 7 years’ old.  Ann would have left Singapore in 1932 and we think Teddy may well have travelled with her to Scotland.  Ann did not return to Singapore until the Summer of 1940 by which time she would have been 14 years old, so we think Teddy may have stayed with relatives in Scotland.  In January 1941 Ann flew down to Melbourne to go to boarding school and she stayed there until she finished school in 1943 when both she and her mother returned to Scotland.

Scotland, 1929
Tebrau, 1929

 

Here is Teddy in 1956. Since this time Teddy has always been around my family. In the 1960s he was dressed in the school uniform of Hill House, Doncaster,  where Ann’s third child Donald studied in the 1960’s.

 

I am another of Ann’s children, Sue.  I took Teddy to the toy hospital in December 2019. Here he is before he was admitted for treatment.

The story of Teddy, a bear belonging to Margaret Forsyth

Teddy was a gift from my parents when I was a few months old. I had two precious toys: Teddy, and a doll called Minnie, who was made from pieces of cloth. She had been made by my grandmother who was a terrific dressmaker, and was passed down to me through the family. She had many embroidered faces over the years. She succumbed to old age when I was around 13.

When I was 12, we moved from the island of Hoy in Orkney to Aberdeen because my father had been promoted in PO Telephones. I was sent to an all girl, superior school where I was made to feel like a peasant among young ladies.

Both Minnie and Teddy helped me so much when I was taken out of my country childhood in Orkney and introduced to a very new and confusing early 1960’s Aberdeen.

When I married I took Teddy with me to Lochaber. My children and grandchildren have all known Teddy and I hope the younger ones will get to know him again. He has been much loved during his existence: in fact, he has been loved to pieces, which is why he needed help from the Toy Hospital.  He needed new paws, a new nose, a new growl and a new tummy. I missed him so much while he was in the toy’s hospital, as did my grandchildren who expected updates every time they visited. I didn’t like to bother the hospital all the time, however. It is so lovely to have him back again!

The story of Ted, a bear belonging to Joyce Cowie

I was given Ted when I was newly born, 56 years ago. He came from a Glasgow toy shop. I remember him lying in my small bed beside me when I was little. As a child, whenever I was sad I’d wind him up and listen to the music of Brahms Lullaby coming from Ted’s tum.  Ted has always been with me: he has lived alongside me in Scotland, London and the USA. I have lovely memories of lying in bed hugging Ted, listening to lovely music putting me to sleep. He needed to visit the hospital because his musical mechanism was broken. Now he can sing me to sleep till the day I die!

Lovely Bear: the Inspiration for Leith Toy Hospital

I first got the idea for Leith Toy Hospital from my own childhood bear, Lovely Bear, who had numerous treatments from my Mum when I was a child. I asked her to tell his story.

“I bought Lovely Bear from a school fair in Creigiau, Cardiff as a present for a friend’s child, but Mari (aged one) spotted me wrapping him up and it was love at first sight. She cried so pitifully when I took him away from her that I persuaded Santa to put him in her stocking at Christmas. When she saw him she cried “Lovely Bear!” and that has been his name ever since.  For the last twenty-nine years, Mari and Lovely Bear have rarely spent a night apart. His original  ‘fur’ was a pink- and blue-spotted Liberty Lawn, which was loved into holes after seven years: the situation became critical when I stupidly put him in the washing machine and he came out in bits! mari was distraught, so I gave him a complete skin graft. Mari chose the new fabric, nad has done so for every subsequent remake. I recover him every few years when his fabric wears through: but Mari still insists that his original covering stays in place underneath. Out of his chrysalis he comes, to emerge as a very different bear. He has modelled navy and orange tie dye, pale turquoise and yellow paisley lawn,  a pink and orange fern-patterned lawn, a very bright pink cotton and a red cotton with orange spots;  his current reincarnation is a multicoloured patchwork fabric. Somehow, although my daughter runs a toy hospital, Lovely Bear is always my job!  He wasn’t only dressed in a new skin periodically: he had a whole wardrobe of clothes. Mari’s favourite was the school uniform I made for him (complete with a tie) to match her own, for a ‘bring your bear to school day’ when she was six. The realisation that many people didn’t have the skills to renovate their special toys led Mari to the idea of starting the toy hospital.

Mari has many memories of Lovely Bear. He has travelled everywhere with her, and still shares the bed with her and her boyfriend. She just can’t sleep without him. Mari says “When I was in hospital when I was 18 he kept falling on the floor and I had to keep ringing the buzzer to get the nurse to come and pick him up, and the nurse said “Oh for goodness sake” which I think was a silly thing to say!” 

Teddy
A much loved bear in his original skin
Here he is, sporting a natty second skin in 1997.
A navy and pink skin, with co-ordinating clothes knitted by Grandma, 2001
Several skins later, here he is in 2017
29 years old, but looking great in his new 2020 skin.