Up until now I’ve only had two Roddy dolls. The two Scottish dolls that belonged to my sisters in law when they were little girls. Actually only one of these has the Roddy mark but they are obviously the same. These little girls are vinyl dolls probably from the late sixties or early seventies. They were brought back from overseas by a relative as gifts for the girls.
However, my Roddy collection has now more than doubled thanks to Naomi’s doll collecting acquaintance in Oatlands. As I mentioned in my post about my Pedigree baby the lady is downsizing her collection. She had some other dolls she wanted to show Naomi the day she was there but couldn’t find them. Naomi went home on Tuesday and had only arrived home from Sisters Beach a few minutes earlier when the phone rang. The lady had found the dolls she was looking for, would Naomi like to take a look? She said yes and picked out a few that she thought I would like. A couple of them turned out to be Roddy’s.
This is what I have managed to learn about the Roddy company so far.
The Roddy Doll Company began its life as Toy Time Toys LTD in Southport (UK) and in 1934 was owned by a Mr D. G. Todd, he was to be joined later by a Mr J Robinson. The name “Roddy” was registered in 1948 and was derived from both the director’s surnames. They had used the name “Rhodnoid” previously on the dolls they made until another doll manufacturer complained because the name was already in use by their company.Roddy The Dolls of Merseyside by Carol Pierrepont
The quote above comes from an article about Roddy dolls on a blog called “Carol’s Dolls”. I will include a link to it at the end of this post. As the title of the article mentions the Roddy company was based in Southport, a seaside town on the Irish Sea, north of Liverpool. The founder was Daniel George Todd who started the company with his wife in 1934. Their first products were “dolls sets” an imported doll with several sets of clothing. Mr Todd was later joined by Jack Robinson who became his partner.They began to manufacture their own dolls which Mr Todd designed himself. The company originally made composition and cloth dolls but ceased production of toys in 1940 after the outbreak of WWII.
After the war the company began making dolls again and as plastics became more popular for toy making the company were able to get the loan of injection moulding equipment from America and begin production of hard plastic dolls. This loan was thanks to the Marshall Plan.
These moulds were quite detailed, with some having open mouths with teeth, tongues and dimples. The early Roddy dolls were shiny and became pale when exposed to sunlight. The eyes were made from metal and decals. Later, the dolls were made from a flesh coloured matt plastic, and the eyes had a blue iris with the eyelash moulded onto it.source:au.fabtintoys.com
Roddy made a hand assisted walking doll similar to the ones made by Pedigree and BND except that the Roddy walkers had a metal rod going into their heads which made the heads appear wobbly. They did have lovely big smiles though. They also made dolls in many other sizes right down to tiny “dolls house” sized dolls. Many of the small, cheap dolls found in Woolworths during this period were made by Roddy. Roddy dolls were also sold to companies like Faerie Glen to be dressed and resold.
In the late 1950s the company began to make vinyl dolls. Mr Todd first learned of them on a trip to New York and told of how he walked the streets until he found the companies who supplied the mould making and hair rooting machinery. He bought everything he needed and Roddy began to produce vinyl dolls with rooted hair the following year. The company started to make their own sleep eyes and produced a variety of vinyl dolls although they also continued to make hard plastic dolls until 1964.
In April 1965 the company was sold. The buyers were James Smith and Alex Smith and their company was called Smiths of Maddiston . Alex Smith was the one who suggested the dolls be sold under another name and actually asked the factory workers for their thoughts. The majority liked his suggestion of Bluebell. The dolls were then sold under the name of Bluebell Dolls but many still carried the Roddy mark on their backs as they were made from the old moulds.
Later, in 1974, the company was sold again to Denys Fisher whose companies manufactured toys in Britain. It was Denys Fisher who invented Spirograph by the way. Bluebell dolls continued to be sold for some time after that as there was still a backlog of stock. Denys Fisher Toys was sold to Palitoy and eventually controlled by Hasbro but I believe this happened in 1970 before the Bluebell sale.
I am looking forward to seeing and photographing the dolls. At the moment they are still with Naomi but when she brings them I’ll take some more photos and introduce them.
Note: Naomi says that these dolls also have the Roddy mark.
In the meantime here are some Roddy and Bluebell dolls on Pinterest.
The Collectors Guide to British Dolls Since 1920 by Collette Mansell