Toy stories: the best Christmas presents ever
The Late Late Toy Show takes place on Friday night. To celebrate, Anna Carey asks a selection of grown-ups about their favourite childhood Christmas toys
Panto Star and comedian
Growing up I was a massive fan of WWF wrestling, so when I was eight I was thrilled to find some figures in my Christmas stocking from Santa.
I just wanted to stay in my bedroom playing with them all day, but the rest of my family kept insisting I come down to the kitchen. When I did there was a wrestling ring on the table: that was my best-ever Christmas present.
I don’t have the actual ring any more, but I got years of fun out of it. As I got older I gave many of the figures away, but these are some of the original ones I used to play with. I particularly loved the ones with make-up on, funnily enough.
There was loads of glamour in wrestling then. It wouldn’t be odd to see one of the wrestlers come into the ring wearing a pink feather boa.
That meant that, growing up in Tallaght, I could play wrestling wearing my own glam accessories and my friends didn’t bat an eyelid. When I do my stand-up show I come on to Macho Man.
In my head, when I walk onstage I’m the iconic wrestling manager Randy Savage, which brings me back to when I was eight years old again and playing with the wrestlers in my room.
Al Porter plays Nurse Polly in this year’s Dublin Bus Christmas panto with Jedward and Linda Martin at the Olympia Theatre from December 18 to January 5
Minister for Children
The rollerskates I got for my best ever Christmas present weren’t as trendy as these ones, but I really loved them. They were of the old, clunky, metal variety. They were dangerous-looking, now that I think of them, but as far as I remember I didn’t have any major accidents.
I guess I was about 12 when I got them, they had a wingnut in the middle that you used to adjust them to fit your feet. I was out on the road in them all day.
They were very different times back then – children’s expectations are very different now. I remember we got a selection box, a stocking from Santa with small bits and bobs and one big present.
The skates were my big present that year and they were a treasured possession. When the wingnut got lost I remember going to the hardware shop to get a replacement – there was no chance you’d get another pair of skates. The strap was also replaced when it got worn from all my adventures.
When I think of the skates I think of all that fun I had when I was child, putting them on and heading off down the road. The wonderful freedom of it.
National account manager at Hasbro toy and game company
It was the mid 1960s, and I was about six. I’d always wanted a cowboy suit because back then it was all about westerns – instead of Batman we wanted to be John Wayne.
I asked Santa for the suit and the gun and the cowboy hat. My father and mother were big western fans, so they were delighted. About two weeks before Christmas my mother and my aunt went off to do more shopping. They got a neighbour’s child to mind me. He concentrated on his homework in the sitting room and I was left to my own devices.
My father worked for Fry’s so there were always chocolates around the house and I was always looking for them. That’s how I found this Lone Star box. In it was a beautiful cowboy suit. There was no hat or rifle but it was exactly what I was looking for, so I put it on. I was running around with an old stick for a gun, until my mother came in an hour later.
I’m not sure how they explained it but I was told I was bold and that it was for somebody else and I’d be lucky if Santa arrived at all. I waited with bated breath, and I don’t know what I did that was so good but the cowboy suit from Santa turned up that Christmas. And this time, it had a hat and the Lone Star rifle.
Owner of the Doll Store Hospital and Museum
It was the 1950s, and I was about seven. We lived on James’s Street, over a shop called Doreen’s. Back then local shops sold everything – sweets, newspapers and toys for Christmas.
There was a Crolly Doll on sale – these were the only dolls made in Ireland. It was in a box with cellophane wrapped around to keep dust off, and I went in every day and looked at it.
I wrote to Santa but he never got it for me. But the doll was still in the shop. Then my grandad, who lived in the UK, came over just after Christmas. He always took us out and got us a present. Down we went to the shop and I pointed to the doll. And he bought it.
I can still feel the excitement, and I remember thinking how smart I felt that Santa didn’t get it but I made sure my grandad did. I carried the doll upstairs, and my mother was shocked because Crolly Dolls were so expensive – it cost £3’10s, and my father’s wages were £10. I called her Doreen after the shop and I still have her today. I have dolls that are worth thousands, but to me this one is priceless.
The Doll Store Hospital and Museum is in the Powerscourt Centre, Dublin 2
Chief executive, Barnardos
I walked to school every day when I was a kid. I never minded that, but I hated the other boys whizzing past me on their bicycles. I must have dropped a lot of hints, because I can still remember the sight of that first bike on Christmas morning, 1959.
It was huge, with a gold frame and scooped handlebars – the racing bike I always wanted. Looking back, I realise I never saw the bumps and scratches that come with a second-hand bike.
We took in lodgers in those days to help make ends meet, and that bike can not have been easy for my father to afford. To me it was the best bike in the world. I couldn’t wait until the holidays were over and I could race up the Putland Hill to Presentation College in Bray along with the rest.
Never mind that it was so big another two years went by before I could sit on the saddle and still reach the pedals. That bike made me the king of the road.
Donate a toy to the Barnardos Toy Appeal, which provides Christmas
gifts to children in Barnardos services. barnardos.ie, 01-8612070
Late Late Toy Show presenter
When I was very young, I remember waiting at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning. My folks led the way, with my dad in the role of chief Santa negotiator.
We just caught him looking up the chimney offering his final farewells before we trooped down to the bottom of the tree where five small piles lay. No names required – we all knew who was due what – and so the fun began.
Apart from the Guinness Book of Records (a hardy annual that I consumed voraciously) the best present I ever got was the Chronicle of the 20th Century, a hulk of a book that showed events in history in the style of newspaper reports. I was in awe of the stories, which swept from Nazi Germany through Kennedy’s Camelot and Beatles London. This helped nurture a fascination with and love of history and pop culture that never left me.
It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf and A Muppet Christmas Carol are staples at our house every Christmas, a season I love so much I could burst with childlike excitement. As I heard in the back of my car last week: “Christmas makes children of us all.”
The Late Late Toy Show is on RTÉ1 on Friday night