THE man who founded the Paisley Dolls’ Hospital has died.
Alex Cunningham, who was 96, was the proprietor of a toy and cycle shop in the town’s Causeyside Street throughout the 1960s and 70s.
But it was his work as a ‘dolls’ doctor’ that brought him acclaim.
His ‘hospital’ was the only one of its kind in the West of Scotland at the time.
Son Stewart remembered: “ ‘Sick’ dolls were taken to the shop by their owners and large numbers arrived by mail from all over the country.
“He had to take on extra staff including my mother Helen who specialised in wig replacement and the manufacture of dolls’ clothing.
“Several part-time outworkers also became involved and the demand was so great that all the clothes made up during the week days were sold on the Saturday.”
But it was Alex Cunningham’s particular skill that made the hospital the success it was.
He son added: “My father, the master surgeon, worked under basic conditions but he made deft work with his pliers and screwdriver to save many a dolls’ life!
“He always claimed that the key to his success was a good bedside manner.
“He set up a lay-off area in the shop where little girls placed their sick dolls into the provided cots, thus giving the patients a safe location while awaiting their operation.
“Apart from the children, many older ladies brought in treasured antique dolls for restoration, although they felt somewhat embarrassed when placing the dolls on the shop counter.
“My father always said that British-manufactured dolls were best for workmanship and durability, but the American dolls were so mobile that they could walk about the hospital on their own.
“The dolls’ hospital never made him a fortune but it brought him a lot of pleasure when he saw the children’s faces light up when they picked up their dolls, fit and well.”
Born in the now-disappeared Barclay Street, in Paisley, Mr Cunningham was a pupil of the former Camphill High School and was a keen walker and cyclist.
He retired in 1978 at the age of 65.
Son Stewart said: “I am sure that he was missed by many people in the town, whether to have a doll repaired to purchase a model Spitfire kit or to have cycles delivered to their homes on Christmas Eve.”
As well as his son, Mr Cunningham is survived by daughter Marion and several grandchildren.
His wife died some years ago.
Mr Cunningham’s funeral has already taken place.