A well-known Midland toy maker who ran Europe’s largest roller-skate manufacturer and pioneered skateboarding in the UK has died, aged 85.
Derek Morris, the man behind Solihull-based Morris Vulcan Ltd and MV Sports and Leisure, helped transform the UK’s toy industry over several decades.
His daughter Vikki Matcham said her father passed peacefully away more than two decades after undergoing quadruple heart bypass surgery in his early 60s.
She said: “My father was a highly motivated individual who worked hard and made significant impact within the children’s toy industry.
“His early success involved having his own manufacturing company on the Lode Lane Estate in Solihull. Morris Vulcan was formed in 1977 and became a major exporter of steel roller skates (Flyers) producing over 3,500 pairs per day. The company was also one of the first businesses to bring skateboards to the UK market.
“At one time Morris Vulcan was the largest exporter of rollerskates throughout Europe. The company expanded into other areas of the toy industry, one of which was Triang Toys. In the early 80s MV Sports & Leisure was founded and the company offered product ranges such as roller skates, in-line skates, skateboards and also sit and ride toys, many of which featured key licences such as Barbie, My Little Pony and Thomas The Tank.
“My father very much used his success to support others.
“He was a prominent figure of a children’s charity run by key members of the toy industry called the ‘Fence club’ which runs and supports children’s homes.”
Long before the days of Tony Hawk endorsements, Morris Vulcan signed up prominent roller skater John Mullane, from Birmingham, to promote its products.
Known as the ‘bad boy’ of roller skating Mullane had won gold at the 1978 European Championships in the 5,000 metre race.
Morris Vulcan at the time was desperate to cash-in on the skateboarding craze which had swept America, and had already imported some of the first boards to the UK.
Mr Morris, a former pupil of Oundle School, was a keen sportsman, playing cricket for The Warwickshire Acorns travelling side during the Seventies, as well as Rugby for the Old Sills in Solihull.
He also had a passion for powerboats and came third in the Cowes to Torquay race in 1966. As a semi-professional he skippered Ford Power, a works team boat in the 1969 Round Britain Power Boat Race, finishing third and his was the first diesel boat to cross the line.
Mr Morris, who was a lifelong fan of Birmingham City, leaves three children, Philip, Vikki and Adrian, and nine grandchildren.
* Funeral arrangements are yet confirmed. Enquiries should be made to Thomas Bragg & Sons on 0121 744 1428.