Sir Michael Parkinson back in North Rocks for anniversary

It was 25 years ago that Sir Michael Parkinson created the mascot for The Royal Institute of Deaf and Blind Children’s new preschool for hearing impaired children at North Rocks.

Today he returned for a song and storybook session with 27 children at the Rockie Woofit preschool to celebrate the anniversary.

The institute’s work has resonated with the British broadcaster since his granddaughter, 14, was diagnosed as profoundly deaf shortly after her birth.

‘‘She had a cochlear implant and when that happened I leaned very heavily on this institution and its knowledge, guidance and expertise,’’ he said.

‘‘It was very helpful, even the pastoral care.

‘‘You don’t understand that when it happens to you — the effect a hearing impaired child has on all your family; the ripple effect.

‘‘I never forgot the kindness they showed me, or the advice that they gave us.

‘‘The nice thing about being associated with a local charity like this is that you can actually see what happens.’’

Sir Michael said the facility now educated a lot more children than in the past.

‘‘The advances in the past 25 years have been extraordinary and a lot of them come from here, because this is also a research unit,’’ he said.

‘‘They do an amazing job.

‘‘It was profoundly moving this morning to see those beautiful children on their way to a future that before they didn’t have.’’

Read more in next Tuesday’s paper. 

Woofit name fits

The Woofits, Parkinson’s popular book series about a family of anthropomorphic dog creatures in fictional coal-mining village Grimeworth, were published in 1980. He had been asked to develop a children’s television series and books from the Woofit character, which first appeared on a card printed by a French company.

‘‘I put into the characters friends of mine,’’ he said.

‘‘I knew a guy called Rockie Dawson who was a daft, silly lad, but a big brave lad too.

‘‘He was always getting into trouble but always surviving, so he became Rockie Woofit.

‘‘Elton Woofit was named after Elton John, and I had Muhummad Woofit after Muhummad Ali.

‘‘It appealed to everybody and the books sold all over the world.’’

Sir Michael said it was during this time the RIDBC approached him to make Rockie mascot.

‘‘It has just worked out very nicely. It’s a lovely legacy to have.

‘‘Rockie was a tough little geezer. He overcomes everything in his own way, which really kind of symbolises what happens here. No matter how good the staff are the kids understand what’s wrong and they’ve got to fight it. And they do.’’

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