A glamorous lifestyle in Miami awaits an original Harry Corbett Sooty puppet after a Manchester entrepreneur pulled out all the stops to buy his wife her ultimate birthday gift.
Michael Flacks, owner of global private investment company the Flacks Group, was reading the Daily Telegraph when he spotted a story about a Sooty puppet up for sale at Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers that day - September 19.
His personal assistant Laura Higgins said: “Michael called me up and said he wanted to buy the puppet for his wife Debbie’s birthday next Wednesday (September 25). She’s a lifelong Sooty fan and Michael asked me to do whatever it takes to buy Sooty.
“I booked a phone line to bid. I’d never done anything like this before and the price went up and up but I was able to buy it on his behalf for three times its estimate - £3,100. But it’s a perfect gift for his wife. Sooty will certainly be enjoying a glamorous jet-set lifestyle now, in fact he’s going to be moving to Miami in America.”
The puppet, which had a guide price of £800-£1,200, belonged to Mrs Tina Stewart, a veterinary receptionist from Dunblane, Scotland.
She said: “We’re absolutely amazed and delighted by the result. It’s incredible how the story escalated. It’s been on TV and in lots of papers. We’re thrilled. I’ll be treating the family now.”
Mrs Stewart discovered her vintage Sooty puppet had star quality - and was valuable - thanks to owner of The Sooty Show Richard Cadell.
In April 2019 Tina Stewart took her six-year-old son, Kyle Stewart, to see The Sooty Show at The Albert Halls in Stirling, Scotland – and Richard spotted the family’s well-worn glove puppet was extra special.
Mrs Stewart said: “We took Sooty along with us and after the show met Richard - who immediately new our puppet was an original.
“He pointed out his distinctive features - a longer body, leather pads and sawdust in his head. He mentioned that he might be worth a lot of money and told us to look after him.”
'Richard Cadell knew our puppet was an original'
Richard’s Sooty knowledge proved spot on as Mrs Stewart’s father, Paul Mouncey, a retired biology teacher from Comrie, Perthshire, used to know Harry Corbett, the original inventor of Sooty – and he gave one of his TV puppets to the family.
Mrs Stewart said: “When I was small, we used to live in the same village as Harry Corbett and his family - Child Okeford in Dorset.
“Dad remembers taking me to see Harry and going into his workshop where he used to make the props and backdrops for the shows. He used a trailer to transport his props and my father ended up buying it from him.
“On one occasion when we visited him, dad mentioned that Harry took a liking to me and that’s when he gave me the original Sooty from the show. He also gave me a black and white picture of himself with the puppets and signed it, ‘Love from Sooty, Sweep, Soo and Harry Corbett’. I was three so it would have been in 1978. Because I was so young, I can’t remember much about it.
“We always knew our Sooty puppet was special. My parents said I had to be extra careful with him if I played with him. Harry told us he’d been on the Sooty TV shows.
“It was after I’d spoken to Richard Cadell that I decided I should part with him. If my Sooty was so special, it was a shame he’d just been sitting in a box for 40 years.
Richard Cadell said: “I couldn’t believe it when Kyle brought this along to my show. His family simply didn’t have any idea as to its significance. This is without question an original television Sooty that would have been used some point on television in the mid-1970s by Sooty’s creator Harry Corbett. I would estimate he is around 45 to 50 years old.
“The background story certainly rings true. Harry retired to Dorset in the mid-1970s and on occasion did part with his original Sooty puppets if he felt good reason. He was a generous and kind man and this would have been given with his love and affection. It’s wonderful that this Sooty has been discovered after all these years.”
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons, said: “What a sensational result for Sooty. Miami will love him! I’m delighted for the Stewart family and also for the new owner, Debbie. Some women want diamonds or pearls but how boring compared to owning an original Harry Corbett Sooty.”
The Sooty Puppet was sold at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, DE65 6LS, on September 19. To find out more or to arrange a free toy valuation, email [email protected].