'Daily Mail', February 27th, 2008

The 'Daily Mail', a long established British tabloid newspaper, has, for many years as I understand it, operated a regular feature whereby readers can submit questions, on pretty well any subject. Then either the paper itself, or perhaps other readers, provide the general readership with the appropriate answers - as long as the answer doesn't affect house prices!
Daily Mail readers questions February 19th 2008 BAYKO Question
One particular list of questions, [right] which was printed on February 19th, 2008, included a reference to the world's first and finest plastic construction toy, specifically  in a question from Diana Lyons of Leeds. In fact it was the first on the list.
My eagle-eyed, [late] mother, an avid Daily Mail Reader, spotted the question, and I, not a reader, was duly elected to submit a response, which was subsequently printed on page 65 of the February 27th, 2008 edition.
The whole article [below], which began with the reprinted question, reads as follows : -
QUESTION - What became of Bayko Building Sets? Were they killed off by health and safety?
BAYKO Building sets were invented by Charles Bird Plimpton [C.B.] who established the Plimpton Engineering Company, in Liverpool, to manufacture them.
BAYKO, the world’s first plastic construction toy, was initially marketed as “BAYKO Light Constructional Sets”, clearly acknowledging the BAKELITE from which they were made.
Daily Mail BAYKO article
The first BAYKO sets were packed around the kitchen table in the Plimpton family home on the Wirral, ready for Christmas, 1933, with full commercial operations getting under way 12 months later.
The BAYKO system is easy to understand and even easier to play with. Bases have a matrix of holes, ⅜ inch apart, into which metal rods are inserted, forming the model’s framework.
Panels representing bricks, windows and doors are then slid between the rods to build the model which is typically topped off by a large, one-piece roof.
From these simple beginnings, with just 15 different moulds, grew a product which was much loved across the U.K. for 30 years, not forgetting a substantial export market.
The first BAYKO bricks were brown or cream, with dark green windows and it was not until 1937 that plastic technology had evolved sufficiently to enable the more familiar red, white and green parts to be made cost effectively.
Some of the best loved BAYKO sets, the pre-war “De-Luxe” number 6 sets, included mottled bricks, known as ‘oak’, made with the addition of sawdust to achieve the mottling. This is an excellent example of the innovation stream driven by C.B. for which he gained two patents, in 1935 and 1948.
By the time post-war BAYKO production got back into full swing, the range of parts had increased to 43, though the architectural style was still rooted in the Thirties.
C.B. died late in 1948 and BAYKO’s innovation stream died with him. In the Fifties, the newly introduced LEGO was adding new parts almost every week, BAYKO produced just three new parts in 8 years.
After peaking at sales of over 150,000 sets a year in the mid Fifties's, BAYKO was taken over by MECCANO in 1959.
MECCANO replaced the one-piece roofs with modern-looking four-piece units, allowing sets to be packed in much smaller boxes. It also dropped most ornamental parts, and redesigned the others, creating an up to date architectural style.
But MECCANO never really seemed fully behind BAYKO and stopped producing it in 1964 (though BAYKO still appeared in MECCANO’s 1967 price list).
BAYKO, however, is still much loved and there is a thriving community of enthusiasts today, which finds a focus in the BAYKO Collectors Club www.baykoman.com. Five people actually produce new and reproduction BAYKO parts today.
It is a myth that health and safety killed off BAYKO. Attitudes to health and safety in the mid-Sixties differed from today, and I’ve been unable to find any recorded serious accidents.
Had the issue been raised, I am certain that alternative plastic rods could have been introduced and been perfectly safe.
Readers reply to the Daily Mail article
It was not long after my straight, factual article [above] hit the nation's suburban streets, at the end of February, 2008, the 'Daily Mail' went on to carry the following, nicely contrasting nostalgic response, from Roxanah Hart, of Bristol : -
Further to earlier answers, I couldn't believe my eyes when I turned to Answers to Correspondents and saw a large picture of my beloved childhood favourite pastime, Bayko.
I've often mentioned this to people, who look blank, and was beginning to wonder if I'd dreamt it.
As a child of the fifties, I was never into dolls and prams, much preferring boys' games. Because I was in poor health and not allowed out much, I spent hours playing with Bayko, as well as with my crane, reading, drawing, and harnessing up a couple of chairs to be my sled behind my team of 'huskies'.
I would have loved to have passed my Bayko on to my son, Jonathan, who I'm sure would have been equally enthralled, but when I looked in my mother's attic, it was bare - all my toys, pristine annuals and comics (I had already liberated my books) gone, who knows where. A small fortune lost.
I'm delighted I can now show Jonathan what Bayko was like and we intend to contact the Bayko Collectors Club.
When I can, I'll try and track down the other replies.
If you can help trace any other related correspondence, then I'd love to hear from you…
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