In 1949 firefighters from Central Fire and Rescue Station discovered a dilapidated ex-shop demonstration model of a reindeer under the stands of the Tigers Football Club, which at this time was used as private workshops. They asked if they could borrow it and renovate it for that years children’s party at the fire and rescue station. Approval was given and after the addition of a motorised sleigh Rudolph proudly delivered Santa to that years Christmas party.
Apparently as they drove up to the fire and rescue station people stopped and threw money into the firefighters hats and the idea of a charity collection was born. In 1950 Rudolph again attended the Christmas party but this year was also requested to attend the Town Hall Square for the Christmas lights and according to the Leicester Mercury of 22 December a crowd of around 7000 mobbed the sleigh as it did a circuit of the fountain. One child was temporarily lost and a Mrs Sarah Tomlin was knocked down by a motorbike, although she was allowed home from hospital that night.
Obviously the firefighters realised they were onto a winner and started to organise street tours in the following years. At this time the emphasis was on donated toys which the firefighters repaired and passed on to needy children or those in hospital but money was also collected.
This original Rudolph had eyes that blinked, ears that wiggled and a mouth that chewed and one headline advised people to “look out for Rudolph the robot reindeer”.
In 1979 as the original Rudolph was starting to get weary a new one was built by a local firm involved in creating figures for theme parks. This was closely followed by a new sleigh in 1981 and then finally in 1992 the sleigh that is still in use today.
In 2010poor Rudolph was left red in the face as well as the nose after highways and insurance legislation meant he could no longer tour the region during the festive season. Instead, he was forced to park up his sleigh at various locations to make his annual charity collections. Thanks to the generosity of crews at the Central Fire and Rescue Station and local companies, Workshops staff have been able to get Rudolph’s show back on the road. His sleigh, a former reliant robin, has been completely refurbished with a much-needed re-spray and festively decorated with LED lighting so that the children of Leicestershire will be able to see him coming. More importantly, the sleigh has passed its MOT, and Santa has been given a seatbelt and his own risk assessment! Thanks to the support of firefighters and headquarters staff, who take Rudolph out on cold, dark evenings in December, the fund has been able to raise more than £300,000 over the years for children’s causes in the local community.
Today see’s Rudolph back on his Christmas route with firefighters, volunteers and Santa: