In the infancy of children’s television, Andy Pandy, Bill and Ben, Rag, Tag and Bobtail were joined by The Woodentops (1955-57), in which Josefina Ray played a crucial role. She provided the voices of several of the puppets in what was probably the most technically advanced of those early children’s programmes.
Ray enjoyed a wide range of work during a long career. The daughter of an army captain, she and her family emigrated to South America when she was six, and she spent her childhood in Argentina and Uruguay. On her return to Britain at the age of 15, she trained as a nanny and worked as a model for a clothing company before teaching herself to type.
As a typist for the BBC at Evesham in Worcestershire, she spent so long working on a letter to the Latin American service that she decided to deliver it in person. When she spoke in Spanish to the head of the department, she was asked to take a voice test. Within a week, she was broadcasting.
One day, a BBC producer phoned her to ask whether she could speak with a rustic accent. She immediately answered in a voice that was to become that of Mrs Scrubbitt, one of the main characters in The Woodentops, a family of wooden dolls who lived on a farm. She also played Willy Woodentop and Baby Woodentop, basing the latter voice on those of her five young children.
Ray worked extensively on radio programmes for schools. She was acclaimed for her portrayal of Shakespeare’s Juliet for the BBC’s Latin American service in 1960, and took the title role in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm for BBC Radio 4 in 1972. She even had a role in one of Tony Hancock’s series of television adverts for the Egg Marketing Board, which used the slogan, “Go to work on an egg”.
Josefina Ray, who was born Dorothy Josephine Ray Sims in Bedford on July 14, 1918, died in Elgin, Moray, on July 29, aged 94.