This toy, and well whole merchandise brand was huge in my life growing up.
I had the Roland Rat soft toy, mugs, and even the Roland Rat glasses (!) made by Dolland and Aitchison. Yes, real, working glasses!
I always knew him from his TV-AM slot, you see Roland beneath King's Cross railway station in The Ratcave – yes Ratcave. He had an infant brother called Little Reggie, his friends included a technical whiz-kid called Errol the Hamster (who was welsh), and "number one rat-fan" Kevin the Gerbil, who supposedly came from Leeds and loved pink buckets.
This was an absolutely brilliant show – totally left field, ( I mean who comes up with an idea of a gerbil who’s obsessed with pick buckets?) you can see why it caught children's imagination, and why there were so many merchandising off-shoots from the brand.
A whole subtext about the show that I had no idea of at the time was the fact that Roland Rat was introduced to a failing breakfast television network TV-AM and was pretty much it’s savior. After a couple of months, Roland took the audience from 100,000 to 1.8 million! He was described in the papers at the time as "the only rat to join a sinking ship"!
Roland, and all his friends were essentially big puppets, and were created, operated and voiced by David Claridge. David had worked for the brilliant genius that was Jim Henson (he of the Muppets), He then worked in the second series of The Young Ones! So quite a CV!
Roland then actually got his own show – on the BBC in 1985, Roland Rat the Series, a chat show set in Roland's sewer home. It had a whole bunch of new characters and was more like the Muppet show in a lot of ways. But I never really got into that, the new characters couldn’t match the heights of Kevin the Gerbil.
Fairly recently Roland Rat has even tried to instigate a few come backs - in the late 1990s he could be seen on Channel 5, in “LA Rat”, which had him and his friends touring Los Angeles. And in 2004 he actually appeared on Big Brother UK.
Still, I will always just remember him from early morning TV, hugging my Roland the rat cuddly toy, while Kevin the Gerbil obsessed about his pink buckets.