Joyce Todd: My friend David – Part Two


In 1991 the Burgess Group was in turn taken over by the Pilgrim House Group and they in turn were taken over by Williams Holdings.

Williams didn’t really want the coin business and the company changed hands once more, David decided to retire – now there’s a laugh in itself and it wasn’t long – the next year to be exact – before he was back at the helm again. This time he formed Innovative Technology; manufacturing a low-cost multi currency bank note validator, and we saw the birth of Smiley NV1.  Premises were acquired yet again in Royton, this time at Park Street, and David was that desperate to get these premises that he had to sign a disclaimer, as a full survey had not been done on the premises or the area.

Royton had in days gone by had numerous coal mines in the area, but David knew that this part of Park Street, Royton did not have any, as he had never seen them when he did his paper round as a boy. In fact all he saw in those days at 6.35 in the morning was the ‘Knocker-Up.’  He recalls those times as such happy memories and halcyon days, with not a care in the world.

Having acquired the premises, business was soon up and running and so were the bank note validators. They soon became such big business for them,  that they  outgrew the premises at Park Street and moved to their new home, a purpose built large unit at Derker Street, Oldham and are still there to this day. Today they also manufacture hoppers, payouts and have support tools and accessories included in their portfolio, all of these are for the amusement, gaming, retail and kiosk, ticketing and vending industries.

Innovative Technology have become one of Europe’s largest producers of bank note validators with subsidiaries around the world in Spain, Germany, USA, China and Brazil, that are under the Bellis Technologies umbrella.  All of these are supported by an international network of sales and service outlets, in 20 countries worldwide.  They have twice won the Queens Award for Exports and two national  SMART Company of the Year awards for manufacturing and success, and deservedly so too.

Innovative have a dedicated and loyal workforce, and when David goes into the factory they treat him just as ‘David’ not ‘Mr Bellis’ but they all award him the respect he deserves and has earned from them.  At his right hand, he has his MD Aidan Towey, they experience a superb working and personal relationship together, and David feels that Aidan is a good ambassador for the company and a great asset to them, and when he goes off on his long holidays he knows he’s leaving the company in Aidan’s safe hands.

In 1998 he was awarded the MBE for services to industry in the north west, he gained a Lifetime Achievement Award in April 2009 and some of the positions he has held over the years have been on the board of Oldham Training and Enterprise Council for 5 years, President of the Oldham Chamber of Commerce a position he held during the Chamber’s centenary term of office, Chairman of the Oldham Enterprise Agency during it’s most successful time in the 1990’s and he has also chaired committee’s with the Royal Mint on new coins.

A former engineering student of Oldham College, in 2003 a £7 million development was completed by the college for the state of art engineering and training facilities and he was very honoured when they named this ‘The David Bellis Building.’

I asked David if he had any funny stories and memories he could tell us, but he is more a serious character than a frivolous one, but he did manage a couple for me. One that comes to his mind is of the late Jack Jones of JPM, and JPM disputed an invoice that Coin Controls had sent them for £5000, and at this time £5000 was a lot to be owed and Jack said that they should toss a coin for the payment, and guess what it was David that lost and he even ended up paying for the drinks too during the evening.

Another was of an old machine named Thank You, you had to insert a penny in the slot (an old penny in those days) and the machine took your penny lit up and just said ‘Thank You’ to you, and he says at first he thought it should do something else besides just saying this to you, and he tried several pennies before the ‘penny clicked’ with him.  David also recollects that punters were queuing up to play this machine, as they couldn’t believe what it did, he said he would like to have met the man that designed and manufactured it, as he must have been worth a mint.

Another machine that he recollects is one from Alexandra Palace – Ally Pally as it was more fondly known to us that used to exhibit there, and that was a machine exhibited by a company named the Dicey Company, he thinks the game was named Dicey, it was based on a dice going round a board, he recollects that not many people appeared to take much notice of this machine. Well I ask you would you as an arcade operator want to put your trust in and operate a machine from a company with the name of Dicey Company, you could possibly feel you were on ‘dicey ground’ too!!

Quality coffee drinkers will be associated with the name ‘Illy’ and the owner of this coffee company Dr. Illy went from Trieste, Italy to meet David in is hotel in Milan, Italy as he had heard about this company from England that could make all types of components and he wanted one for a new vending machine for coffee he was planning to do, and this was in the 1970’s so it was quite a novel idea then.  Meeting David they got down to business, and David soon found out his night had passed by and at the end of it he knew a great deal more about coffee as Dr. Illy could talk about coffee all night long, in fact that’s all he did talk about.

David’s engineering skills paid off in yet another field when he rescued a 1932 Rolls Royce from a barn, to say it was a basket case was an understatement, and it took 4 years to get this scrap heap into a ‘Roller.’  Two years were spent engineering and it took two years to design the body which David did  himself, and he found a lad just starting up near Oxford – Steve Penny and he built the body for him from David’s design, this car has won awards for Best In It’s Class and it recently won an award for Most Elegant In It’s Class and this was no mean feat as at was up against 1200 cars.


And after!

I first met David in 1984 at the AMOA in Chicago, I was in those days employed by World’s Fair and we struck up a friendship and when I left World’s Fair to go to Leisure Play, in Macclesfield, the friendship still continued, and he used to come and meet me at Piccadilly railway station in his Roller (not the one mentioned above) and take me to lunch. He also did this at a Blackpool exhibition once, and I used to feel like the queen getting into the Roller.  I still go into Innovative Technology as it is just round the corner from me so to speak, and when it comes to the tea or coffee the Royal Albert china comes out for me, including the tea or coffee pot.

David just makes you feel so at home whenever you meet him, and you don’t feel you have to have airs and graces with this man, despite his great success, he’s just David that is just as happy in top hat and tails as he is in his overalls and working on an engine.  This man says he still believes that he was in the right place at the right time and the rest just followed, he keeps saying he’s going to retire, but I don’t see that for many years to come, as without work and inventing David would just not be the same, and the world would miss his great inventions, so you just keep going David we need you.

by Joyce Todd


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