Daiken, Leslie Herbert (1912–64), author, film-maker, and expert on children's toys, was born in Dublin. He graduated M.Litt. from TCD in 1933. As a student he was already publishing poetry and short fiction in a range of places. His early work was published in magazines such as Choice, the Dublin Magazine, and the New English Weekly. He was published in some collected volumes, including Goodbye twilight: songs of the struggle in Ireland (1936), which he edited himself and which contained working-class political poetry. His verse was considered to be wild, passionate, even strange; he subsequently published two of his own collections, Signatures of all things (1945) and The lullaby book (1959). He had moved to live in England, where he edited the Irish Front magazine and was friendly with Irish poets, writers and dissidents, including Charlie Donnelly (qv). In 1944 he edited a collection of essays entitled They go, the Irish (1944), which included an important contribution from Sean O'Casey (qv).
Apart from poetry, the prime interest of Daiken's career was in children's toys and games. In 1951 he opened a toy museum in the basement of his London home. This eventually housed more than 3,000 exhibits, some of which were almost three centuries old. The museum was later moved to Rottingdean near Brighton. Among the books he published on the subject were Children's games throughout the year (1949), Children's toys throughout the ages (1953), Out she goes: Dublin street rhymes with a commentary (1963) and World of toys (1963). He published a guidebook for children, entitled London pleasures for young people (1957). His interest in toys and games led him to make a couple of charming, nostalgic television and radio programmes on the subject for the BBC. He also made a number of films, including the highly regarded One potato, two potato, which documented children's street rhymes and won the 1958 Festival Mondial du Film prize in Brussels.
A rash and impulsive man who was equally renowned for his kindness and generosity, Daiken made a film in support of the appeal for the TCD library fund. He retained strong links with Ireland, regularly toured the countryside and wrote a radio play, The circular road, which detailed a child's bereavement in the Jewish-Irish community. He lived for many years with his wife, Lilyan, at 19 Prince Albert Road, London, and they had two daughters, Melanie and Eleanor; he was known to many people as ‘Yod’. He died 16 August 1964 in London, while on a visit back from Ghana – where he had recently taken up a position as lecturer in education at the University of Ghana – and was cremated in London. Shortly before he died, his film The piano, which documented the educations of white and black children in an African school, had been premiered at the Cork film festival. A collection of his papers are held in the NLI.