|Marching orders: Boy Two soldiers on|
Once upon a time there was a boy called Tim who grew up in a seaside town called Silloth. Despite it’s obvious charms, there were moments when young Tim got a bit fed up with life on the Cumbrian riviera.
So one day he took himself off to the shops and bought a toy soldier – a small, plastic Native
|Mounted Chief: Tim’s first|
American Indian. Soon this one was joined by a few others and Tim had found himself a hobby.
Very soon he was hooked.
Tim discovered that with the right molds you could boil up lead drainpipes and make your own toy soldiers. Elsewhere the tiny warriors were made from a mixture of sawdust and glue.
Tim left the sleepy seaside town to pursue a career as an actor and do all those other things people leave their home towns to do… but the love of toy soldiers never left him.
A few years ago he decided he couldn’t keep his collection to himself – especially now his boyhood soldiers’ ranks were swelled to some 10,000.
“A museum would also add something to Silloth, giving tourists an attraction to visit on rainy days,” he said, explaining the decision to return to his home town to convert a flat into a museum.
And last year, in time for the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Soldiers in Silloth opened its doors.
Curiosity drew us in – not knowing whether we’d find something interesting to look at or just a minor diversion. After all Cumbria has some form for the one-topic museum with varying degrees of success (Ulverston’s Laurel and Hardy to the Cumberland Pencil Museum in Keswick, for example).
Here’s what I learned from our time with the toy soldiers:
- The farm house in the corner of the Battle of Waterloo diorama was crucial to the outcome (thanks Panther)
- Not very many women get made into toy soldiers if you don’t count the nuns, nurses and monarchs.
- It is possible to melt lead in your kitchen, but there are now much safe ways of achieving the same result.
- The instinct to play out scenarios with little characters is very strong and probably universal.
- It’s possible that kids playing on computers miss out on this kind of game – but then it’s also possible that something like Minecraft does exactly the same thing.
- Having a massive collection of toy soldiers does moderately predictable things to one’s marriage.
- There’s probably some really interesting discussions to be had about children playing with soldiers during times of war.
|Commander in chief: Tim Barker at his Soldiers in Silloth museum|
Find out more at Soldiers in Silloth.