Sunday, 20 January 2013

Collecting a Lead Animal Farm in the 1950s

Alice Stapleton & my 50's Animal Farm in 2013
I have always loved collecting things, stamps, antiques, paintings but my first love was fostered by my father, Major Hughie Miller when he began giving me lead farm animals. These lead and now highly dangerous farm animals had been very popular with children since Victorian times and it seems if my grand daughter Alice is anything to go by, are still popular in 2013.

After the war my father rejoined his father Hugh Miller and they started up their golf sundries business, Humil Ltd this time running it from my grand mother's dining room in Edgware, Middlesex.  This ment that Daddy had to travel and was away for weeks at a time.

At that time I spent many school holidays in Lymm, Cheshire where I lived next door to a working farm. The real mixed farms of the 1950s and I loved it. I cried when I had to return home.

I disliked my Daddy being away so much so to make life more pleasant Daddy started to buy me a farm. Each journey he would arrive back with a different animal for me, a cow, a sheep, a chicken or even a dog. I loved the two collie dogs best. The farm grew over the years and I kept it for my daughter Chloe who loved to play with it too.

I would spend hours getting it out. We had green cushions made out of died parachute silk and these made perfect fields. I had a wooden Swiss chalet which served as the farm house and it took ages to get the whole collection displayed. In fact eventually my mother allowed me to keep it up. It cluttered the small drawing room for weeks.

I knew how a real farm worked and I would go through the daily ritual, feeding the chickens, cows to milk so the butter  could be churned by hand. This is very easy and quick by the by. Then there were the kittens to play with. Always lots of cats to keep the mice and rats at bay. There were stooks of corn to turn and after tea we collected the eggs. No battery hen chickens for us. Our chickens laid where they wanted. It was hunt the egg! This took hours which was just as well because a TV did not arrive in our house until 1953 with the coronation.

I would wait with feverish anticipation for Daddy to arrive back and see what animal he had for me. Sometimes it took ages to find the right one. I wanted the St Bernard dog. I never got it as Daddy never came across it on his travels but he took me to Selfridges Toy Department and there it was. Bliss!

The lead animals of my farm are old and battered but I can't bring myself to throw them away. My delightful 3 year old grand daughter was intrigued by them too and spent an hour and a half engrossed in playing with them. She especially liked the scarecrow!

Three generations of children have played with and enjoyed Daddy's collection. It is a pity farms are not like this today in 2013.

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