Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Debbie, Janet and Businesses That Truly Rock

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Debbie, Janet and Businesses That Truly Rock

Article excerpt

Byline: By Alastair Gilmour

The painstaking restoration of beautiful but neglected rocking horses has turned into a business for two North-East women. Alastair Gilmour met them.

A four-legged friend, it's said, will never let you down. The sentiment is also working the other way for two North-East women who have transformed hobbies into part-time occupations. Debbie Walsh, from Corbridge, Northumberland, and Whitley Bay-based Janet Beveridge are in business restoring and refurbishing rocking horses.

Both women ( working independently of each other ( take broken, tail-less, unloved individuals with pedigrees spanning several generations and painstakingly return them to their original craftsman finish, retaining the unique and historic characteristics they have absorbed over the years.

In Victorian times, young children would be taught the rudiments of riding on them, but primarily the handsome rocking horse was a toy for energies to be expended and for imaginations to be fired.

"There's a huge difference from one horse to another," says Debbie, with obvious pride in the rehabilitation skills she has developed ( completely different to those from her former career in criminal law.

"They're traditionally carved in wood and covered in gesso, a mixture of plaster and rabbit skin glue. A carver would fill in any accidental gouges with this and use it to cover joints. One I have restored was made in 1887 for Queen Victoria's Jubilee. When I got him his head was off and his legs were off."

Debbie, already something of a collector, took up restoration in 2000 when a friend, Jan Rusling who lives in Essex, was left with three children to bring up after her husband died suddenly.

Debbie herself is a mother of four, and the two put their heads together to find ways of generating an income.

Their abilities have since been recognised internationally ( with a client base in the US ( and by the British Toy Makers' Guild, which features them and their business, Rocking Horse Elite, in its book of particularly fine examples.

"It's great to be able to appreciate the craftsmanship and to see a horse through the eye of the carver," says Debbie. …

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