Family Have Made Collecting a Way of Life

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 27, 2003 | Go to article overview

Family Have Made Collecting a Way of Life


Byline: Rhodri Clark

MANY of us have been bitten by the collecting bug at some stage in our lives.

Perhaps it was football programmes or stamps when we were children, or fine bone china after the mortgage was paid off.

But for the Cooke family of Penyffordd, Flintshire, collecting is more than a hobby - it's a way of life.

Their collections, ranging from pens to tractors, are taking up ever more space in the house and garden.

Being serious collectors also eats up a lot of their time. There are auctions and car-boot sales to attend, in various parts of Britain, and the family is in demand at fairs and shows across Wales and England.

Last weekend the family travelled to England's south coast to exhibit a collection of antique irons at the Great Dorset Steam Fair.

The collecting obsession began nine years ago, when John Cooke and his partner Sheila Tyler were clearing out his grandfather's farm.

'We came across an old flat iron, and it started from there,' said Sheila, 53.

'I remember my mum using a flat iron until the early 1960s. We lived in a farm on the Denbigh Moors and didn't have electricity. I used a Calor Gas iron and Tilley irons, which burned paraffin.'

Now she has 250 flat irons - although she says she hates ironing.

Most cost her about pounds 9 each and the most expensive was only pounds 14, although the collection includes an 1863 crimping iron - a type of mangle - for which she wa s recently offered pounds 180.

She has travelled as far as Cambridge to bid for irons, which she heard about through the British Iron Collectors' Club.

She enjoyed collecting irons so much that she started collecting tie and trouser presses. Although these are sold at auction for pounds 60 or more, Sheila picks them up at car boot sales for pounds 3 or pounds 4.

'People don't know what they are.'

John, 55, who works as an industrial fencer, spends his spare time and money on tractors and stationary engines.

'He's got a big shed down the bottom of the garden,' said Sheila. 'He gets six tractors in there. He's just pinched my wood shed as a home for his other tractor.'

Naturally the children also want to collect, although they haven't gone down the familiar roads of stamp or toy collecting. Helen, seven, and Aled, five, are amassing pens branded with the names of medical companies, the Royal College of Nursing and other organisations.

'We did encourage them to collect. It's nice to keep it in the family,' said Sheila, who works as a nurse. …

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