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Monday, 24 May 2010

Shiver me Timbers

Well the bank holiday is almost upon us and it will also be half term around the country. I expect Looe to be very busy and if the weather is anything like the last few days then there will probably be standing room only on the beach. I had a look to see what events are happening in and around Looe and notice that there is a Pirate and Buccaneer Event on May 29th, 30th and 31st at Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, which is only about 20 minutes away by car from Looe. It promises to be a weekend of swashbuckling adventure.

Now Looe and Polperro have a long history of pirates and smuggling throughout the ages. When I was growing up here I remember hearing the stories of how smugglers had dug tunnels by hand beneath the bay from the seafront out to Looe Island. There they would land their bounty probably at night, and then would carry it ashore through the tunnels to evade capture by the Revenue men who would be waiting on the shore. As children, my friends and I would be play pirates and go to second beach on the seafront and use the cave there as our hideout and wait for passing ships for us to plunder. Although I must admit the cave was a bit scary when you are aged only maybe seven or eight.

It takes little imagination to believe that the quiet rocky coves along the coast of Port Nadler and Talland Bay would of been a safe haven for smugglers to beach their boats under cover of darkness, unload whisky and other contraband to hide until they returned at a safer time to collect it, and there are many of these little coves around the coast of Cornwall. This was a way for the fishermen to supplement their meagre income due to the high taxes imposed by the Government at the time, and although the penalties for being caught were high, it was a risk they were prepared to take for the rewards it brought.

I seem to remember several years ago a local restaurant which was being refurbished unearthed the entrance to what could possibly of been part of a tunnel or cave although maybe to do with health and safety concerns, I believe it was left alone although I cant remember the outcome of it. As for smugglers, Joan Black was one of the most fearsome at the time, who along with her brother was said to of used Looe Island as a base, and a man who who was murdered by her is now said to haunt Looe Island.

In Looe on Tuesdays through the summer months, we still have a few people who dress up as Pirates and Wenches and really look convincing. They walk around the streets greeting children and adults and probably tell tales of the most popular of Looe's pirates, Robert Colliver, who became the most bloodthirsty of captains to sail the Indian Ocean. If you have a budding pirate or would be smuggler in the family then we have a range of pirate items so follow this link but mind ye landlubbers aren't made to walk the plank.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Collectible Tin Toys

I had an interesting conversation with a customer last week in recalling the toys we had when we were children, which was many years ago! I often have people in the shop, usually grandparents, picking up toys and remembering them from their childhood days long ago, and we got talking about the replica wind up tin toys that we sell.

Now I am going back to the late 1950's and early 1960's when I was just a young boy and and at that time there were no rules about buying tin toys that I can remember unlike today where we have stricter regulations. They are now more for adult collectors and we cannot sell them to children under 14 as they do not comply with toy safety legislation.

Now the one he fondly remembered best of all was Robbie the Robot or Planet Robot as its sometimes called. I do remember my brother having one, which I wasn't allowed near, but then in those days toys were far more expensive and we had few to play with, and for that reason were more cherished. It is probably our best selling robot in the shop and online and I believe most people associate it with the film 'Forbidden Planet'.

My fondest memories were a small wind up tin train set. I don't think it was a named brand, but to me it was the best toy ever. Comprising of a circular track with a few carriages you could have endless adventures with it. Also I had a few wind up tin cars and in those days there was not a battery in sight. Many a time when they stopped working I would give the broken toy to my father and he would miraculously take it apart and before long it would be working again.

On Saturdays I would go to the local toy shop in Liskeard, which if I remember correctly was called 'Glanvilles' and it was full of every kind of tin toy you could imagine. I would spend ages in there before deciding what toy to spend my pocket money on.

I thought it would be interesting to have a look at some of the history of tin toys and didn't realise that they originated in Germany around the 1850's, being assembled and painted by hand and a few decades later lithography was used to print the designs onto tinplate, where they were shaped by machine and tin tabs used to hold the item together. It wasn't long before America, France and England began making tin toys in earnest with Japan soon producing them after the the second world war.

As always cheaper plastic toys took over in the 1960's and popularity for the tin toys waned but with an ever increasing market now for collectibles, tin toys seem to be making a comeback and China has now become a leading producer of replica tin toys.

If you are looking for a memorable present for someone, or you yourself are a collector then have a look at our range of not only tin robots but also our replica tin wind up Ferris wheels, motorcycles, planes, cars and animals and hopefully they will bring as much pleasure to you as they brought me when I owned them.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Shopkeepers Nightmare

Well this has to be one of every shopkeepers nightmare in having a window smash and the clear up afterwards. It happened on the Saturday afternoon before the bank holiday weekend. I was standing outside the shop on the pavement talking to a customer about the toy display and there was a tremendous bang as the window literally shattered in front of us. First reaction was disbelief of what I just saw happen and then shopkeepers in the street appearing expecting to see a car accident. Incredibly at that moment there was no one else around and so thankfully no one was injured. If you have ever dropped a glass bowl or vase on the floor then you will know how much glass there seems to be, well this was a ten foot by six foot pane and due to the age of the building, approx 1973 the glass wasn't toughened so it had shattered everywhere. The first job was clearing the road of glass and then the pavement. Have you ever tried to find a company to board up a window late on a Saturday afternoon? A blank cheque comes to mind but in a community like Looe there is always someone willing to help and a local builder measured it, drove to a local store for wood and had it boarded a few hours later. The rest of the week was clearing up the mess and organising for a new window to be fitted in time for the start of the bank holiday and we were open on the Saturday morning as normal. At least this window is 10mm toughened glass now!!

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