Museum enlists force of model recruits

TWELVE months of hard work was generously donated to an Alnwick museum to help keep history alive.

Byron Ferguson presented a set of 72 hand-made replica model soldiers to the Northumberland Fusiliers Museum last week in a bid to revive his family's association with the town.

Mr Ferguson, born in Alnwick, migrated to Abbotsford, Canada, in 1976 after a long spell with Northumbria Police. He became the secretary of the Canadian Military Figure Society based at Vancouver Museum.

He said: "There are 28 members and the majority are in their 80s so they are all wartime fellows. In fact most of them are ex-patriots from here."

Mr Ferguson, who has been making models for five years, began his hobby after contacting Joe Woosnam, father of Welsh golfer Ian Woosnam.

Mr Ferguson said: "Joe had been making figures for 30 years so I got in contact with him and he took me under his wing."

The lengthy process involves a lot of time, patience and nimble fingers.

Mr Ferguson said: "It was hard to get all of the information I needed because I wanted them to be as accurate as possible. They are difficult to make because each one has about six or seven different parts, like heads, arms, drums.

"You have to make the model in plastic, then make a cast out of rubber. The metal is then poured in. Once it has set, it is cleaned up and any bits are filled in. Then it is ready to be painted."

It took Mr Ferguson between 18 and 20 hours to make just one figure.

Mr Ferguson, whose mother lives at Church Lane, Alnwick, feels the real pride in his donation comes from his family roots. He said: "My family has heavy associations. Both my grandfather and father served in the Northumberland Fusiliers.

"It's nice to be able to give back to the town where I was born in whatever way I can and it will be nice for the grand kids when they visit so they have more of a feeling of association with Alnwick.

"The museum really needs the support of everyone in the area. I am pleased they have taken them. I feel quite honoured to have something like this displayed."

Lesley Frater, museum curator, said: "They are beautiful and excellently painted.

"They are wonderful to have and we think they will create a great deal of interest with children and collectors.

"They are an excellent addition to our collection."

Mr Ferguson's personal collection totals 3,500 models, mainly of military bands and figures from the Indian Raj period.

The Fusiliers Museum began in 1929 at the then depot at Fenham Barracks in Newcastle. It moved to the Abbotts Tower at Alnwick Castle, in 1970.