Northern Ireland

Mid-Antrim Museum in Ballymena brings back 1950s toys

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Media captionToys from the 1950s are on display at Mid-Antrim Museum in Ballymena

It's the time of year for toys and they have certainly changed over the years.

In fact many toddlers are growing up in a world where using their parents' touch-screen tablet technology is second nature.

But back in the 1950s toy technology was much simpler. After years of austerity during World War II, toy manufacturing was just beginning to pick up.

Tricycles and pedal cars were for many children the stuff of dreams and those sought after toys are once again in the spotlight at the Mid-Antrim Museum in Ballymena, in an exhibition called No Batteries Required.

Image caption Pedal cars were some of the most sought-after toys

The curator of the museum, Jayne Clarke, says the exhibition is more than just a bit of festive fun.

"We're looking at how toys reflect important things that were happening in society at that time, such as developments in the motor industry," she says.

"The 1950s is just before the space age so we can see how the toys of the late 50s change into the toys of the 1960s, which were increasingly influenced by film and television."

The toys on display are all owned by Ballymena-based collector Kevin Timoney.

He says his private collection has been built up over many years.

"My father bought me a car when I was five years of age and I still have it here, I won a car at the bazaar when I was about 10 and it just evolved over the years," he says.

Image caption The toys have proved to be durable, with many still in perfect condition

"I have never really counted them but I know there is close to 300."

Many of the toys on display were made by Lines Bros Ltd under the brand name Tri-ang.

The company was once one of the largest toy manufacturers in the world.

'Imagination and freedom'

During the 1940s toy manufacturing stopped and its factories instead produced machine guns for WWII.

Kevin's toys are some of the first made after the company resumed normal operations.

Image caption Toys owned by Kevin Timoney make up much of the collection on display

"After the war, toy manufacturing became popular again, and Tri-ang were making fabulous toys," he said.

"The fact that they have lasted so long and some of them are in terrific shape is a tribute to the people that owned them."

Tri-ang went out of business in the early 1970s. The toys are now highly valued by collectors, with some of the model cars fetching about £100.

The exhibition also features copies of advertisements from Ballymena newspapers in the 1950s, promoting local toy shops and particular brands like Tri-ang and Dinky Supertoys.

Curator Jayne Clarke says that while toys today are very different, some aspects are timeless.

"Toys have changed dramatically, but some of the ideas and some of the emotions that children have when they are playing with toys never changes," she said.

"That idea of imagination and freedom and being able to express themselves and play with other children is still there."

The exhibition runs until 4 January.

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