MIDLANDS MECCANO GUILD
Photos courtesy of Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography
Meccano – it’s as popular today as it ever was, and Ann Evans meets some of its avid fans.
Meccano has been around for more than 100 years, and it’s appeal today isn’t just with the kids, adults are enjoying it more than ever – and making some incredible constructions from it.
Meccano was invented and patented by Liverpool inventor and politician Frank Hornby back in 1901. He came up with the ingenious idea of strips of perforated metal that could be bolted together to make all kinds of constructions. He patented this as Mechanics Made Easy then went on to create Meccano Ltd and was later responsible for Hornby Model Railways and Dinky toys.
Those classic toys have gone on to become treasured collector’s items and clubs, societies and associations have sprung up for just about every toy imaginable. Meccano certainly has its fair share of passionate enthusiasts and the Midlands Meccano Guild, founded in 1967, was one of the first Meccano clubs formed in the UK aimed at an adult membership. Now in their 52nd year the MMG exhibit at various shows and hold two major events of their own every year. The next taking place at the British Motor Museum this coming weekend, 20 – 21 July, with Saturday being their club day.
Roger Marriott is Secretary of the MMG. He’s also editor of their full colour glossy Bulletin and author of Meccano (Shire Library Series). Roger explained, “There are two sorts of Meccano enthusiasts, those who build models and those who collect complete sets and revel in finding old parts. Some members also actively seek out the cups given as a first prize in early Meccano competitions.”
At a recent MMG exhibition held at their local venue of Baginton Village Hall on the outskirts of Coventry, dozens of their members brought along a wide range of working models constructed from Meccano, often taking months to complete. There was everything from clocks to battleships and from bridges to fantasy constructions such as Robin Schoolar’s working model that randomly moved table tennis balls this way and that way which he deliberately designed to have no practical purpose whatsoever!
Robin said, “I’ve called it Periphorating to Crossed Purposelessness and I’ve deliberately made it without a purpose except to mesmerize and amuse. You can make anything with Meccano. Your imagination is your only limitation factor.”
One of the major highlights of the year for Meccano enthusiasts is the International Meccano Exhibition held annually at Skegness. Each year the Issigonis Shield is presented to the first prize winner. Roger Marriott commented that MMG member, Alan Partridge made a significant contribution to the Meccano hobby.
Roger said, “The Shield was first awarded for the best Meccano model at the 50th Model Engineering Exhibition at Wembley, in January 1981. Alan Partridge won for his model Orrery of Jupiter and its moons. He subsequently offered the shield to commemorate the first prize winner at the Skegness exhibition. It’s an indication of the standard of MMG modelling over the years when you realise that many members of MMG have been among the prize winners – sometimes more than once.”
The nice thing about Meccano is that anyone can enjoy it, from tiny tots to grandpas, and it’s not just for the boys, girls and women enjoy it too. It’s a toy that can be used time and time again, building models and then dismantling to build something new. Building working models can teach youngsters about engineering, electrics, design and construction. MMG member Brian Compton had brought along his working model of a coal loader and unloader which was an example of high-end microprocessor models using the latest computer software which took him six months to make. “The coal loader and unloader have to be very precisely engineered,” said Brian. “It must load and unload in precisely the right spot or you’ll have coal – or in this case, small pebbles, going everywhere. The reliability is 100% with the software. It’s a really good exhibition model as it’s perfect for teaching children about microprocessor control.”
One of the younger members of the MMG is 13-year-old James who was at the show with his granddad Dave Phillips. He had found that Meccano was preparing him for a possible career in engineering. James said, “I may go into engineering when I’m older. I really enjoy Meccano, there are a lot of different things you can build with it, you just have to use your imagination.”
Chairman of the MMG, George Illingworth added, “The shape of the world has changed. These days there aren’t the straight lines and nuts and bolts of years ago, shapes are more rounded. And while the newer Meccano is made from plastic you still have the standard hole spacing and standard thread on the nuts and bolts. So, you can mix the original Meccano with today’s and they will work together.”
And with this in mind, Meccano which has been enjoyed for well over 100 years, can continue fascinating and educating the young and the not so young for many years to come.
The Midlands Meccano Guild hold their fifth annual exhibition over the weekend of 20-21 July 2019 at the British Motor Museum, Gaydon.
Following this, their next local meeting is on 12 October at the Baginton Village Hall near Coventry.
Contact the secretary via their website if you would like to go along.
More details: http://www.midlandsmeccanoguild.com/