Category Archive Abingdon News

A Walk in the Past - The Abingdon Collection

A Walk in the Past

The Abingdon Collection is a small privately owned speciality museum based near the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh which raises money by donation for Cancer Research UK. The Collection spans over fifty years of an interest in classic cars, motorcycles, petroliana, enamel signs, bicycles, radios and memorabilia and also includes an extensive display of World War Two uniforms and collectables.

It would not be surprising that you have never heard of The Abingdon Collection as most of the visitors are from outside Northern Ireland and find us on TripAdvisor, but those that make the journey often come back again with friends. The Collection takes you through the dark days of the 40’s through the 1950’s and into the 1970’s. Period music adds to the experience and most visitors are able to lock on to past distant memories and often say ‘My dad had one of those’.

From an historical perspective the World War Two collection is internationally known and a guided tour brings the period to life with stories of battles fought, sacrifice and distant memories. This historically important collection attracts visitors from all over the world and a quick glance through TripAdvisor speaks volumes for the very positive response to how we try to bring the collection to life.

A very strong focus of the collection is to try to encourage young people to reflect on the past and if possible start collecting themselves. Unfortunately, the age range for collectors has risen dramatically over the years and young people are missing out on the joy of ‘touching history’ and collecting the past.

On arrival visitors are given the opportunity to dress up in original World War 2 uniforms, take their seat in a 1945 American combat jeep and get their photographs taken with their friends and relatives.

This leads you into a 1950’s experience of classic sports cars, Harley Davidsons, music and nostalgia with fantastic photo opportunities. The next room moves you 20 years forward into the 1970’s again reflected in the fashions of the day, the music, the cars and the motorcycles. This room also contains over 1000 die cast model cars and is fantastic for young children.

The World War 2 exhibition follows and this represents over fifty years of passionate collecting and research. There are over 2500 items on display and it gives the visitor time to reflect on the conflict and also provides a detailed and informative historical tour of this period.

So if you want a day out with a difference and an opportunity to step back in time just give Philip Faithfull a ring on 028 8224 3373 or check out the website for more information.

50 Years of Passionate Collecting - The Abingdon Collection

50 Years of Passionate Collecting

It is a very strange thought that you can measure the various stages of life through something as simple as collecting, and many reading this will not have a clue what I am talking about. I have written before about how some people are collectors while others cannot bear the thought of cluttering up their lives with objects from ‘past lives’.

We live in a world of a throw away existence, where a mobile phone is more important than actually speaking to the person beside you. Walk down any street and count the number of people engrossed in mobile conversations but actually having nothing to say. Yes, you are correct I am a ‘grumpy old man’, a fact my wife keeps reminding me about, but going back in time, even twenty-five years, we seemed to be in a much simpler and happier place.

In my age group of going on sixty-four I can reflect that we had radio, black and white television, with three channels if you were lucky, record players and tape decks. Life is now so rushed and if you wanted, you could flick through a few hundred TV channels just to see something that you have already seen before.

In the collection I have quite a few items which reflect this time period and often children are lost in naming particular objects. The typewriter, for example, has vanished from our vocabulary and the audio cassette is also a distant memory to most. You wonder what you can do with a couple of hundred VHS tapes stored in the attic and will they ever make a comeback like the rejuvenated vinyl record, I doubt it.

Having said that just spend some time researching the future of VHS tapes on the internet and while it may be ‘Fake News’, there seems to be a hype being generated by the sale of early Disney tapes and, believe it or not really bad horror films that never made it to DVD.

It has been suggested that this hype is being generated by those people who have the tapes and do not know what to do with them, but there is a market for everything. I must be one of the few that still has two VCR systems plugged into my televisions just in case we ever need to see the ‘Terminator’ in his original form.

How many remember the bubble gum trading cards of the 1960’s when a trip to the sweet shop robbed you of a few pence and procured you a full set of ‘Mars Attacks’, ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E’, ‘Civil War’, ‘Batman’ and a host of other cards.

It is just a pity that we did not keep them in mint condition as a full pristine set of ‘Mars Attacks’ now sells for tens of thousands of pounds. I have a set but in played with condition and worth only a few hundred. For boys, of course the Commando comics of the 1960’s gave us a weekly helping of pure escapism as we fought the ‘Nazi’ hoards or the Japanese in Burma.

I still have over two hundred early copies upstairs and in a book shop the other day I noticed the new reprints were selling for two pounds. Early copies, again, do make good money but condition is everything and some people on ebay do try to perhaps elevate the actual value of this comic. So nostalgia and your age plays a big part in what people collect and are interested in and, providing your parents did not dump your precious possessions or give them to a Charity shop, it is amazing what can still lurk in attics.

Recently a gentleman brought me a couple of Commando daggers and World War Two knuckleduster for valuation. These had belonged to his father while serving with 1/5 Commando in Burma and had only recently been discovered. He had no idea of the monetary value and also the historical importance of the items.

Over the years I have been lucky to have seen and handled many rare treasures which ultimately may have been destroyed. I once rescued the World War One peaked cap of a Major General which had been deposited in the black refuse bin and was awaiting collection the next day but you just wonder what else had made it to landfill in advance of my visit to the property.

I am sometimes asked by young collectors ‘what should I collect’ and the answer has to be whatever interests you the most. Some are lucky to inherit an interest in a subject from a parent or to be given an item from a relative or friend. It may just take that one spark of interest to motivate a lifetime of collecting.

In recent years however it has become more and more noticeable that the younger generation is not holding on to the past and, as tastes change and items come in and out of favour, we can lose valuable items of our past. No one wanted G Plan furniture, egg chairs, large chrome lamps and record players but now just check out the prices they can achieve and ‘mid- century collectables’ are now very hot.

So fifty years of collecting has taught me a few home truths. Firstly, when it reaches this level then it is too late to do much about it. Secondly, buy with your head but also your heart, as if you see an item today, the chances are that it will be gone tomorrow. Thirdly, try to pick an area of collecting that is readily available and within your price range. An enamel sign may seem expensive but available now and will go up in value in the future while an ‘Old Master’ may always be outside your limited budget.

So, ‘good collecting’ and never tell anyone what you actually paid for the item.

Philip Faithfull, The Abingdon Collection

Killed on the First Day - The Abingdon Collection

Killed on the First Day

KILLED ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 1ST JULY 1916

On the 11th November 2017 I bought a World War 1 Shell at auction which had been converted into a dinner gong. This was a common practice at the time. What prompted me to buy this artefact was the inscription on the shell case which reads:

SENT

FROM THE SOMME

BY

CAPT. R.WILSON CASSELLS

KILLED IN ACTION

1ST JULY 1916.

Commissioned as a Lieutenant on 10th September 1914, he was appointed to ‘D’ Company on the formation of the 17th Highland Light Infantry [Glasgow Chamber of Commerce Battalion]. ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies were recruited from the business houses of the City. The 17th HLI trained for a year before crossing to France in 1915 and in that year he was promoted to Captain.

On the 22nd of November 1915 the Battalion, part of the 32nd Division, sailed from Southampton for Le Havre and proceeded to the Amiens area. Much of the following months were spent gaining experience of trench warfare and from May 1916 the Battalion was engaged in preparations for the Battle of the Somme which began on the 1st July 1916. Captain Robert Wilson Cassells died in the slaughter of the first day. He was 31 when he died.

He was born in Glasgow in 1885, the son of Robert and Marion Cassells of Huntley Lodge, Moffat, Drumfriesshire. His father, a Company Director, had died in 1913 but his mother lived on until 1940 and died at the age of 87.

Captain Cassells was unmarried and was a successful Chartered accountant with M’Clelland, Ker & Co until he enlisted. He had a younger brother, William, and sister Gladys. While there is no record of the nature of his death in the Battalion War Diary he is buried at Lonsdale Cemetery, Authuille, 11.F.20. in France and is also listed on the Scottish National War memorial.

It is the inscription that really needs further investigation, in that the way it is inscribed is rather unusual.

The first part simply says ‘Sent home from the Somme by Capt. R. Wilson Cassells’ and then an engraving is added in slightly different script reads:

‘KILLED IN ACTION 1ST JULY 1916’

This second engraving was obviously added after his death but the first part suggests that the shell came from bombardments early in 1916 as the troops were preparing for the offensive in the line.

‘SENT FROM THE SOMME’ is also a strange introduction to the text and it seems an unusual item to have been posted back to his relatives in Scotland and notice that it does not say ‘brought home’, perhaps while on leave.

Anyway, he died in the slaughter of the Somme and somewhere, hopefully with the family, lies the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and possibly the Death Penny with his name inscribed.

Robert Wilson Cassells is remembered here, perhaps for the first time in many years. Please spare a thought for one of many who paid the ultimate sacrifice and whose name is all but forgotten in the mists of time and the thunder of the guns on the first day as they went over the top.

Any further information on this brave man would be appreciated and I thank the research carried out by Morag Fyfe, a Historical and Genealogical Researcher for the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis for her work in supplying this information online.

Visit The Abingdon Collection to see this historically important item.

Went the Day Well - The Abingdon Collection

Went The Day Well

Those of us who like old black and white films may remember a well known British World War 2 propaganda film from 1942 called ‘Went The Day Well’. This is an excellent film and I would strongly recommend looking it up.

Anyway, a few weeks ago Sam Carruthers from MG Owners’ Club NI phoned me to see if I would provide a couple of MGs from The Abingdon Collection in Omagh to assist with the launch of a new MG franchise in Victoria Bridge, near Strabane, owned by Greg Mitchell Motors Ltd.

Now I do not normally provide cars for display in dealerships but because I know the owners family very well I jumped at the chance and agreed to provide the cars for two days. Anyone who drives an old MG will know that the best laid plans sometimes get scuppered by the famous mechanical curse.

I had originally intended taking down the 1953 MGTD and the 1968 MGC and had even booked the MGC in for it’s annual MOT the night before. Everything was fine until I drove the MGC to the petrol station, filled her up and drove home.

It started to sound like we were being attacked by machine gun fire as the MGC jolted and backfired up the road before grinding to a halt. Bad petrol I assumed, and after much cursing and deliberation I limped the car home, frightening rabbits, cows and small children as the car played out a concerto that any punk rock band would have been proud of.

Typical, a back firing MG which now refuses to start at all and lies resting in the garage. MOT cancelled, new coil, plugs, points, condenser and rotor arm fitted and the car runs perfect. The defective coil had caused the problem and just happened by chance after filling with petrol.

Anyway, too late to join the MGTD at the MG open day, so the trusty 1957 MGA Fixed head coupe’ was pulled into service and we eventually had the two MG’s positioned on the stand.

On the first night Rory Best, the Ireland rugby Captain and British and Irish Lion was the guest of honour and I have to say that he was excellent in the giving of his time to his many fans.

I provided a bit of the background on the history of MG and what the marque means to the true enthusiast. I also talked about the joys of club membership, the options of owning every conceivable piece of clothing with the MG logo on it, and the joys of sitting for hours in a wet field talking about, you guessed it, MGs.

‘Went the day well’. The new MG’s looked excellent, the club got great publicity and Rory had some fantastic shots taken in the MGTD.

On the unfortunately wet Saturday, hundreds visited and many asked for photographs in the classic MG cars which I duly obliged. The new logo and advertising for MG was stunning and I will definitely try to ‘borrow’ some for the Collection.

If you are in the West give Greg Mitchell Motors Ltd a call and try to link it to a visit to The Abingdon Collection.

Thanks Sam for the invitation, I enjoyed the experience and the hosts were excellent. Rory Best is well named as a gentleman who is willing to share his gifts with a wider audience and, as a very good personal friend of Greg Mitchell, did him proud over the two days.

Went the day well? It certainly did.

Philip Faithfull, The Abingdon Collection

World War One Death Penny - The Abingdon Colection

World War One Death Penny

I recently bought a World War One Death Penny at a local auction and have been taking the first steps in researching the soldier whose family received this very poignant symbol of the Great War.

Many thousands of these were issued in remembrance of the fallen and unfortunately, very few remain with the descendants of these brave men who died a century ago.

I have written before about how medals end up in the hands of collectors who are often the final curators of very personal items and artefacts.

As family members pass on, people move house, and the distance in time leaves items given away or sold as connections are broken to an individual who served and died in the conflicts of the past.

This ‘Death Penny’ has opened up a new chapter in remembrance that even I had not considered and is one that will require a lot more research.

The name inscribed on the plaque is ‘Archibald Douther’ and I will give you some of the details that I have been able to assemble so far.

Archibald was born on 28th September 1888 in Ballyclare , County Antrim. He was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Douther and the husband of Martha Douther. This name is well known in the Ballyclare area and I intend making contact with relatives who may survive in the area.

While the search is just starting I have been able to find out some important information.

Sergeant Archibald Douther, Serial number 53042 was aged 30 when he died. What is so surprising is that he was with the Eastern Ontario Regiment of the Canadian Infantry in the 6th Reserve Battalion.

I can only assume that he immigrated to Canada, joined the Army and was shipped to France where he was seriously wounded in 1918 and then sent home to his family back in Northern Ireland.

What is so sad about this Death Penny is that he died of his wounds on December 13th 1918, more than a month after the war ended. He is buried in the New Cemetery, Ballyclare and his name is listed on the official Canadian War memorial.

There is a lot of work to do in researching Archibald’s story and I would like to visit his grave and also bring the ‘Penny’ back to the family if they would like to have it returned.

As generations go by, memories and family history are often lost and a chance encounter with a collector reignites interest and calls out a name from the past that has perhaps remained silent for decades. That is what history is all about and the value of research is in remembering a long forgotten name.

If anyone reading this recognises the name, please contact me as the search has just begun. This Death Penny was in the original and rare waxed cardboard cover which likely means that it was never displayed and remained unopened.

Call me on 028 8224 3373 or email if you have any additional information.

Philip Faithfull, The Abingdon Collection

1936 Obergefreiter Service Tunic - The Abingdon Collection

1936 Obergefreiter Service Tunic

I thought a few of the avid militaria collectors might be interested in the attached photographs of a new addition to The Abingdon Collection.

Last month I swore to my bank manager and my wife that my spending days were over and that, after the last motorcycle, the collection was now complete.

Well just as the story of all the buses coming at one time sometimes happens, another important military collection comes up for sale.

We have over seventy mannequins in the collection but this is certainly the best presented that I have seen for some time particularly in this unusual stance.

The mannequin included the following:

  • Model 1936 service tunic badged to an Obergefreiter (Corporal)
  • Rare combat trousers
  • Helmet with replaced decals
  • Y- Straps
  • Breadbag
  • K98 Bayonet
  • Shovel and cover
  • Water bottle
  • Gas mask and container
  • Mess tin
  • Army belt and buckle
  • Studded marching boots
  • Deactivated K98 Mauser
  • Early replica MP40
  • Ammunition pouches

The mannequin must date back at least thirty years and is in great condition and poses well with the equipment.

I just wish some young entrepreneur would think about starting a company to reproduce this older type mannequin as I know that there is a market out there for Collectors and the retail trade.

Anyway, if you want to see the latest addition just call me on 028 8224 3373 to arrange a visit.

Philip Faithfull, The Abingdon Collection

1942 Matchless G3L 350cc - The Abingdon Collection

1942 Matchless G3L 350cc

As a collector, I have often commented on the fact that we are only custodians of these large collections and in time they need to be passed on to a new generation who hopefully will both enjoy the thrill of ownership but also protect the memories attached to the artefacts.

I was recently very honoured to be offered one of the wonderful motorcycles from the ‘Noel Preston Collection’ in Omagh. Noel is an internationally recognised expert on AJS and Matchless machinery but unfortunately ill health has forced the breakup of his lifetime’s collection.

Noel was a keen restorer and historian on these machines and the collection was a true tribute to his skills. While the collection has now been dispersed, the machines are living new lives with owners who respect the sheer beauty and engineering of these vintage motorcycles.

It is sad for any owner to see a collection that he or she has been passionate about being broken up, but this has always been the way that new collectors get the enthusiasm to continue and keep history alive.

The names on documents may change as vehicles change hands but the passion lives on. In the Classic Car market at present, some models are changing hands for ridiculous sums today and there is currently no sign of the market slowing down.

In a booklet published by ‘Auto Classic Weekly’ in the 1990’s it recommended buying, among others, good condition E-Type Jaguars for £12,000 or Ford Escort Mexico’s for £3,000. If only we had all heeded the advice and stockpiled a few of the out of favour cars of the past we could all have retired by now.

This, however, is not why we collect these machines and gone are the days of the investor, only there to make a killing from another investment portfolio. Classic vehicle owners now keep what they have and search for the best they can afford.

There is no doubt that recent Classic Car Auction prices are affecting the market, you only have to look at recent results for Ford Capris to see how the market is changing.

Good classic cars and motorcycles will always hold their value and there is a need to collect, drive and show these fantastic machines to a new generation who hopefully will continue to keep this history alive. Collectors and restorers like Noel Preston and my late good friend, Nick Murray have ensured that history lives on in their tremendous skill and hands on work.

Young mechanics and collectors have a lot to learn in keeping this tradition alive and I hope that they take the time to reflect, learn from and develop the skills that are unfortunately being lost in a computer generated world where the humble carburettor will soon be a museum piece only.

Philip Faithfull,The Abingdon Collection

Out and About in Ulster - The Abingdon Collection

Out and About in Ulster

The Abingdon Collection was recently featured on ‘Out and about in Ulster’, a local magazine programme from Irish TV, Ireland’s newest and most exciting live digital media platform.

As well as showcasing the cars, motorbikes, militaria and memorabilia, Philip was interviewed about the challenges of collecting and maintaining the collection. The programme, which covered several aspects of Omagh life, was broadcast by IrishTV.ie at 7.00pm on Monday the 21st April 2014.

Out and about in Ulster April 2014 - The Abingdon Collection
Out and about in Ulster April 2014

Click on the link below to see the programme:

If you are interested in arranging a visit, you can contact The Abingdon Collection by post, phone or email

Contact: Philip Faithfull

Address: The Abingdon Collection, “Abingdon”, 16 Gortnagarn Road, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, BT78 5NW

Telephone: 028 8224 3373

Mobile: 07715 455170

Abingdon Collection goes from Strength to Strength - The Abingdon Collection

Abingdon Collection goes from Strength to Strength

This has been the best year yet for visitors to THE ABINGDON COLLECTION, with collectors, enthusiasts and tourists arriving almost every day.

The kind remarks now being made on TripAdvisor have encouraged visitors to come along and make a day of it, particularly if they are visiting the Ulster American Folk Park.

The collection is beginning to receive some very good national publicity and we have recently seen visitors coming from America, Australia, Canada and the Continent.

Irish visitors still make up the majority of our numbers and Cancer Research UK are really benefiting from the generous donations freely given.

So if you want a day out with a difference give us a call and get an experience which is unique and also has a free history lesson included.

Nick Murray – An Appreciation

Omagh lost one of it’s true characters last week with the untimely death of Nick Murray. Nick was originally from England but will always be remembered for his contribution to the life of Omagh.

When classic car enthusiasts talk of local legends then Nick was always mentioned and in his own way, he created a mini industry and reputation for classic car restoration in the West of the Province. He was a talented engineer but also an authority on old vehicles and used his knowledge to rebuild some of the best ‘nut and bolt restorations’ in the North.

With friends he would scour the Country in the 6O’s and 70’s buying abandoned old military vehicles and wrecks, bringing them home to Jail Square and then bringing them back to life. He will be best remembered in Omagh for driving around in old American Military vehicles including Jeeps and a very rare Dodge command car and he was ahead of his time in recognising the value of saving these historical vehicles.

For twenty years he drove the countryside in his beloved 1953 black MGTD and would never miss a local classic car show. With his late wife Kathy, he drove through the towns and countryside raising a smile from the public particularly with their loving dog Ben sitting on Kathy’s knee and looking over the door of the car.

When Kathy recently died, a light went out in Nick’s eyes but they are now together again. Nick Murray is remembered by many as a gifted artist, a talented mechanic and restorer and a true friend. The classic cars he leaves behind are a lasting true legacy of his life’s work and will stand the test of time. 

He restored cars for many local and distant collectors, gave advice to many, helped many and made lasting friendships throughout the world of classic cars. If you wanted to know anything about MG’s you had to see Nick Murray and he was always there to help.

The thoughts of all his friends are with his two beloved daughters at this sad time but his memory will live on in the quality of the restorations he completed over the last 50 years and when people ask ‘who restored that car for you?’, the answer will often be…

‘Nick Murray of Omagh built it’

‘Wow, he did a fantastic job.’

From Philip Faithfull and all his friends and colleagues.

Harley Ate My Gearknob - The Abingdon Collection

Harley Ate My Gearknob!

In December 2010 I was persuaded to take in a 10-week-old Beagle from the local dog pound; an unwanted Christmas present that needed a new home.

This new addition to a house, already containing two cats who hate each other, created its own form of absolute chaos. The dog was quickly named Harley, after the motorbike, and Harley the Beagle Harrier soon began to take over the house.

In the first few weeks of living with us Harley ate furniture, skirting boards, supposedly indestructible toys, and produced enough waste to make me wonder if someone was delivering ‘take out’ food to him during the night, particularly of the extremely smelly curry variety.

Anyway, that sort of sets the scene for Harley’s arrival and the next few months saw the tiny pup grow into a 30 kilogram muscle bound monster who had to be walked by my wife or myself four miles every day. It’s a great way to lose weight, and sometimes friends, but we are lucky to live in the countryside with some great long walks only a few miles from home.

Harley loves the car and I made the mistake of commenting to my wife Hazel, that Harley was always on his best behaviour when travelling in the car. Famous last words!!

Harley loves travelling in my wife’s 2002 Garnet Red MX-5 Montana – a great car that we have put over 125,000 miles on in nine years of ownership.

It was a lovely day in August when I put Harley into the passenger seat, strapped him in and prepared for a four-mile hike in the mountains. Then I got called over by my next-door neighbour and had to leave Harley for exactly three minutes alone in the car. No problem. He had never posed a threat to the MX-5 before. Why would today be any different?

It was! Looking through the front windscreen Harley had disappeared from his usual position beside the steering wheel. I approached the MX-5 with an increased sense of dread and trepidation. Had he escaped or was he simply lying down on the passenger seat bored of waiting to get into the starting blocks for his walk?

No… I could see as I slowly looked in through the window that Harley had decided that the beautiful brown wooden Nardi Torino gear knob was ripe for destruction and was at exactly the right height to fit exactly into his mouth and was an excellent teething toy for dogs.

I opened the door, almost started to cry, and watched Harley’s big brown eyes look away from me as if to say… ‘I know something’s wrong but I’m not exactly sure what the problem is here.’

The gear knob was a mass of splintered wood gauged out by huge teeth marks, part of it already swallowed and the rest lying forlornly on the floor of the car. I could have said more but my only relief was that he had not the time to eat the wooden steering wheel and handbrake handle.

Anyway, off we went in silence for the four-mile walk with me having dark thoughts about taking him off the lead, hiding behind some trees and running to the car before he missed me!

To cut a long story short I checked eBay and found a Nardi gear knob for sale on there. I bid and bought it for £35, as new.

Harley loves the MX-5 with the window down or the roof off, ears flapping in the wind.

We also have 20th anniversary MX-5 model in red, white and blue. Will he ever get into it? Only if he learns to open the door himself!!

By the way, Harley ate the mud flap off my 1986 mint Opel Manta last week. One year on, would I change him? Not a chance.

If you are visiting Northern Ireland why not visit Harley and the Abingdon Collection in Omagh, Co. Tyrone. Check out www.theabingdoncollection.com or telephone 028 8224 3373.

By Philip Faithfull from Northern Ireland.


Reprinted with permission from Soft Top Hardtop, the MX-5 OWNERS CLUB magazine.

See the original Harley Ate My Gear Knob article or visit the MX-5 Owners Club website.