Toy fairs saved thanks to Callander museum family

A local toy museum has made a play to turn Callander into a hub for UK collectors and enthusiasts.

Back in March 2020, a long-established toy fair in Falkirk closed its doors for the last time after 40 years.

But now the Hamilton Toy Collection in Callander has stepped in to resurrect the event – with the first fair due to take place at McLaren High School this weekend.

For almost 30 years the Hamilton family have been helping to bring out the inner child in everyone who steps through the doors of their Callander museum in Main Street into a treasure trove of play things from yesteryear – from cereal box toys to an original 1919 Steiff teddy bear.

The family have been regular attendees at the Falkirk fair over the years with their sales stand.

Catriona Hunter, daughter of the collection’s founders, said: “As result of the Covid lockdown and the previous organisers change of circumstances, the long-established Toy Fair closed its doors for the last time in March 2020.

“This resulted in a huge void for toy and model collectors in the central belt of Scotland.

(Image: Stirling Observer)

“With this in mind and after consultation with the previous organisers, ourselves at the Hamilton Toy Collection have joined forces with another long-standing swap-meet trader – Iain McAulay of Leven Valley Trains based in Balloch.

“We jointly felt there was a desperate need for a regular toy and collectors event, where the previous one left off.”

After looking at numerous venues, they finally settled on McLaren High School.

“There was a massive interest from public and traders alike, when we, along with Iain, jointly announced our intentions in early March,” said Catriona.

“Although this is a commercially based venture, it was always our joint intention that the local community would also benefit from the increased footfall to the area. The response from the local business community has been very positive and we have enlisted the school PTA to provide on-site catering on the days, to ensure that the school fund benefits too.”

(Image: Stirling Observer)

The toy fairs will take place on Sundays – the first being this weekend – with others on August 7 and November 6.

Public admission is from 12.30-4pm (price, adults £2 and under-16s £1).

The stalls will contain a plethora of collectables: new, vintage and pre-owned toys and models covering all genres, provided by more than 30 independent traders, from Scotland and the North of England.

“Whilst in Callander in addition to visiting the toy fair,” said Catriona, “we are sure that families and individuals alike will take advantage by visiting all the local artisan shops, attractions and eateries that Callander and the Trossachs have to offer.”

The Hamilton Toy Collection itself meanwhile is already open for its new season – its 28th. The museum, at 111 Main Street in Callander, is manned seven days a week until October 31.

Catriona added: “As usual we have been buying collections for both the shop and the museum, moving our collecting philosophy forward a decade to include the 1980s.

“Local holidays and staycations resulted in many new visitors – many of whom said ‘I have been meaning to visit for years’ – and also an increasing number of young families coming in who had visited in years past with their own parents – which on the downside does make you feel rather old.

“Despite the somewhat packed nature of the collection, we have still managed to sneak a few new exhibits in – but we still suffer from the usual problem that for every 10 items we buy in to keep, we can only usually manage to squeeze one out. The rest are retained as part of the strategic reserve, which enables us to display independently at exhibitions and shows, without taking items out the museum.

For more on Sunday’s toy fair visit and for more on the toy museum visit