At home in a dollhouse

Posted on: 31st August, 2017

Category: Features

Contributor: West Cork People

Kaye’s husband, the well-known musician and entertainer Jimmy Hayes, sadly passed away earlier this year and, after much deliberation, Kaye has decided to open their home up as a ‘Museum of Childhood’ in his memory. “Jimmy always used to say it’s such a pity that other people couldn’t see and enjoy these lovely things,” she explains. “It was something that he always encouraged me to do.”

Kaye came to Ireland from New Zealand almost 24 years ago, after falling in love with Clonakilty man Jimmy. “I suppose my collection has gotten a bit out of hand,” she says, “but with Jimmy being so ill the past few years, I was home a lot, and he got a great kick out of watching me restore items.”

Rooting through charity and junk shops and ordering off eBay, Kaye cannot leave a neglected doll or teddy bear behind when she finds one in poor condition. Taking it home, she’ll carefully bring it back to past glory – replacing stuffing and limbs, mending clothes, fixing cracked heads…it’s a labour of love. “When I see a teddy or a doll in a charity shop, I feel sad that it’s not wanted any more, so I bring it home and fix it up.”

One such doll rescued by Kaye had been savaged by a dog. Restored and outfitted in an Edwardian bridal dress, it now sits proudly on a shelf in Kaye’s home. Another had no arms but now looks as good as new. A 1930s Wilson pram spent 50 odd years in a cow shed before being rescued and restored.

“I’ve lost count of the dolls,” she says “but I must have at least 30 prams.”

An American dolls pram, c1850, a Princess Margaret pram made by Hitchings in 1913, a Silver Cross, these are just a few of the gems in the collection. Kaye even had one shipped over from New Zealand when she moved here.

And when you can drag yourself away from admiring the collections of dolls and prams, you’ll get lost in the miniature dolls houses that Kaye has built herself from scratch.

“I always wanted a dolls house when I was a kid and never had one,” she explains.

Miniature dollhouse-making requires patience and dedication; many hours have gone into Kaye’s houses. A three-storey Edwardian miniature house takes pride of place. Inside, tiny furniture and figures reveal at a glance the domestic life of that era. A servant is at work in the kitchen with tiny pots and pans hanging overhead and tiny vegetables sitting by the sink waiting to be washed; tiny toys on the nursery floor are waiting to be played with,; the gentlemen of the house relax in the games rooms, which boasts a miniature pool table; a grand piano awaits instruction in the drawing room. Kaye spent three days assembling the delicate keys and wiring the piano.

All of the walls of this miniature house have been carefully decorated with miniature-patterned wallpaper. Tiny tiles and rugs cover the floors and elaborate chandeliers swing from the ceilings. There are even tiny light bulbs. Kaye wired the big house herself, drilling holes and then soldering the wires to copper tape on the back of the house.

Another one of Kaye’s projects is a miniature reproduction of the well-known De Barra pub in Clonakilty. Kaye spent hours photographing every detail in the pub, from the photos on the wall to the chamber pots hanging from the ceiling, before even beginning. The photos in the miniature De Barra’s have been downsized and carefully framed. A pack of cigarettes on the bar has been modeled from clay and the beer taps are made from delicate strings of beads. It’s a stunning piece of work and the result is so lifelike it will leave you speechless.

Children and adults alike will be captivated with Kaye’s collections in the museum, a treasure trove of items from yesteryear.

You can visit the ‘Museum of Childhood’ in Clonakilty by appointment, call 023 88 59736.

There is no entry charge but Kaye is accepting donations, which will go towards her restoration projects.

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