Long queues of umbrella-wielding visitors snaked through Hillsborough Castle’s grounds today to get to the Antiques Roadshow.
By 2pm – with another two-and-a-half hours still to go – 1,758 had defied the drizzle to make it into the Royal residence, with many bearing armfuls of heirlooms and bric-a-brac to be valued.
Making it on to TV is a tough business though, and one of the show’s staff estimated that perhaps about 70 items might be filmed in a day – and even then there is no guarantee of making the final cut.
Some left disappointed after learning their treasures were mere mass-produced fare, and others were delighted to find that their obscure old objects were worth substantial amounts.
Among the more bizarre items was an old Cold War-era piece of spy kit, brought in by Loughgall engineer Stephen Ferguson, 46.
It consisted of a military-green box filled with wires and a drawer containing a radio-like device. Although seemingly intended as a clandestine device, it also required a pedal generator weighing perhaps 30 pounds.
Asked how he got such a device past the security of the castle, which is the Queen’s official Northern Ireland residence, he joked that many people had asked if it was emitting a tick, tick, tick noise.
He believes the device could fetch up to £2,000, but it was valued at around £100 by the roadshow member.
“It was actually a produced by I think it was GCHQ in the late 40s, early 50s,” he said.
“It was used really for MI6, SAS groups and other special groups from that time.”
He added: “It’s only as valuable as two people are willing to pay, isn’t it? It’s valuable to me – I like it, I don’t really want to get rid of it anyway.”
One surprisingly successful find was an old Japanese toy, made out of tin, which was brought in by David Evans, a Ballynahinch plumber.
In addition, he had brought in notes from a military physician dating back to 1812, and thinks he has a chance of making it through to a final cut.
On his 1969 toy lunar lander, he said: “(The valuer) said it’s in remarkably good condition, and the American market would love this.”
It had been an unwanted gift as a child and sat in the attic for years, but today it would be worth perhaps as much as £350 or more. “It’s a nice present now – it wasn’t when I was a kid!” he said.
Others brought with them hauls of Belleek pottery, prestigious paintings, and in the case of one David Riddell from Drumaness, a seven-foot-wide canvas depicting the crucifixion of Christ – which was thought to have hung in a pre-Reformation cathedral.
The show is expected to air in autumn.