THEY came from far and wide, their weird and wonderful objects poking out of bags, some firmly wedged under armpits, others tipping precariously from time to time as tired bodies wilted under a scorching sun.
There were stories to tell, laughs to be had and a few jaws waiting to drop. Especially for the owner of a £10,000 statue which – up until the Antiques Roadshow slapped on the unexpected price tag – was a simple plaything for her young son.
Not everyone shared such financial euphoria, but there were priceless memories in the making for thousands of people yesterday when the BBC’s long-running hit TV show rolled into the Capital, setting up home in the grounds of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
Such was the case for Bill Tait, 75, and his nine-year-old grandson, Cormack Russell, from Corstorphine, who caught the attention of presenter Fiona Bruce as they waited patiently in the snaking queue, keen for an expert to take a look at a set of rare, late 19th-century bagpipes acquired from a specialist shop in Leith back in the 1940s.
Dressed in crisp white shirts and kilts, the pair were spotted by Bruce, right, as she strolled the grounds stopping to chat to the public, some so keen to be part of the iconic show that they had arrived at the gates at 6.30am laden with goods.
“Look at that little boy in his kilt,” she smiled to a crew member as she approached Cormack and his grandad, prompting a discussion about the instrument in question and the pair’s shared love of music.
“You have a lovely story,” she told them, explaining that she was off to get her editor, keen to get the pipers to do a piece to camera.
It is all about having a good story to tell, she later explained. “I’m always on the lookout for things to film. I am a journalist first and foremost after all.”
That may be the case, and in most households if she is not mingling with antique enthusiasts she is reporting the BBC News at Ten. But when it comes to the former, her enthusiasm seems nothing short of genuine, often sitting at the reception tent as the public arrive.
“Of course I am really into this,” she laughed. “I used to watch this programme with my parents as a child, but never once thought it would come my way. But when it did I said yes straight away.
“You never know what is going to turn up on the show. It’s great.”
As the queue before her continued to grow, as did excitement when filming began. The operation was slick yet surprisingly relaxed as the public were directed to experts with a specialist interest in the type of piece they had brought, each considered before some were selected for filming.
Little was said to the owners of particularly unusual objects before they went in front of the camera, allowing each surprise reaction – usually at the estimated value of the piece, either good or bad – to be exactly that.
With polite calls to “keep the queue moving” and amusing assurances of “you all look lovely” from the filming crew, the scenes we have all watched on the show of passers-by looking on as someone’s prized possession goes under the scrutiny of a flamboyantly dressed expert took shape.
Cormack and Bill – who has been teaching his grandson to pipe since he was four – were then seen heading out to the lawn with Bruce having had a visit to the make-up department ahead of their filming, which the presenter had persuaded her editor was a definite must. Surrounded by a production crew and some onlookers, Fox Covert Primary pupil Cormack – a member of the Craigmount High School Pipe Band – could then be heard playing at Bruce’s request.
“Last time the Antiques Roadshow came to Edinburgh someone brought a set of Robertson bagpipes,” Bill explained.
“The expert said she hoped that one day someone would bring some Henderson ones – and that is what we have here.”
The rare pipes originated from William Sinclair and Son, on Madeira Street, where Bill learned to play as a young boy. Someone handed them in with a simple request that they would go to a piper who would look after them – and that person was Bill. Such pipes are rare but have been sold for up to £3500 in the past, yet on this occasion the Antiques Roadshow was unable to give an exact price, explaining that what someone was prepared to pay would most likely depend on their urgency to own a set, and Bill is undoubtedly more of an expert on how emotionally valuable such pipes are.
But a more than almighty, set-in-stone price tag was placed on one object yesterday from local lady Sunniva Hunter – to the resounding tune of £10,000.
She watched, clearly still in a state of shock at the surprise valuation, as a BBC crew member carefully carried away her striking 2ft high statue of a naked woman, created by the late sculptor Charles d’Orville Pilkington Jackson, also responsible for the famous statue of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn.
“I had no idea,” she laughed. “It was always in my grandfather’s house when I was growing up and when he died, I asked my mum whether I could have it. My son used to be fascinated by it and touch it a lot.
“It was only when I looked at the back and saw the sculptor’s name, and researched him on the internet, that I realised he was quite well known.”
Sunniva’s grandfather was prominent Scottish artist Stanley Cursiter, a former director of the National Galleries of Scotland, who was partly responsible for the creation of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art where the Antiques Roadshow was being filmed.
“The statue was cast in 1925 and Pilkington Jackson died in 1973. My grandfather died in 1976, so I suppose they were around at the same time and may have known each other. Other than that, I am not sure how the statue was acquired,” Sunniva said.
“It has been very exciting to be here today and I like to think my grandfather was looking down thinking this is a good thing taking place.
“He had a lot to do with this building, yet I don’t feel he is celebrated in Scotland perhaps as much as he could be.”
No doubt there are still celebrations in her house, however, at news of her statue’s valuation, if not looks of complete bewilderment. And perhaps there are many more similar tales of surprise, all of which will be revealed when the show is eventually aired over the coming year.
Keep your eyes peeled.
BOOK ME UP FOR A VALUATION
Who could resist the temptation to take an item of curiosity along to the Antiques Roadshow? Not I, writes Catherine Salmond.
So, armed with a couple of unusual books which have been kicking around my family for years, I set off to find book expert Justin Croft.
I like to think he was interested – he certainly came across as so – even if my finds failed to prompt any frantic filming, rush of security or indeed a strict instruction to head straight to a specialist insurer.
Nonetheless, a Gaelic bible from 1821, handed out by the Perthshire Bible Society and inscribed by some “Janet Cameron” who also penned the name of her croft proved notable.
“The fact this female has inscribed the book is what makes it really interesting,” Justin said. “People like to know what others were reading at the time. The bible was printed when lots, in several languages, were being produced. So while there may be many like this, none will have the inscription.”
Second was in a similar vein, a tiny hymn book – Songs of the Gael – printed in 1905 in Glasgow. “Very cute,” said Justin. “In terms of money these aren’t particularly valuable, but in terms of Scottish history they are.”
£45 the pair.