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February 11, 2019: A retired firefighter has been “playing with matches” to impress visitors at a North-East cultural attraction.
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Clive Holmes, 81, spent much of his professional life educating people about the dangers of matches, but during an uneventful shift working for Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service he discovered a talent for putting them to a different use.
After retiring in 1976, Clive now spends his days carefully assembling meticulously detailed models of famous landmarks, and he is well underway with his latest piece: Ushaw College Junior House, which will be displayed with his other models at the college, a former Catholic seminary in Ushaw Moor, now open to the public.
Now a granddad-of-four, Clive said: “I was a bit bored at the fire station one day, and I spotted a Lincolnshire roadmap with a picture of Lincoln Cathedral on the cover. Well, I had some down time and a box of matchsticks, so I thought I would have a go at building that.
“I’ve been making models all my life, but I’d never made anything out of matches before. I cut off all the flammable heads, and I just got on with it. It took a while, but that was my first matchstick model. That will have been about 40 years ago.”
Since that first model, Clive’s most celebrated models have been of Durham Cathedral, a masterpiece containing 146,000 matchsticks, and the buildings of Ushaw College.
Clive added: “My wife was very relieved when we donated the Durham Cathedral model to Ushaw, as it meant we got our dining room table back. When I went to drop it off, I saw the beautiful architecture of the college and I knew what my next model would be.”
Starting with the college’s St Cuthbert’s Chapel, Clive has since also made striking models the library and the main administrative building, and he’s now started assembling the college’s Junior House. Designed by acclaimed architect Peter Paul Pugin and built in 1859, the Junior House boarded boys aged 11 to 14, and although the building closed in 1972 and is now in ruins, Clive is working from old floor plans and prints to recreate the Junior School as it would have been in its prime.
Work began on the Junior House in October 2018, and Clive expects to be finished by the end of 2019. He estimates the completed model will be made up of 45,000 matchsticks and will require 60 tubes of glue.
“It’s a lot of matchsticks,” Clive admits. “When my daughters were young, they used to earn their pocket money by removing the heads from thousands of matches for me. Being able to buy bags of modelling matchsticks saves them a lot of effort.”