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PICTURES: Tommy Campbell is a model citizen as former Nairn fisherman discovers a passion for model ship making with the latest addition to his collection is a spectacular three-foot scale model of the ill-fated Titanic


By Donald Wilson

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After a lifetime at sea, former fisherman Tommy Campbell’s career came to an end due to arthritis and other health issues nearly 20 years ago.

But the 79-year-old from Nairn has not been idle, discovering a passion for model ship making that has now seen him add to his collection with a spectacular three-foot scale model of the ill-fated Titanic.

“When I retired I decided to start building models and to look after my wee garden,” he said.

“I started with some of the local fishing boats for some of my pals as well as building forts for the kids of some of my crewmates.”

A crew member on one of the last Nairn seine-netters, The Moyness, he produced a model of that for his skipper’s daughter along with another Nairn boat The Albion, which had been owned by his uncle.

Now taking pride of place in his Fishertown living room he began working on his model of the Titanic last October as he realised that the need to stay at home during the coronavirus crisis was not going to end any time soon.

Full of ingenious creative touches the striking model features cotton reels and golf tees used as anchor winches with the funnels created from plastic plumbing pipe.

“I even used the lids from my vaping bottles as ship’s vents and brass furniture rings for the portholes,” Mr Campbell said.

“Some of the rigging in the sailing boats are angling swivels which look really good and the sails are pieces of cloth I’ve stained with tea.

“Searchlights are made from deodorant spray tops and blu-tac.”

Explaining his passion he said: “My life was the sea before.

“You never had time for things like this but I’ve enjoyed it.”

Building up his modelling skills has been just a matter of practice and experimentation and he added: “You’re learning all the time – what works, what doesn’t.

“And you have to be methodical making the parts then putting them in place as you build the model before you use the glue.

“I take the models outside and use the jigsaw when I need to, though it can be quite painful with my arthritis because my hands lock when I’m cutting wood.”

As well as fishing boats and now the Titanic Mr Campbell’s spectacular creations also include a take on the world-famous Clyde paddle steamer the Waverley and an intricately realised sailing training craft.

“Most of the models were based on old photographs but the sailing craft I designed myself,” he said.

“It contains all the rigging and sails sea cadets would have been trained to haul.”

As for the long-term future of his colourful creations, he said: “I’ve given some off over the years and I suppose I will pass some of the models over to people who have family connections to the boats.

“The rest I’ll probably leave to the Nairn museum.”


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