Turkeys aren't just for Christmas! Quirkiest collection EVER seen by Charles Hanson found at house

Posted on 09/04/2021 in Press Coverage

Turkeys in every shape, size and hue imaginable are coming up for auction thanks to the discovery in a Yorkshire house of one of the most unusual collections ever found by TV antiques expert Charles Hanson.

A lifetime’s collection of turkeys including turkey platters, plates, tureens, ornaments, figurines and even a turkey salt and pepper pot are among an eclectic mix of more than 70 poultry-related items sourced from all over the world which are due to be sold by Hansons Auctioneers on April 16.

The collectables were amassed over three decades by the late Pete McLean, a former lecturer at Lincolnshire College of Agriculture which later became part of De Montford University. He was also part of the management team at Moorland Poultry near Thirsk, Yorkshire, for nine years and secretary at a Poultry Industry Conference.

Sadly, Pete passed away aged only 59 in 2002 after a short illness. But his turkey collection remained intact, lovingly cared for by his wife Val McLean, who died at the age of 74 in December 2020.

Charles, who has worked in the antiques world for 20 years, said: “I have seen many extraordinary collections over the years but this has to beat them all for sheer originality. Turkeys have never been regarded as the most attractive of birds and, despite taking pride of place on our Christmas dinner tables, don’t get the recognition they deserve. Pete and Val have put that right.

“This collection is a fun, quirky and plucky celebration of turkeys, and why not? Collections begin for many reasons, in Pete’s case his job sparked the hobby, but all have one thing in common, they bring a great deal of joy to the collector over many years.”

The late Pete McLean and a dresser in the house where his turkey collection was found.

Pete’s niece Liz Harrison, a retired HR adviser, from Wellesbourne, Warwickshire, said: “Pete married my aunt Val in October 1973 and during the course of their marriage they collected turkey memorabilia wherever they were on holiday, so pieces from Europe and America are included. They were well known for the collection and many of their friends contributed fun items, too.

“The plates were on display in their houses, initially in Lincolnshire and then at Castle Bolton in Yorkshire.However, following Pete’s death, Val moved to a smaller house near Newsham, North Yorkshire, and there was no room to display the plates.She did, however, have the turkey statues on her dresser until she died.She was very keen to keep the collection together in Pete's memory.

“As well as an important Spode turkey platter, their collection includes turkey dinner plates, side plates, vases, a soup tureen, cruet set and a gravy boat as well as general ornaments and turkey figurines. I suppose it is very unusual and not to everyone’s taste but it brought them lots of enjoyment.”

Charles said: “Apparently, Pete McLean lit up a room when he entered it thanks to his jovial personality and his turkey collection certainly made me smile. If there are turkey ornament and ceramics collectors out there, Hansons will find them. Bidders can feast their eyes on these items in our April 15-20 Antiques and Collectors Auction catalogue and, perhaps, gobble gobble up an interesting buy.

“Who knows, these turkey platters and plates might get on the gravy train to freedom and take pride of place at a Thanksgiving dinner table in America or at a best-of-British Christmas dinner. The bird that’s crucial to carve at major family events deserves to be celebrated, and we have Pete and Val to thank for showing the world a little bit of turkey love.”

Pete McLean’s turkey collection will be sold on April 16 in the ceramics section of Hansons’ April 15-20 Antiques and Collectors Auction. Catalogue due live April 9/10: