Repair Shop fans in tears as 57-year-old toy belonging to woman’s late brother is restored

The Repair Shop viewers are used to needing a tissue or two while watching the popular BBC show but this week's episode was one of the most emotional yet.

Lorraine Thomas, from Llandudno, Wales, arrived at the workshop to meet Jay Blades the the crew clutching a 57-year-old toy donkey that had belonged to her late brother Mark, who killed in a road accident when he was just 21.

The siblings were each given a cuddly toy at birth and Lorraine had named hers Poodle, while Mark called his Donkey. Lorraine told the experts: "Donkey is my connection with Mark. He absolutely adored him, and went everywhere with him."

The toy has remained a much-love comfort for Lorraine since she lost her twin, but he hadn't fared well over the years and was in desperate need of some TLC.

While Lorraine was nervous to leave the toy with The Repair Shop crew, she said she wanted him to last a long time yet as reminder of her late brother. Admitting she would never get over losing her sibling, she conceded that "You just have to learn to live with it."

The episode – which first aired in 2021 – shows Donkey arrive with a missing eye and losing its of his original stuffing. Fortunately, the warehouse had just the people to help – Amanda Middleditch and Julie Tatchell, known as the Teddy Bear Ladies due to their unrivalled skill restoring soft toys.

To ensure Donkey had a long life ahead of him they turned him inside out and stitched in a new felt lining. The ladies also created a new metal frame, which allows Donkey to stand upright, and restuffed him back to all his cuddly glory.

They were also thrilled when teddy bear manufacturer Merrythought tracked down an original set of eyes designed just for the Donkey model. Teddy Bear Lady Amanda said: 'We have been itching to use them as they are so rare and so unique. And to be able to put the original type of eye into the toy that it was meant for is just perfect.'

Since first airing in 2017, The Repair Shop has become one of the nation's most loved feel-good shows – despite it regularly bringing most of the audience to tears. It also has a big celebrity following.

Dame Judi Dench appeared on a special Comic Relief episode in December 2022, taking in a pocketwatch that she had given to her late husband Michael Williams in 1972. Clearly thrilled to receive the sentimental timepiece back from the warehouse, Dame Judi said: “Oh my! That’s sublime. And ticking! How brilliant. I’m full of admiration.”

Even the royal family can't resist the charming show. King Charles agreed to take part in a a one-off episode last year to mark the BBC's centenary, welcoming The Repair Shop team into Dumfries House in Scotland to help him with an 18th Century bracket clock and a Wemyss Ware ceramic piece made for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

Talking about the King's appearance on the popular family show, horologist Steve Fletcher revealed that the monarch had a "natural air" about him.

"When the former Prince of Wales came into the room, when we first met him, he has a natural air about him that just calmed us all and we just got on straightaway. It was amazing."

The King was visibly moved by the sight of the repairs and heaped praised on the team, saying: "It shows what love, care and attention does."


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