The Repair Shop viewers broke down in tears last night as the team restored a 57-year-old toy
Lorraine Thomas, from Llandudno, Wales, lost her twin brother Mark in a road accident when she was 21 years old.
Arriving at the Repair Shop’s headquarters in Chichester, the grieving sister explained that she couldn’t bear to part ways with Mark’s toy donkey – even though it was falling apart.
When they were born, Lorraine’s parents gave her a cuddly toy which she named ‘Poodle’ while Mark had ‘Donkey’.
She explained: ‘Donkey is my connection with Mark. He absolutely adored him, and went everywhere with him.’
‘He was like a comfort toy, I think – we lost our mum when we were seven and Donkey helped him through the tough times.’
Although Lorraine said she would never get over losing her twin at such a young age, she added: ‘You just have to learn to live with it.’
As such, Lorraine said she has become incredibly attached to the toy – which had lost its eye and was shedding its original stuffing.
The episode – which first aired in 2021 – shows vintage toy restorers Amanda Middleditch and Julie Tatchell to great lengths to make Donkey look as good as new again.
To begin with, the pair turned the toy inside out to give Donkey a new felt lining.
As well as stitching up the holes, Amanda then reworked the toy’s 57-year-old metal framework, which allows Donkey to stand.
After re-stuffing the toy, Julie completed the finishing touch on the restored toy by sewing on a new set of eyes.
When they began the project, the restorers reached out to the Merrythought and were delighted when the toy manufacturer tracked down the original set of eyes that were designed for this particular model.
Lorraine Thomas (pictured) appeared visibly emotional as she was reunited with her late brother’s beloved soft toy after the restoration
Pictured: what the 57-year-old soft toy looked like when Lorraine brought it into the team at The Repair Shop
Pictured: Lorraine and her late brother Mark when they were children. Mark sadly passed away at the age of 21 in a road accident
Julie said: ‘We’ve got these perfect, perfect original eyes in here.
‘To think that these were actually made for the Merrythought company for these donkeys back in the 1950s.’
Amanda added: ‘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.’
The only aspect of the toy the two women didn’t touch were some stitches Mark had done on Donkey’s back.
Vintage toy restorers Amanda Middleditch (pictured) starting by giving Donkey a new felt lining
Amanda also reinforced the toy’s metal frame and then added more of the original stuffing so Donkey could stand again
Vintage toy restorers Amanda Middleditch and Julie Tatchell finished off the project by sewing on two eyes which were designed for this exact toy in the 1950s
Pictured: the team gave the priceless toy a blue bow for the unveiling at the Repair Shop headquarters
When Lorraine returned to the Repair Shop headquarters, she admitted it was ‘weird’ not having Donkey in the house and said she’d found herself thinking more about her late brother.
As the restored toy was unveiled, Lorraine looked visibly emotional to see the Donkey looking as good as new again.
Holding back tears, she gushed it was ‘wonderful’ and walked over to stroke Donkey’s ears.
‘Gosh, this is amazing,’ Lorraine said. ‘Hello Donkey! Oh gosh, that’s wonderful. Really wonderful, thank you so much.’
Addressing the toy, she joked: ‘Look at you, you can see me now with those lovely big eyes!’
The episode – which first aired in 2021 – left viewers in tears as Lorraine was reunited with her late brother’s favourite toy
Needless to say, the emotional reunion also struck a chord with viewers at home.
One tweeted: ‘Why does the Repair Shop always make me cry when there’s a person with a stuffed toy?’
Another added: ‘You can tell the connection to her brother means so much to Donkey’s owner.’
‘Only The Repair Shop can get you emotional about a wonky donkey,’ a third said.
Meanwhile, a fourth said: ‘Not sure I’m emotionally strong enough today for The Repair Shop and that’s before Donkey…’
After the show aired for the first time, Lorraine told North Wales Live that she had been approached by members of the public to discuss the episode.
Describing the ‘amazing’ reaction, she added: ‘I’ve had lots of lovely messages and people have been stopping me in the street, even complete strangers.
‘People have been coming into the shop saying how touched they were by the programme.’