WHEN most people leave a farm sale they come away with something agricultural: an old tractor possibly, a water trough or even a pitchfork. But Peter Bannon put his hand up for a crystal set.

Understandably competition was not keen among the mainly flat-capped, wellie wearing audience in west Gloucestershire and the auctioneer knocked it down to him for £8. Peter was more pleased than if he’d purchased a prize Hereford bull, which, let’s be honest, would have been a bit of a strain on his garden, living as he does half-a-mile from Worcester Cross.

On the other hand, the crystal set fitted perfectly into his Georgian home, which contains his vast collection of more than 70 old radios and associated electrical gadgets. Not only that, but it came with a nice bit of history, for it had been purchased by the deceased farmer in 1922 and subsequently remained in the family and been used by his two sons.

Having a house decorated at almost every turn by cabinets, aerials, speakers and such like might seem a recipe to try a wife’s patience, but not here, because Pauline Bannon is quite used to the world of electronics.

The couple met many moons ago on the island of Mauritius, not on holiday, but on the Royal Navy’s communication station there. Peter was a leading radio electrical mechanic and Pauline a leading WRN on the same watch.

The station dealt with communications between ships at sea and also between fixed shore bases, covering an area from Canada to Australia. It was a vital hub for the UK armed services.

With a father who was an electrician it was always a reasonable bet young Peter Bannon would have an interest in electronics and so it was. “I bought my first radio when I was eight years old,” he said. “If I recall it cost £3-£4 in instalments from a junk shop near where we were living I north London. That might not sound much today, but remember this was the 1950s. I think it took me about seven months to save up the money from my paper round and doing other odd jobs.”

One of these was washing cars and seeing as his customers included comedian Frankie Howard, actor Bill Fraser from The Army Game and playwright Harold Pinter, there’s almost another story there.

The radio was a Pye QAC 38 made in 1938 with stations on long and medium wave transmitting the Home Service and Light Programme and carrying classic programmes like The Goon Show, Journey Into Space and Dick Barton, Special Agent. Like many youngsters at the time, Peter also tuned in to Radio Luxembourg. Although he was a bit young for the rock ‘n’ roll scene which was the attraction for teenagers listening under the bedsheets at night when reception was at its best.

For his 12th birthday, his brother splashed out £3 15s 0d to buy him a crystal set called an OK Casket. This came in a polished wooden case and set his collection on its way. Over the years, Peter has picked up old radio bargains from Salvation Army shops in Plymouth to junk shops in Ludlow. The vast majority he has got to work, although for the most part their value is more historical than monetary.

His skill in electronics led him to a career in the sector after leaving the Royal Navy and he built his first computer in 1979. He later worked for the Metal Box company in Worcester on the electronics side for several years. Peter was also with publishing giant News International when newspapers made the quantum leap from hot lead to computer based printing and what joyous days those were. Sort of a cross between The Goon Show and Journey Into Space, in old radio language.