'McEttrick' opens McDonald's museum

DEVOTED TO McDONALDS: Alan Garthwaite at home in "McEttrick" amongst his toys.
AIMEE WILSON/Southland Times/Image ID 116106
DEVOTED TO McDONALDS: Alan Garthwaite at home in "McEttrick" amongst his toys.

A new parcel of McDonald's paraphernalia arrives in Alan Garthwaite's Ettrick mailbox from somewhere around the world every day.

Yesterday it was a dinner set from Hong Kong.

The collection began when he decorated his toilet, then took over the bathroom, and now his whole house is filled with the stuff.

He even admitted to pilfering the odd item or two from some of the fast food restaurants during the past 25 years.

"It started with a pen that belonged to a work colleague in Auckland. I thought, `that was cool, I want one', and it just grew from there," he said.

Up to 200 people have been invited to the official launch of his "McEttrick" museum today, which will be opened by McDonald's Dunedin owner Peter Shepherd, who knew about his collection when it started but has never actually seen it.

Mr Garthwaite has tens of thousands of items from restaurants, second-hand stores and other people's collections around the world.

"People come down with bags full of stuff, after cleaning out their kids' rooms," he said.

Burger boxes, cups, hats and children's toys line the walls of his museum, and cabinets are chock-full of watches, badges, dolls and uniforms.

He doesn't have a favourite, "I love them all," but hasn't bought the ultimate collector's item yet -- a Ronald McDonald outfit.

"Every kid comes here and remembers a toy from their childhood," he said.

McDonald's was first opened in America in 1955 and in New Zealand in 1976 (Wellington).

His collection dates back 40 years to the beginning of the Big Mac, but he still has boxes of items not yet unpacked from the past four years.

Believe it or not, he and partner John Tomkin have even considered giving up their orchard and packhouse jobs to move to the city and work for McDonald's.

"It's one of my lifelong ambitions -- going around with a broom," he said.

The biggest hurdle would be moving the collection, but before they think about packing their bags, the public will have the opportunity to visit the museum one day a month, or by appointment.


The Southland Times