Published: Thursday 9 March 2023

When it comes to repairing unwanted electrical goods, there are not many items volunteer Ian Ware can’t turn his hand to.

So much so, he has even built his own storeroom in the basement of the Wales Air Ambulance Charity Shop in Bangor.

Whether it is repairing kettles, toasters, televisions, watches or even mobility scooters, Ian says he will not throw anything out unless he has tried mending it.

Every week you will usually find Ian in the basement, that he helped to build, repairing electrical items that can be sold for profit in the shop.

The dad-of-one, 72, who has lived in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Anglesey, for over 30 years, joined the charity after retiring from work in a hospital pathology lab.

Spotting an opportunity, Ian convinced his former manager that he should attend a PAT testing course. PAT testing is where used electrical items that come into the store are checked to ensure they’re safe and working correctly.

He said: “We were having so many electrical items donated, rather than pay for a PAT test on each item, I suggested doing our own PAT tests in the shop as it would cost us nothing. 

“I did a course and got my qualification and started PAT testing 30 to 40 items in a morning. If there was a simple problem, I would repair them properly and safely and they would go into the shop to be sold. 

“We were churning out all this electrical stuff in the shop and it was all selling and making us a good profit. We even had customers coming back to the shop looking for more electricals.”

Like Ian, fellow volunteer Waynne Cooper, also did a PAT Testing course and now they both help to breathe new life into old electricals.

So far, they have completed around 1,600 PAT tests, saving the charity about £2,500. 

Ian said he takes great satisfaction from repairing something that would have been scrapped.

He said: “I hate to see waste. If I can mend it, then I will. It may only need a small part so I will go off and see if I can get a part and repair it. It’s a bit of a challenge really. But I have my limits, if I don’t think I can repair it really well or if I am in any doubt, it will get scrapped.

“We live in a throwaway society, where people will often get rid of something just because they want a newer model. We have even had electricals that haven’t been pulled out of the box, including new Dyson hoovers.

“We have a lot of electricals that don’t work sent in, very often they only need something small done to them. These days, it’s often easier and cheaper for people to buy a new item rather than pay for someone to fix it.

“There used to be a time you could go to a local community shop and get someone to fix something for you, however big or small. But sadly, these people are few and far between. 

“As a volunteer, I don’t have to worry about the time element. If I can’t repair anything it doesn’t cost the charity anything and it will be thrown out or recycled. 

“There is nothing better than fixing something and then seeing someone walk away with that item from the shop. It benefits everyone -  the customer who has a reasonably priced safe electrical item as well as the Charity. The likelihood is that the customer will return for more electrical items, knowing they are not only buying reliable, safe goods but they’re also helping to recycle otherwise unusable items.”

Ian ensures televisions are sold with working remotes that include a full set of batteries as well as repairing watches and clocks.

He said: “I discovered I had a talent for researching remote controls for televisions and am able to make us a good profit. We had a 42-inch television donated, but it had no stand or remote control. I managed to find the exact stand on eBay and I sourced a remote. We made £50 on it and it went within the week. That was particularly satisfying.

“I have also had watches that have been worth £150 to £200 and have made a considerable profit by just replacing the batteries.

“One time, I came in and there was a bag for life containing brand-new fashion watches in the basement. There must have been over 100 of them, all in their original boxes, but the batteries had wound down. I changed all the batteries and they all sold. We only spent about £10 and made about £800. Three weeks later, I had another 100 watches left for me!”

Ian, or Ian Electrical as he has become known in the Bangor shop, said he has always enjoyed volunteering and finds it very rewarding.

He said: “It’s very easy when you are retired to sit at home and get stuck in the same routine. I don’t normally sit around twiddling my thumbs and I like to keep busy. Volunteering with the Wales Air Ambulance provides a focus to my week and I think my wife Barbara enjoys having a morning to herself with me out of the way!

“It is good to be out in a different environment, meeting new people and learning new skills. There is a good crew in the Bangor shop and we all have our own reasons for volunteering.

“You never know when you may need the air ambulance helicopter and volunteering is a way of giving something back to the community.”

While Ian mainly repairs watches, he has also added a new string to his bow - repairing violins. He has used his love of the instrument to restring and replace bridges of violins which make their way to the shop.

He has also fixed a professional printer, a mobility scooter and a recliner.

He said: “You never know what will come in, but I am always happy to give it a go. I never thought before I retired I would be repairing things like mobility recliners, but it’s always great to keep learning.

“As a tight-fisted Yorkshireman there’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had seeing something that was scrap and turning it into money all helps raise funds for the Wales Air Ambulance and ultimately helps to save people’s lives.”