Master US Lego builder finally visits the Cadw sites that inspired his lifelong hobby

Tuesday 19 May 2015

  • North and Mid-Wales runners-up, Georgia McFagen, Keir Woolhouse and Naomi Richardson

    North and Mid-Wales runners-up, Georgia McFagen, Keir Woolhouse and Naomi Richardson

  • Bob Carney with South Wales Winner, Jessica Sweet

    Bob Carney with South Wales Winner, Jessica Sweet

  • Winner of the North and Mid-Wales entries, Geraint and Cethin Eunson

    Winner of the North and Mid-Wales entries, Geraint and Cethin Eunson

  • North and Mid-Wales special prize winner, Martyn Haley with Bob Carney

    North and Mid-Wales special prize winner, Martyn Haley with Bob Carney

  • South and West Wales special prize winner, Jonny Wood - Bessacar Primary School

    South and West Wales special prize winner, Jonny Wood - Bessacar Primary School

  • South and West Wales runners-up, Natasha Hermann and The Hawkridge family

    South and West Wales runners-up, Natasha Hermann and The Hawkridge family

  • South and West Wales runners-up, Morgan Jones

    South and West Wales runners-up, Morgan Jones

After spending 30 years constructing Welsh castles, 72-year-old Bob Carney has finally been able to stand inside one.

That’s because, until now, the castles the retired Illinois doctor has worked on have been built out of Lego – sometimes using as many as 60,000 pieces per site.

Mr Carney became interested in the castles of Wales while reading books as a child and started building them with Lego in the mid ‘80s.

Since then he has painstakingly recreated a number of Cadw sites, including Castell Coch, Conwy Castle and Caerphilly Castle, from his extensive supply of Lego – and he finally got to visit the real-life equivalents for the first time when he arrived in Wales with his wife Judy this week.

The couple plan to visit 74 historic sites across Wales and England in just 23 days.

Mr Carney hit the headlines earlier this year when he created a timelapse video of his latest build, Rhuddlan Castle, to launch Cadw’s ‘Pack your Imagination’ spring tourism campaign.

The video, which showed 60,000 bricks rise from Mr Carney’s Decatur basement, has been viewed more than 16,000 times.

The campaign saw Cadw encourage visitors to use their imagination to create their own versions of their favourite historic Welsh sites, out of any material of their choice, from Lego to cardboard.

More than 100 children entered the competition and Mr Carney announced his chosen winners for South and North Wales regions today (May 19), while on a visit to Conwy Castle.

On his trip to the north Wales site, Mr Carney also met another castle creator who contacted Cadw after hearing about the ‘Pack your Imagination’ campaign.

Martyn Haley, of Colwyn Bay, has created a huge replica of his local castle, Conwy, using a mix of wood, hardboard, corrugated card and carpet roll tubes.

Mr Haley showcased his impressive 5ftx2ft model at Conwy Castle, where Mr Carney presented him with a year’s Cadw membership pass for his incredible creation.

Mr Carney said: “Being involved in a Welsh campaign from my home in Illinois has been an amazing experience.

“I have loved the castles of Wales for as long as I can remember and visiting them has been an experience we will never forget.

“It has been great seeing the entries from youngsters who are just as inspired by these fantastic sites as I was when I was a child.

“I would encourage more families to seek inspiration from these incredible locations, I just wish I could visit them more often – it will be back to my Lego replicas when Judy and I return to the States!”

Before leaving for Wales, Mr Carney started work on another mammoth reconstruction – this time of Caernarfon Castle.

He is again working with Cadw to film a timelapse video which will be released when he returns home to complete the monumental masterpiece. The model will be displayed at Chicago’s annual Brickworld convention.

Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, added: “The ‘Pack your Imagination’ campaign has demonstrated just how inspiring the historic sites of Wales truly are.

“It is our aim to make Welsh heritage as accessible as possible for communities across the country to explore and enjoy.

“The relevance of this campaign sparked a real interest with Welsh families and helped to engage children in their local history.”

For more information on the ‘Pack your Imagination’ campaign, to see Mr Carney’s castle creations and even download plans to make your own, visit the Fun section.