A unique waxwork of Queen Victoria as a child goes on display at Birr Castle.

The beeswax sculpture of Queen Victoria as a child, belonging to Lord Rosse of Birr Castle in County Offaly was made by William Behnes. The 19th century sculptor created the bust ten years before Victoria ascended the throne in 1837. Behnes spent some time living in Dublin and some of his other work can be found on display in Trinity College Dublin.

The bust was sent to the Ulster Museum for restoration where it was the job of Sam Anderson to bring it back to its former glory. On inspection, Anderson found the wax hollow shell was quite badly shattered and

It’s virtually impossible to get a completely invisible repair here.

The integrity of the shell was restored by working from the inside out using surgical bandages dipped in molten wax, thereby restoring the solidity of the piece.

But the problem only really began there because it had been very badly damaged by dust and wax is absolutely terrible stuff once it becomes dirty because the first becomes ingrained right into the surface of the wax.

The hair and eyes did not need to be replaced, but Sam Anderson was nervous treating the hair until he remembered he could use a dry shampoo method used to clean taxidermy specimens.

The hair now, let me assure you is very, very much cleaner than when I found it.

Advice from a beauty consultant also helped the restoration process with suggestions of powder and pigments for the finishing touches. Sam Anderson says he was somewhat disappointed albeit flattered, when the beauty consultant said there was nothing more she would do to it herself.

I can only hope that her opinion concurs with the opinion of the people who come along to Birr Castle to have a look at this, and of course the people in Belfast too.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 30 May 1983.