John Pye Auctions Weekly Story – ‘Woodworm Horror’

Every homeowner fears the scourge of rot and woodworm, but an auctioneer like me fears it even more. One such ‘rotten’ job took me and my helper George to a turn-of-the-century bungalow in Marlborough Road, Long Eaton, in the 1980s to pick up a grand piano for a sale. Inside, the first thing I noticed was the biggest walnut sideboard I had ever seen – so big, I assumed it must have been built in the room.

Then, as we started to consider the big piano lift, there was a sickening crack as George put his foot straight through the floorboards. He was uninjured, but I thought the dodgy floor would make moving the heavy piano nearly impossible.

We described the problem to the woman we met at the bungalow and suggested getting another helper and using some old doors as a platform on which we could carry the piano, spreading its load more widely.

As we were doing the lift, we leant on this enormous sideboard and there was another crack as it went through the floorboards, smashing the main beams and everything below. The huge piece of furniture fell nearly two feet before it stopped, resting at an awkward angle and blocking up the living room.

It was a removal nightmare: a giant sideboard that couldn’t be moved, near a grand piano that couldn’t be reached – all sitting on floorboards that were chewed through with woodworm. In the end, it was my contacts that helped out. I alerted a dealer to the piano and he came eventually, bought the piano and, somehow, managed to lift it out.

I would never auction items with woodworm and was disliked by some dealers for going round the back of furniture to check, announcing their dreaded presence to my sales audience whenever we found them. I couldn’t live with myself to sell something like that without telling people, I have never been able to ‘do’ anybody like that. I have had chances to make millions by ‘doing’ people out of something or other and I have never done it.

It’s just me. It’s the way I have always been, whether it’s about woodworm or anything else.

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