The Law’s Lass – Tilery Rec. Fair
Another snippet from Gwen McDiarmid’s reminiscences about her childhood living in the park keeper’s house in the North End Recreation Ground, Stockton (now the site of the North Shore Academy).
Here Gwen describes the fair that was held in the park (known locally as Tilery rec.) each year.
The arrival of the Autumn Fair usually coincided with the end of the games season, so it was a welcome sight. The caravans were gleaming, with lace curtains at the windows, and pretty ornaments.
I liked the ‘Roll a Penny’ best; if ten pennies were lost as they rolled onto a line instead of into a square, it was a fair exchange for the squeals of delight when the odd penny was won – losing ten to gain one was of no consequence. Although advertised, I never saw the bearded lady or the three-legged man.
The owner of the fair was a ‘real gentleman’, always dressed in his ‘Sunday Best’, doffing his hat to the ladies. He nodded to his workers to signal that we could have free rides, and then father went into his caravan to exchange the year’s news and to have a ‘warming drink’ as father put it. However the drink did not look like cocoa to us – more like the Iron Brew we drank out of tumblers, not the small glasses they had. We peered in through the glass door, admiring the fringed curtains before we left them to their ‘warming drinks’.
At one stall, in exchange for a penny, you were given a list of numbers. These six numbers had to be the same as those picked out of a box. The winner received lovely prizes – a clock or a tea-set. Mother won a tea-set decorated with roses and this was, for many years, her ‘best one’; no-one was allowed to wash it except mother, and it was only used for visitors.
Puncturing the eye of a coconut to enable the milk to pour out, my older brother also punctured his thumb, as the blade of his Swiss Army knife slipped. A coconut covered in blood is not very enticing, and with a handkerchief to staunch the blood, I persuaded him to have another go at winning one. This he managed to do and then, after a small portion of the coconut was eaten, the whiteness looked decidedly grubby, I soon tired of it and threw it away. “A waste of good coconut and the blood shed for it’, he said as he left the fair for more interesting activities.
The grounds stayed open long after darkness when the fair came. At other times the bell that hung at the side of the house was tolled at dusk. The smell of the fish and chip shop up the road nearby drifted down and the happy patrons ended their day with a fish supper as they sat on the bank-side, listening to the music, “Going round and around, oh oh oh oh and it comes out hear…..”
Members of Stockton Library Service can download Gwendoline’s story (Law’s Lass – in two parts) from our e-book catalogue.