Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Living History

Monday 15th July was the 58th Stithians Show,  the largest one-day agricultural show in the West of England, if not the whole country.  We were lucky as the intense heat had eased a little and  there was a bit of breeze.  Himself had taken 18 of his 50+ year-old rotavators and they generated a huge amount of interest from all ages, with as many women as men stopping to listen to them running (like an old Singer sewing machine!)   It was his first time and so many people took cards and wanted to talk about problems with carburettors and ignition, he talked himself hoarse.   He has also bought six more, subject to seeing them.  Where he’s going to put them I have no idea -  a spare hangar at RNAS Culdrose would be useful.

It was fascinating to watch people stop and do a double-take.  One old chap grinned and said  ‘My dear life! Father had one of these.  He used it to plant mangolds.’   (These were a very large sweet swede-like vegetable that used to be cultivated for cattle feed.)   
Women talked about the one grandfather had used on his allotment.

There was a horse show with show-jumping, a dog show - whose classes continued all day, marquees holding cattle, goats and poultry. Craft tents, tents containing stalls selling all kind of locally produced food and drink including wine.  There were stalls selling purses and bags, jewellery, tools, wigs and hair ornaments, kit for horses, products for feeding and grooming dogs, an amazing funfair, St Stythians brass band, and a big stage surrounded by a large open area soon packed with people sitting on the grass being entertained.  Food stalls sold burgers,  curries, spit-roasted pork in a bap, doughnuts, ice-cream, tea, coffee, and soft drinks.   Despite the crowds – and it was busy – the atmosphere was happy and relaxed.
Tannoys commentating on the horse-jumping and dog-show classes competed with the band, the banjo group on the stage, one of those huge fairground organs, noise from the rides and screams of the people on them,  hoots from the traction engines and the splutter of the stationary engines.  It should have been bedlam, but it was simply background to people enjoying themselves.

The vehicle on the left is a 1921 Model T Ford one-ton truck found in a barn. The cab and trailer part are made of wood, and on 10th May this year the engine was fired up for the first time in 49 years.  The owner even has the original 1921 tax disc, and another from 1964.

After the Show closed at 6pm it took Himself three trips with the trailer to get all the rotavators home.  I stayed on-site with a friend and we watched all these wonderful old cars and lorries leave.  Two of the traction engines had living accomodation towed behind, making them very long vehicles.  They were driven away by women while their husbands checked gauges and rubbed gleaming brasswork with a rag. By the time I left the Vintage Vehicle field was virtually empty.  But in a month’s time it will be buzzing (and hooting, steaming and clattering)  once more for the West of England Steam and Vintage Vehicle Rally from 15th to 18th August.   Himself  has been allotted a pitch big enough to display every one of his machines. He's like a dog with two tails.  I'll be going - can't miss such a wonderful opportunity to people-watch.  I love the sense of continuity, the sense of being part of local history and tradition.  Market days and shows like these were often the only opportunity farmers had to compare notes, and for their sons and daughters to meet a potential husband or wife who understood the demands of the way of life: the country equivalent of the London Season. 

Jane Jackson.


Elizabeth Hawksley said...

It does sound fun, Jane. I do love these sort of County shows. But who was St Stithian?

Jane Jackson said...

It was wonderful, Elizabeth. Though this show usually attracts more than 25,000 visitors it's actually a village show run entirely by volunteers.

St Stithian? The name was originally St Stedianus, and the church was built in his honour in
C11th. But even the Cornwall Records website doesn't mention who he was, where he came from, or what raised him to sainthood - unless it was that he founded a church. We have so many saints in Cornwall it's hard to keep track of them all.