From England

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Scale model of steam driven Galloping Horses built by V. E. Rice of Leicester. Courtesy of Stanley R. White, 57, Stanley Street, Rothwell, Kettering, Northamptonshire, England.
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Steam tractor and Stationary Steam Engine exhibited by Norman Lewis of Rothwell. Courtesy of Stanley R. White, 57, Stanley Street, Rothwell, Kettering, Northamptonshire, England.
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Scale model of a Fowler Traction Engine exhibited by Jim Bennie of Old Red House, Hannington. Courtesy of Stanley R. White, 57, Stanley Street, Rothwell, Kettering, Northamptonshire, England.
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Norman Hal! reading the charter to proclaim the 767th Annual Rothwell Fair opening at 6 A.M. on May 25,1970. Courtesy of Stanley R. White, 57, Stanley Street, Rothwell, Kettering, Northamptonshire, England.
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Figure in silhouette is William Ashley controlling the steam centre engine on his Gallopers. Courtesy of Stanley R. White, 57, Stanley Street, Rothwell, Kettering, Northamptonshire, England.
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Picture is steam centre engine on William Ashley's gallopers. Courtesy of Stanley R. White, 57, Stanley Street, Rothwell, Kettering, Northamptonshire, England.

57, Stanley Street, Rothwell, Kettering, Northamptonshire,
England

In the May-June edition of Iron Men which reached me on May
29th, Anna Mae quotes from a letter sent in by Berton Blazek
concerning the railway locomotive ‘Dunrobin.’ I suppose it
is an unusual thing to find at Fort Steele in British Columbia,
although its design when compared to other British locomotives from
that era is nothing out of the ordinary. Mr. Blazek says it was
built in 1894 my own information says 1895. In reality it was
probably built in 94 and first run in 95. Anyway, give or take a
year, it does not really matter. ‘Dunrobin’ is the name of
the locomotive. It is an 0-4-4T built by Sharp Stewart &
Company for the Duke of Sutherland’s private railway between
Golspie and Helmsdale, which was opened in 1871.

The engine was kept in its own private shed at Dunrobin, but the
Duke and his heirs had the right to run it, with its special
saloon, over the Highland system as desired. Many notable
personalities traveled in it at various times; among them the Kings
mentioned by Mr. Blazek and also Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany. This
was, of course, before the 1914-18 War with Germany.

The locomotive was not used after about 1920, and remained at
Dunrobin until 1952 when it was moved to the south of England and
was preserved on the premises of the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch
Railway at New Romney. In 1965 it was sold to a Canadian
businessman in Victoria, Canada. I hope this throws a bit more
light upon this locomotive, and I am personally very pleased to
know that it has found a good home in Canada one where it is
allowed to operate instead of mouldering in a static museum.

Each year here in Rothwell, we have an annual fair. The
amusements build up in the centre of the town in the streets
(unusual these days because of the flow of modern traffic) and
everyone has great fun. It lasts for 7 days, and as I write this,
we have one day to go before the 1970 fair ends. Locally it is
known as ‘Rowell Fair’ Rowell being the old English name
for Rothwell. This is the 767th annual Rowell Fair.

King John granted a Charter to the town allowing the first fair
to be held in 1204. He signed the Charter in Westminister,
witnessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of
Norwich and London on the 26th of January in that year. The
original Charter still exists and a friend of mine is hoping to get
a photostat copy of it very soon. One of the attractions of this
year’s fair was William Ashley’s Galloping Horses, a very
beautiful set and one of only a handful still existing which work
by means of a real steam centre engine. A big tank of water stands
in the centre near to the engine, and it is quite a sight to see
the engineer piling coke into the firebox every little while. Last
Tuesday afternoon during a lull in the proceedings I spoke to
William Ashley and asked him if I could photograph the centre
engine, and he told me to go ahead. It was a bit difficult as I had
to use the flash and had to keep poking the camera in between the
horses heads to fit the engine into the viewfinder. The engine has
a Works Number of 422 and was built by Savage of King’s. Lynn
in Norfolk, England.

In recent years the ‘Rowell Fair Society,’ a group
formed to help preserve the traditions of this ancient fair, has
held an annual models exhibition in the Church Sunday School
buildings to coincide with the first 3 days of the fair. This
exhibition of the fairground, steam and other models, plus
interesting photographs, etc., is fast becoming one of the best
known in the country, and many fine models were on exhibition this
year. Fair models and steam go together easily because of the very
fine Steam Road Locomotives which the showmen once used to pull
their loads and to supply power; plus, of course, the centre
engines as mentioned already in connection with the galloping
horses. Such engines were used in other rides also, and even today
I know that Harry Lee still has a set of Steam Yachts in working
order.

At each Rowell Fair at 6 am on the Monday following Trinity
Sunday, Norman Hall, bailiff to the Lady Of The Manor, mounted on a
white horse and accompanied by six halbadiers, reads the Charter
proclaiming the fair open. He starts at the Parish Church at 6 am
and then proceeds around the centre of the town for an hour,
reading it at spots which coincide with a pub or hotel. This year a
crowd of 800 to 1,000 people followed this ancient ceremony which
is accompanied by a brass band.

Each year the Rowell Fair Society produces a Super 8 colour film
about the fair and everything to do with it including the Charter
reading and the models exhibition. I had the honour of shooting off
the first 3 reels of film this year which showed the fair building
up in the streets. After that I handed the cameras to others for
filming the other parts, but I did do some sound recording which is
used to give the correct sound to the various sequences of the
film. I was so pleased with the atmosphere captured at the Charter
reading at 6 am that I have decided to have a few 45 rpm extended
play discs pressed of this. The disc will contain the Church Clock
striking 6 am, followed by the band playing the National Anthem,
and then Norman Hall reading the Charter. Then we cut to the War
Memorial where the dead of the town (through military service in
the two World Wars) are remembered as the procession stops while
the band plays ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd.’ This is followed
by the band playing part of a march tune to end side one of the
record. Side two of the record has no cuts and has the sounds of
the band leading the procession through the town to the last
Charter reading which takes place at 7 am outside of ‘The Sun
Inn.’ During the actual ceremony, Norman Hall reads the Charter
8 times. At each pub or inn he is given a drink of rum and milk and
the halbadiers a half pint of beer. By tradition, the crowd has a
real great time when this ceremony is taking place and bags of
soot, flour and rotten eggs are thrown at the Charter party and the
band. This year crackers and smoke bombs were also let off. Many
direct hits were scored with the flour bombs, but the hour passed
without serious trouble with the police only having to make one
arrest a student who got too carried away and behaved stupidly by
smashing a traffic signal. But the 45 rpm disc with the 767th
Charter reading on it will be a rare item as only a handful of
copies are being pressed and will be snapped up by historians and
collectors. Anyone interested in hearing this can write to me and I
will arrange for a disc to be sent on loan if none are left for
sale.

It is good that after 767 years this ceremony still holds its
own in this modern world. I should mention that Norman Hall does
not read the actual Charter granted by King John, but an ammended
version granted by King James 1st a sort of renewal of the
original, but both Charters are preserved in London with the
original signatures of the two Kings concerned. It is a sobering
thought that over 500 annual fairs had taken place in Rothwell
before the steam engine was developed and over 700 before steam was
ousted out by diesel and whatever else may follow.

Well the Steam Rally Season is upon us again in this country.
They differ from yours in as much as the rally field, while
containing many fine examples of  threshing and ploughing
traction engines which are in steam and usually parade around the
ground do share the honours with the magnificent Showmen’s Road
Locomotives which every rally organiser tries to include. One or
more of these colourful engines will put the crowning glory upon
any rally, plus, of course, a fairground organ if possible
sometimes several. This reminds me that the Rowell Fair Society had
Arthur Mills bring along his wonderful 89 key Gavioli Fair Organ
for the 3 days of the models exhibition, giving open air public
recitals. The organ was built in 1902 and was originally in James
Crightons Bi6scope Show (a traveling cinema before the movie houses
were built). Arthur Mills, who now owns the organ, is the head of a
dry cleaning firm at Rushden in Northamptonshire, and pulls the
organ truck around with an old fire engine.

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