Showman and Citizen
The Gallaghers are a very large family well known at Hull Fair. We met Lawrence Gallagher at his house in west Hull. Before talking about the fair in particular we asked him to tell us something about his branch of the Gallagher family:
Well the Gallagher family they settled in Hull. They came from York before the First World War. There were five brothers and four sisters in all and they had a shooting gallery, coconut shy and later on they got a set of big swings and they had what they used to call a Hoopla Stall as well. But apart from being with the fairground they had a bottle exchange in Hull and they lived in houses and they went out to fairs and galas. The fairs weren’t as they are nowadays, there were shows, day places, people used to have sports days and horses shows and they used to go to places for two or three days and maybe have three fairs a week in different places from here to York and they used to go up Scarborough way. Then the war came along and there was one brother in the army already, then two of the other brothers they went in the army. And one got killed in the army in 1916. Actually last year I was in France at his grave. My oldest daughter, and me we brought photos back, and no one had ever been so my daughter and myself went and it was bit of day.
Then the war was over and my father came back in the early 1920s. My father Joe stayed at home with his mother and he never got married till he was turned forty. They had the shooting gallery and the Coconut Shy and other stalls. They travelled around the fairs, Hull Fair up to Newcastle, Darlington, Hartlepool, up and down the north, round Leeds, Bradford and one thing and another. My dad got married eventually to my mother in Bridlington. My mother was a flatty, you know, settled down. They lived on the fairground at Bridlington, because they used to have a fair at Bridlington twice a year. After that my father sort of settled down at Bridlington and we had some stalls down on the sands underneath what they call South Shore now.
But you came back to Hull at the end of the war:
The years went by and the war was coming to an end. Well it wasn’t actually coming to an end but things seemed to be getting a little bit better for England at the time. We came to Hull with some swing boats. In East Park which is not far from where I live now and we had the swing boats in the park and I can recall the bombs dropping and killing the fish in the park. And they blew a house out in Westminster Avenue I believe it was. Either Westminster Avenue or East Park Avenue but they blew the house out and it also blew my fathers caravan trailer over and he had to go and get the ATS girls and the WAF girls to come and give him hand. And we stopped in the park in Easter 1944 and we went back at Whitsuntide.
We returned to East Park in the following year. And we went from one Park to another Park. We went onto Greenwood Avenue, another part of Hull. From there we went into Pearson Park and we had maybe two weeks in Pearson Park. And then we went from there to West Park but we stayed a month there, near where Walton Street is. There was Atha’s was there with a set of Chairoplanes, they had a Noah’s Ark, a little Noah’s Ark at the time. There was a lady called Percival they were there with Hoopla Stalls. There was a lad called Chichy Dea and there was a person called Frankie Cooper. Now then his wife was a person called Dailey. They used to call her Aunt Elsie and they had a mono railway. Atha’s, they had a juvenile roundabout, he always wore a bowler did Mr Atha, he had the chairoplanes. My uncle Bill, he had a juvenile roundabout there. And there were three sets if not four sets of swings in the park at the time. Old Mr Cooper was there. I believe they had a Coconut Shy. They were the first people I ever saw with fancy chickens. He had this fancy cock and he used to crow every morning. Dad’s trailer was near his wagon.
So you went regularly to Hull Fair but you also went to local galas:
Yes, paint firms and places like Metal Box in Hull and all places like that they used to have Gala days and we used to take the swings and the roundabout there. We didn’t take fares as they used to have free tickets and they used to pay dad so much. We used to go to Hales’s Cement, Premier Soap, Ideal Standard and the Electricity Board, they all had a fete day.
You had been based in Bridlington before the war:
Yes but after the war we left Bridlington and came to Hull. We lived in houses and we got a big living wagon. We kept it on a place called Porter Street, corner of Hessle Road and Osborne. We were there on and off for thirty years.
Did you buy the living wagon new:
New! We couldn’t afford to but new. Gallagher’s weren’t rich. It was a ribbed wagon and it was on steel wheels when we first bought it after the war. Somebody had slept in it near a farm near Nafferton. My dad had come across it wintertime. Father used to go hawking with a basket in the wintertime. I’ve done it the same when I was younger. He came across it and at the time we’d bought a bus that we were going to convert like a lot of show people into a living wagon. Anyway he came across it this caravan it hadn’t got hardly any fittings in it, all it had was these two double beds. Two or three people must have slept in it when the war was on. Getting away from Hull or wherever I expect because going back to when we were in the Park and they were dropping bombs, people used to come knocking on the trailer “Can you boil us a kettle mister for the bairns for the milk?”. People used to be in the park with two maybe three prams they used to put a cover over the prams to keep the dew off.
What’s your first memory of the main Hull Fair:
When I was 8 years old and Dad had a stall at Hull Fair with all three of his brothers. Between them they had a shooting Gallery, a Coconut Shy and Dad only had a little bucket stall, a ball in the bucket which he took to Bridlington, Nottingham and Hull Fair. I remember the big roundabouts and one thing and another. There were shows backing on to the gardens and railway lines. I can remember the Circus and Flea Shows, Menageries not a Circus but Menagerie for animals. Leaches had three or four shows and there was Florence’s and Richard Shufflebottom’s show. Padgetts came from out of town and had three Ice Cream Parlours. I also remember a man called Pyjama Johnny. We were located opposite the toilets off Walton Street with our stalls and Johnny was opposite us.
Going back to your father, he had a Ball in the Bucket stall? Did you ever help out on the stall:
No, he just had it himself, it was very small. He used to go to Nottingham and different places. The stall was that small that my father used to pack it up with the buckets being the largest item of the stall. The whole frame folded and fitted in to a kit bag.
Was the 1945 Fair on Walton Street? Someone the other week insisted that the Fair of that year was held on Corporation Fields:
No that is a mistake, the nearest part to corporation fields is at the back of the bus station. Hull Fair in 1945 I remember it was on Walton Street. People are remembering that at the corner of Beverly Road, Billy Butlin opened a fairground as the war was just finishing.
Pyjama Johnny what happened with him:
Johnny Decosta was his name, he has a nephew still at Hull Fair. He was similar to Chicken Joe who was noted for his Chicken and I’m not sure what pyjama Johnny was known for. I can remember that he dressed up in Pyjamas and had a Bowler Hat on.
You mentioned Padgett’s, were theirs sit down Parlours:
Yes, big sit down parlours. I recall a 40ft wide Parlour next to Uncle Bert’s Boxing Booth. It sold coffee, tea and Ice Cream with Wafers.
Because you lived in Hull in a way it seems that Hull Fair itself was not so important to you:
No not really, it was just one place. We travelled to other places in the country and were much better off than when we were based at Hull Fair. Before Hull Fair we used to visit Gipsyville and people would have a fortnight there and move on to Hull Fair ground. We could go to Gipsyville and have the Children’s Swing’s and Roundabouts and Stalls. At Hull Fair we could only have two stalls. Gipsyville made us more profit than we made at Hull Fair.
do you still go out to fairs:
I still go out now with a Striker and a Bucket stall to the Gala’s at Children’s Schools. I pack it up and place it in the back of the car. Actually I have Children’s Swings and Chair-o-planes. I’m getting a little bit older now and take my daughter with me. I have a couple of Grandsons and a Granddaughter that go with me.
Thanks very much Lawrence it was very interesting hearing about Hull Fair from someone who is both showman and citizen. We may feature a further piece about the Gallagher family.