Mr and Mrs Riley recall Hull Fair in 1946
We were invited to Bricknell to meet Mr and Mrs Riley to talk about Hull Fair and one particularly unusual object they had kept at the house.
So who’d like to tell me about the object?
Mrs Riley: Well it’s a Hull Fair hat from 1946 – it was given to me by one of the stall holders because my husband had been helping him all the week with taking his telegrams on time. And I could have the pick of the stall and I picked this particular one and at the time felt good in it! And there’s not a lot to say about it really. It was just a hat stall of all different kinds. It was on Walton Street, on the actual street, because then, in that time, they did both sides of Walton street because there were shops and things at the other side where it’s all been pulled down. We didn’t go on a lot of rides but we could also have some free rides that night as well because it was the last night of Hull Fair.
OK. So this introduces Mr Riley’s part of the story:
Mr Riley: Yes, well you see I was at the Post Office next to the Barracks and what happened was the telegraph lads used to bring the telegrams from the head office and then take them in there. I used to go around the fair and I used to have to go around the back where the caravans were and all the dogs, I was really frightened of the dogs, every caravan seemed to have a big dog. And as I say I used to go around delivering all these telegrams. Well there was one chap he got at least 3 or 4 a day and I got to know him quite well and if I saw him down the street I used to say ‘telegram for you’. We were walking past on the last night and he called me over and he said ‘Is this your girl?’ and I said ‘Oh Yes’. So he said about what service I’d given that week delivering him his telegrams and she could have the pick of the stall for the hats and that’s the one that she picked.
Mrs Riley: Looks a bit dilapidated now. I don’t think it will last much longer.
You’ve got another story from that year haven’t you?
Mr Riley: Well, I was going back into the post office and on the floor was a wallet. And I picked this wallet up and I took it in to the post office and the lady in charge, they had a post mistress, opened it and there was a card inside, and a name and a boxing booth. So what she did, she put it in a brown envelope, gave it to me with this name on the front and she said go to the boxing booth. So I went and I said is a Mr so and so here and the chap says ‘Oh yes that’s me’. So I said ‘Have you lost anything?’ And he felt of his person and he said ‘I lost my wallet’. So I said ‘Well is this it?’ And he opened the envelope and it was crammed with money, pound notes. He took the pound notes out and he counted it all and he said ‘Yes,’ he said ‘Everything’s there’ he said. And gave me sixpence, that’s two and a half pence in today’s money.
Was that a good tip then?
Mr Riley: A good tip!? I’d have been a rich man if I’d have taken the wallet.
Well you never know do you?
Mrs Riley: No, no, well you were grateful for anything in those days.
And another story:
Mr Riley: We were walking down Walton street and they had one of these, like horse racers. You pressed a button and it stopped, and the one who got the nearest to the winning post without going past it won. So anyway this particular day I said to Eileen, I said ‘Oh, shall we have a go?’ And I won and the prize was a stick of rock if you’d got sweet coupons and if you hadn’t got sweet coupons it was 24 Kensitas, that was a packet of cigarettes, but at the end it had ‘four for your friend’. So of course I took the cigarettes. I said to Eileen, ‘Here have one of these.’ And she lit it and was sick as a dog in Walton Street. And you’ve never tried it since.
Mrs Riley: I’ve never smoked since. It was a good cure. Yes it certainly was. I mean I was 16 then I shouldn’t have even been smoking.
Mr Riley: You could do your courting you see. I was working and my wife used to come to Post Office and we used to walk round the fair courting.
Just to return to what you said earlier – you got free rides that particular year – 1946 on the last day of the fair.
Mrs Riley: That’s right because of him being the messenger, the different rides he’d taken things to. They just said see me and get a free ride. Like I said we didn’t go on much – we could have gone on every ride in Hull Fair if we’d wanted but I’d have been a bit sicker I think. That was a really good night that last night wasn’t it.
You remember 1947 as well don’t you:
Mrs Riley: The children’s rides, they were only a penny, you know a penny to go on. Because my daughter was born in ’47 and I didn’t go that year but the next year the rides were only a penny for children, even so then you didn’t have the money so it was still a lot I suppose if you’ve two or three children.
Mr Riley: I went in ’47. I was on compassionate leave because of the baby.
Mrs Riley: Our daughter was born on the 12th so I didn’t go to the fair that year.
On the telegrams do you remember what sort of messages were people getting? Did you get to see them?
Mr Riley: No not really. Mind you during the war I went to one house and because we knew them, it was priority on the side and OHMS on the telegram and I took one to a house one day, and it was to say that this lady’s husband had been killed and the same week I took another telegram to her to say that her lad had been killed. I had one for down Newland Avenue and a young lady come to the door, well to me she was a young lady – and she had a baby in her arms – and that was to say her husband had been killed and she fainted and I caught the baby in my arms and shouted and her mother came through and I says she’d had some bad news, took the baby in and then I left you see. You see there were some good telegrams and there were some bad ones.
What about your children do they go?
Mrs Riley: Oh yes, they like rides.
Mr Riley: Our lad comes through for fair every year, and he brings his daughter with him. Well she told her friend how big Hull Fair was – and they though she was exaggerating –– so what she did, she asked if she could bring one of her friends with her to prove Hull Fair was a big as we said it was.
And what about the Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren?
Mrs Riley: Oh they all go to fair.
Mr Riley: A gang of us go. When the boy comes home we all go.
Mrs Riley: He comes home the last weekend of fair, with his wife and the grand-daughter and husband now. And then we get the great grand-children and my other grand-daughters and we all go. We spend more time looking where everybody is. But we enjoy it - yes we do. And the grandson goes as well with his partner. And yes we really enjoy fair still and the first place my sons makes for is Carvers chips! Pattie and chips and he’s happy.
Thank you Mr and Mrs Riley for inviting the project to your house and sharing such rich memories with us. You look wonderful in your Hull Fair bonnet. Thank you very much.