Taking A Lady To The Fair.

Earlier in the year, we had been invited to take “Lady Pride of England” to the Fairground weekend at Hollycombe which was to be held held at the end of July. As this is a busy time for us we said thank you for the invitation but we would have to see how we were fixed. As it happened, things worked out well and we were able to go.

July had started with fine weather, indeed the weekend of the Sewards of Petersfield Gathering was very nice except for a shower on Saturday morning, but, later in the month, as is usual with a British summer, there was a fair amount of rain. What’s this got to do with engines and Hollycombe I hear you ask. Well, Lady Pride of England lives on a farm, in the corner of a field and while her particular patch was dry, the track and gateway through she had to pass had been reduced to a sea of mud, a situation not conducive to happy steaming!

I went up to Lady one day in the week just before Hollycombe to do some cleaning,( a regular feature of the life of a showman’s engine driver) and met Gerald Russell and Michael Lugg there working on the New Zealand Mac, Gerald had already moved that engine and offered to try and tow out Lady. After a valiant attempt, we decided that getting his tractor unit stuck was probably not a good idea so went off the work on plan B.

At this point, the farmer arrived home for his lunch and being a helpful fellow, offered the services of his biggest tractor. I thanked him and we discussed how we were going to do it.

Due to her position, the engine had to be pulled forward a bit to enable the tractor to get behind her and push with a straight bar. This manoeuvre completed, we set about getting her out of the field and down into the yard and onto the  hard standing.

The farmers tractor was indeed big and a credit to John Deere but Lady is a heavy engine and gave the impression that she was quite happy where she was. Eventually, with much pushing and shoving, sweating and a certain amount of language that  you wouldn’t use in polite company, she was moved into the yard. All this was done in a heavy shower of rain which, of course, ceased the moment we had completed the evolution! 

Saturday, 23rd of July dawned warm and sunny and I lit up the Burrell at about 8.15. Lady is a quick steamer and soon the needle on the pressure gauge started to climb. Lloyd arrived and we prepared the engine for the road.

At about 10.45 with Lloyd steering and me at the regulator we pulled out onto the main road where we stopped to change up into top gear. A final check of the fire and with the safety valves feathering, we set off for Liphook.

The journey was pleasently uneventful, the only thing worthy of note was the discovery of a Worlds Fair reporter leap frogging us and taking pictures from the roadside.

On arrival at Hollycombe, we coaled and watered and were instructed to park in front of Tom Mayhew’s’ beautifully restored Motorcycle Speedway. This we were pleased to do as the engine and  machine made a wonderful picture together. Opposite was a Wall of Death and a small juvenile roundabout that were also nicely presented.

After fitting the light bulbs around the canopy and putting the drive belt on, the rest of Saturday was spent generating in front of the Speedway and listening to the good 1950’s music coming from the loud speakers on the machine.

Sunday went much the same way, we went up to Hollycombe in the morning and lit up Lady, being in steam by lunchtime and generated most of the afternoon. There was quite a lot of visitors and the atmosphere was great.

At the end of the day, we parked Lady up in a convenient space at Hollycombe as she was going to be collected from there during the following week and taken by low loader to Amberley for their Victorian weekend.

The Fairground Weekend had been a very enjoyable event for us, quite relaxed, a great atmosphere and blessed with fine weather. Worth all the blood, toil, sweat and tears shed trying to get Lady Pride of England out of her mud bath, well almost… KL

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