Guest Page No. 8

Carnival Memories

 Some time ago I received an email from Mr Alf Pates who recalled some memories of the pre-WW2 carnivals and I fully intended producing a page of memories and photos long before now (June 2007). The cancellation of last year's carnival and my inability to locate the photos I knew I had archived away somewhere meant the project got put on to the back burner and has only now been resurrected. I'll begin with an extract from Mr Pates' email by way of introduction, then his memories followed by a selection of photos from my own collection.
My name is Alf Pates and I was born on Stamford Street, Ilkeston in the mid 1920's and now live in Brackley, Northants. I remember the carnivals of the thirties up to the outbreak of war in 1939 and have jotted down a few memories. Unfortunately I do not have relevant photographs to accompany the recollections.

Memories of Ilkeston Carnivals and Bands in the 1930’s
My memories of the many bands which were formed in the 1930’s begin with what was known as the Tramp Band. A motley but keen group of youngsters guided by elders and dressed in their oldest and worn clothes(hence the name Tramp), some with their “possessions” wrapped in a handkerchief dangling at the end of a stick over their shoulders and many wore a cap much too big for them. Their overall comic appearance caused much hilarity among the bystanders as they trudged rather than marched through the streets. The music section was small but effective and included I think, a few brass instruments, kettledrum or two, a bass drum but mainly kazoos.
Before moving off they assembled in the alleyway at the side of the Market Inn in the Market Place. This may have been their “headquarters” but I am not sure about this. Certainly whenever they appeared in public they raised a smile or two which wasn't bad in the 30’s.
One of the leading bands was the Ilson Middies dressed in their smart naval midshipman uniforms. They were led by Drum Major Gold for a number of seasons and won many prizes at carnivals throughout the East Midlands as did another band called I think the Harmonicas who were dressed in white silk shirts, wide brimmed Mexican-type hats and flared trousers. I think they had some accordions supplying the music as well.
Another band emanated from Critchley Street off North Street called the Imperials. I remember this band very well as they practised in the Durham Ox assembly rooms on Durham Street not far from where I lived on Stamford Street. They gathered once a week and entertained or annoyed the householders around and in nearby streets marching up and down in this not very large room beating their drums and blowing their bugles with unseemly vigour.
A Drum Major I do remember led a band from the Awsworth Road/Granby Street area, I think, but I can't remember its name. This leader was an adventurous and fearless performer with his mace. While marching along he would periodically throw his mace very high into the air; it twirled once or twice, returned to earth and he would smartly catch it without breaking step. An anxious moment for us watching for I saw him attain heights way above the trolley bus wires on Bath Street, and of course higher than any of his rival drum majors. A skill worth admiring.
Other bands visiting Ilkeston were from Nottingham, Raleigh Ambassadors, Players Imperials and Lenton Priory Pages and from Hucknall the Harlequins in their colourful diamond-patterned costumes and well known for their quicker precise marching which won them many prizes. Bands also came from Derby, Bulwell and even Newark, all providing great entertainment especially demonstrated by their skills in marching and counter marching and forming their individual set pieces on areas such as the Manor Ground.
I wanted to join one of the bands when I was 10/11 years old but my father would have non of it. He used to say, “If there is a war (which looked likely and there was) the first people to be called up will be members of carnival bands” I asked why and he said “Because they can march”. A puzzling answer at least. However, I did accompany the carnival procession one year with a collecting tin urging the public to give money to raise funds for Ilkeston General Hospital on Heanor Road.
I remember we started off on Nottingham Road near Cavendish Road through the town and finished at the Manor Ground where a carnival band contest took place in the evening.
Incidentally on the corner of Bath Street and Chapel Street was Wood's Chemist's shop and most years photographs of the procession were taken from the ideal position of an upstairs window of the shop. Many excellent photos of the bands and floats were displayed and for sale the following week in the shop window.
Many unpaid volunteers and local business people helped to make the yearly carnivals a success. The Daily Mail sent a van containing public address equipment which was used all week at various functions. There were fund-raising activities mainly at the Manor Ground including motorcycle grass track racing and gymkhanas. Barton Transport always loaned their mobile throne to convey the carnival queen and her attendants.
I also remember Mr Clarke a teacher at Hallcroft School one of the carnival organisers thanking my mother Elsie Pates nee Baker for her contribution to the carnival. She made the dresses for the carnival queen and her attendants for a number of years.
As much as £1000 would be raised for the hospital during the week. As we would say now, “a lot of money in those days”.
I hope everyone enjoyed the carnivals as much as I did.

Carnival Photos from the 1950s

I cannot go back as far as Mr Pates but I think all of the following photos come from the early years of the 1950s.

My mother worked for Charnos and at that time all the local businesses entered floats in the street parade that was the highlight of Carnival Week. I cannot identify anyone on this photo but I strongly suspect that it features a bevy of Charnos beauties.

Likewise I cannot identify any of these ladies either but again as it is an all female group, I would suspect that they all worked for Charnos.

This one is much easier to identify - the Captain of the "ship" is my dad, Tom Newton. The building behind looks like the old Rutland Hotel at the bottom of Bath Street.

The same float again and as well as my Dad, I can identify a number of people in this photo. The Mountie in the middle is my Uncle Allan (Henshaw) and his wife Auntie Joan is on the float at the extreme right. Her brother, my Uncle Bill (Birkin) is the pirate also on the right of the photo. The young boy in front of the ship's funnel is none other than yours truly. Now you know how I can date these images!

The "ship", the SS Barton, was of course a converted bus as evidenced by the name on the rudder and also by the fact that my Dad was employed by the company for over 25 years. These days carnival floats are normally just open backed and decorated lorries but you can see the lengths people went to back then to transform the appearance of vehicles.

This photo if memory serves me correctly was taken at the Beauty Spot and is a family group of Auntie Joan, Uncles Allan and Bill and me. Uncle Bill must have been a master of the quick change for his piratical appearance had been replaced by an Indian outfit. Apart from the obvious family connection, quite why there were Mounties, cowboys and cowgirls on board the SS Barton has always eluded me but - Hey! That's Carnival!

Click Here for the recent Carnival Images
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