"To everything there is a season"
I'm passionate about gardening and history and
it's not too often that the chance comes to combine
the two. This summer, our village celebrated the
60th Anniversary of its Horticultural Show and
it gave me an opportunity to root into the past
of families and traditions that linger on today.
Way back in April 1955, a
'sprinkling' of local gardeners met to discuss
the revival of a previously defunct village Show.
I have the Minutes from that meeting; handwritten
in a yellowing, school exercise book with Imperial
Arithmetic Tables on the back cover. The Secretary
wrote in the cursive, copperplate style taught
in school in his childhood, "A
meeting was held at Church House to discuss the
formation of a Society to continue the Horticultural
Show in place of the one which has been disbanded".
I asked some of today's
exhibitors, who are descendants
of the old committee, if they had any recollections
and memories of the earlier show but these focused
around 1950. The obvious next step - isn't it always-
was to Google,'horse show, Cornwall, agricultural'
and I hit on a fascinating website, British Newspaper
Archives. I dug around into old, Cornish newspaper
articles and I read that the village had a 'Horse
and Dog Show' as long ago as the 1920's. The final
one, in August 1951, was held “In fine weather
and entries surpassed all expectations". But
as tractors replaced horses, the old ways disappeared
with intensified farming methods and prompted the
demise of the traditional shows.
The content of the papers
has changed little through
the years when reporting on summer fetes and festivals,
although now the words are supported by colour
photos of smiling prize winners. I found snippets
about instances that wouldn't happen today, particularly
when it comes to 'Health and Safety' issues. In
1935, a cup was NOT awarded in the tug'o'war as
a dispute erupted into a fight, there were egg
and spoon races on motorbikes and a woman's foot
was trodden on by a horse and treated by a vet!
In 1928, a darker side of
competing was exposed; 'The Cornishman' reported
that Richard Pascoe from Penrose Road, Helston
entered his unschooled cob into a jumping class
and at the first hurdle the horse swerved, the
next jump was furze and she shied again. Her noseband
broke in panic and the rider was advised not to
go in the ring, but third place prize money was
at stake and he ignored the warning. The cob sheered
away from the hurdle and Mr. Pascoe was thrown
and died from a head injury.
The Horse and Dog Show had included horticultural,
domestic and handicraft sections and when the show
was revived, it was without animals. The schedule
has change over the years; we no longer have a
Dairy section with honey, scalded cream and butter,
or knitted gloves and crocheted bed jacket. The
trussed chicken and dough cake have been updated
to fancy bread and decorated cupcakes, although
it would be sacrilege to move too far from our
roots and there's a cup awarded for most points
in Cornish traditional cookery: a pasty, heavy
cake, fairings and splits.
Village shows derived as
a result of the necessity to be self-sufficient:
women cooked, baked, made preserves and kept chickens
and bees and men grew vegetables amongst the flowers
in cottage gardens. The simplicity of a community
coming together to show off their produce and catch
up with gossip over a cuppa, still remains at the
heart of country life and it delights me that our
village show isn't out of place or time today.
But the question is... will
there be a 61st Show? I've had
to change the ending to this article because since
I began, my very dear friend, who worked with me
as Secretary, has died. No pain, no warning...just
died. Death rode by, smothered her in his bat-black
cloak, sucking the life-force from her as quickly
as a flower in its glory being trampled.
I'm shocked at the fragility of the slender thread
between life and death and am only certain at this
moment that nature, at least, will regenerate.
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