South Yorkshire Times April 15, 1950
Good Friday Feast
Our Reporter Finds all the Fun of the Fair at Conisbro’
Every year on Good Friday, hundreds of Conisbrough and Denaby People take part in a mass exodus from their homes, and ” go down to the fair.” Every year those hundreds of people spend hundreds of pounds at Conisbrough Feast.
Many frown on the irreverence of holding a public fair on Good Friday. To turn that day into an excuse for a brief, wild holiday of lights and noise, roundabouts and swings, ices and brandysnap, seems illogical. It is a practice, however, that is popular
Just how popular is shown by the fact that Conisbrough Feast (locally and colloquially known by a name much less dignified) dates back well over 100 years, For 40 years already two well-known fairs, Tuby’s of Doncaster, and Ernest Robinson’s of Barnsley, have been pitching ” in two fields along Station Road.
We were told by Ernest Robinson, who was celebrating his 58th birthday on Good Friday, and by William Pullen, president of the Showmen’s Guild of England, Ireland. Scotland and Wales, that the fair has changed little in its methods in those 40 years. The fair of 1910 was much like the fair of 1950, with the main difference in dress and prizes.
We remarked on the fact that all the stalls and shows seemed always to be situated in the same place annually. Mr. Robinson replied that he originally chose the pitch, and the showmen had to keep to it. All the stallholders in the field, he added, were members- of the Showmen’s Guild, their union.
The fair came to Conisbrough last Tuesday. By Thursday night most of it was “going.” On Friday the feast was in full swing, and at midnight, when it closed down, work began on dismantling. On Saturday afternoon practicallyy nothing was left—but the gypsies.
So we talked to the gypsies. They are independent of the fair itself, moving round the country to any big feast or carnival that occurs. Conisbrough is regarded as having one of the biggest fairs in the district, and the people living there, said a fortune-teller, Gipsy Lee Smith, the toughest, hardest people she knows in her profession.
Of course, she remarked, money is tight everywhere. But in Conisbrough and Denaby, where she feels, many must earn substantial wages, she and her fellows have the greatest difficulty in persuading them to “come in, won’t you ?”
The name painted outside her modern trailer-caravan, said Gypsy Smith, is her real name. She was christened Lee, one of the most widely-used names in her race-which accounts for the amazing number of ” Gypsy Lee’s and ” Gypsy Lee Smith’s.”
We asked, finally, whether the gypsy palmists were all true believers in the art they practise. One said, almost devoutly, ” Oh, yes.”
Trying Their Strength
We left, thinking, to see a woman complaining that a man was selling brandysnap at 6d, and 1s., and guessing the quantities. Should not he have weight scales ? “she demanded. She was advised that as the man did not profess to be selling by weight, there was nothing she could do about it.
We saw two semi-intoxicated youths run through about 10s. in about as many minutes, betting on the try-your-strength machine.
We saw an ” age-guesser,” dressed in a huge Stetson and American overcoat, apparently coming from Montreal. and calling himself by the name of a South African town, and we saw an elderly man pay for three throws at a coconut shy, throw one ball and ruefully give away the other two, complaining that his earlier vigour had left him.
We saw just one more happy, bustling, lively Conisbrough Feast.