Memories of Colyford Goose Fayre

PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 September 2019 | UPDATED: 08:59 02 September 2019

The opening ceremony at the Colyford Goose Fayre in 1979. George Mabon is in blue and yellow and Colin Pady in mauve costume.

The opening ceremony at the Colyford Goose Fayre in 1979. George Mabon is in blue and yellow and Colin Pady in mauve costume.

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Colyford Goose Fayre, in its modern form, goes back 40 years. Here, former Colyford mayor George Mabon offers his memories of the first event in 1979.

The quintainThe quintain

The event is traditionally held on the last Saturday in September (this year on September 28), with many villagers dressing up in medieval costume for the occasion.

The fayre starts with a procession through the village to Springfield, where many traditional craft stalls, sideshows and refreshments are set up.

Upon my wife, Hilary, and I returning from Singapore to live in Colyford, my in-laws (Harry and Lily Pady) retired to Holcombe Bungalow.

We took over Dare's Farm, a 16th century thatched longhouse, with nine bedrooms; little did we know that one day it would be full of friends and relatives staying for our first Goose Fayre in 1980.

The Mummers playThe Mummers play

One day my brother-in-law, Colin called in after finishing his milk round and we got talking round the table while having a cup of tea. We started talking about how fast the village of Colyford was growing and the people living outside the boundary of the village felt left out as all the men were eligible to be burgesses who lived within the boundary but not those outside.

Each year since the 1900s, the whole village was invited to beat the bounds, which was to show everyone exactly where the boundary was.

On checking back through the historical records held by each mayor, I found that King John had granted Colyford permission to hold a yearly seven-day fayre to Sir Thomas Bassett in 1215 (the same man who was a signatory on the Magna Carta).

During this conversation, Colin suggested we had a goose fayre, the intention being, to bring the whole village working together in harmony. Before we knew it, our first batch of goslings were ordered and thus began the first Colyford Goose Fayre.

Mayor Eric Platts being escorted in the procession at the start of Colyford Goose FayreMayor Eric Platts being escorted in the procession at the start of Colyford Goose Fayre

With her military background, Hilary was made general manager and used her training to draw up a plan of the field, generously loaned to us by Geoff and Lynn Marshall who owned the old manor, at this time.

Months of planning went into making this idea come to fruition and gradually more and more villagers came on board; everyone bringing ideas and every organisation in the village sending representatives along to committee meetings until suddenly the last Saturday in September was upon us.

Apart from all the planning on the field, a team of sewing ladies set up and the whole village had been encouraged to make medieval costumes and parade down the centre of the village led by a mace bearer, village constable and mayor and his wife under a baldakin for opening at the field; Joe made his famous plum wine; apples pies were made along with a huge ram roast, pancakes, ale, cider and tea tent.

The stalls were many and various but one restriction (which remains to this day) is no electricity is allowed on the field.

The Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archivesThe Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archives

Potters wheel, lace making, cider making, a variety of games such as quintain, a medieval game, skittles and ox cart rides were very popular. Except for one incident at the first fayre when one of the oxen sneezed and his head went to left andcaught his horn on the rope attached to the toilet tent and pulled the toilet cover off with a poor gentleman sitting on the throne to everyone's amusement.

The oxen were named Oxo and Bisto. The bodger was always popular along with the fortune teller, potter, mummer's play, with the cast including a local doctor, vicar and mayor. The ox cart rides and greasy pole and marrow dangling were all well supported,

The local vicar had another ancient custom to perform on fayre day - the hard fasting ceremony, where couples from village were invited to pledge there allegience to each other.

After the fayre, which included a pet's corner, everyone pitched in clearing the field as much as possible.

The Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archivesThe Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archives

All the pets had to be returned back to the farm; the geese were auctioned off and one couple were seen roaring up Boshill in a cloud of smoke, engine at full pelt sitting on a motor bike, with the husband driving and his wife sitting behind him with a goose under each arm, heading towards Lyme Regis. (I wonder if they took off up to sky).

In the evening at Dare's Farm our rooms, even along our 20-yard by six foot upstairs corridor, were full of people,where we all got together for a sing-a-long of ballads and folk songs and, of course, a rendition of the Colyford Goose Fayre song, accompanied by Humphrey Hick's gin cocktails.

Lastly, the fortune teller (Jill's) prediction that year was correct in 1979, when she told everyone it was going to be a fantastic success.

It continues as we say happy 40th birthday to the Colyford Goose Fayre and here's to the next 40 years. How right she was. Special thanks to Hilary, Colin and Val's in-laws out-laws (from Isle of Wight), herdsman Chris and Audrey, Seaton Lions Club and of course to all Colyfordians and Burgesses, without whose sterling support, Goosey Fayre would not have survived as long as it has.

The Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archivesThe Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archives

The Colyford Goose Fayre song

Come to the Colyford Goosey Fayre

Upon a Michaelmas Day

There's all to see and there's lots to share

The Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archivesThe Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archives

For everyone come what may,

There's ale and cider for drinking men

And cakes and buns for tea.

There's ringing the shoe and geese in the pen

The Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archivesThe Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archives

And plenty more to see.

Try your skill with the English bow

Or guessing the weight of a pig.

The Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archivesThe Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archives

There's sheaves above a bar to throw

And dancers doing a jig.

There's music wafting on the air

That players sweetly play,

The Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archivesThe Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archives

So come to the Colyford Goosey Fayre

Upon a Michaelmas Day,

So come to the Colyford Goosey Fayre

Upon a Michaelmas Day.

The Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archivesThe Colyford Goose Fayre of September 1999. Picture: Midweek Herald archives

Words by Dennis Warren

Music by Mick Bye

To read more features from East Devon Resident, click here.

Colyford goose fayre procession.; picture by Terry Ife ref mhv 1845-39-10TIColyford goose fayre procession.; picture by Terry Ife ref mhv 1845-39-10TI

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