24th May 2024

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MEMORIES OF WICKERSLEY AGRICULTURAL SHOW SOCIETY from Don Gill

Wickersley Agricultural Show was for many years a highlight on the calendar in the village of Wickersley. My memories of the show are from around a period in the 1960's through the mid 1970's. I am sure that there must be some records somewhere of the history of the show that give details of when it all started. Perhaps someone has them or knows of their existence so that a comprehensive history of the society can be written. One of the few mentions of the show that I have come across is a reference to the 1945 show that raised £728 for the Red Cross Agricultural Fund. So it appears that it existed as far back as the end of World War Two. When the show committee was disbanded the money that was left was put towards the purchase of the village clock that in 1995 was built opposite the Three Horse Shoes public house – which coincidently was where the society held it regular committee meetings when landlord Bob Hart and his wife Marjorie were mine hosts.

My memories of Wickersley Agricultural Show are centred on the fact that my dad Eric Gill was the secretary and treasurer of the show for a period in the 1960's to the mid 1970's. His last show was the 1975 event, as sadly he died just a month later in June of that year. The organisation of the annual show was a huge task and no doubt when one show ended arrangements for the next one began. All this was carried out by a group of enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers who were members of the society and who freely gave up much of their leisure time to ensure the success of the show. It was a well-run organisation and the officials were people who were successful in their working lives and who were able to draw upon a variety of skills to put together the annual event.

I first became aware of the show in the late 1950's when I remember that it was held in the church fields somewhere at the back of where the Tanyard Shopping Centre now stands. It was later held in fields off Northfield Lane opposite the cricket ground on the site of Northfield Lane Primary School. The final location that I remember is when it was held at Springvale Farm off Morthen Road that was owned by Cliff Carnelly.

I have a programme from the 1975 event that was held at Springvale Farm on Spring Bank Holiday Monday on May 26 of that year. The number of people who were involved in its organisation, the timetable of events and list of subscribers and exhibitors shows the scale of the show that attracted local people and agricultural show enthusiasts from across the North of England. Every year the hard working organisers would pray for fine weather on the big day and in the weeks leading up to the event so the show fields and car parking areas would be in good condition.

The show was held under the Patronage of Her Grace The Duchess of Devonshire and The Right Honourable The Earl of Scarbrough who was president of the show. Many well-known Wickersley people of the time held positions as officials. These included show director Bob Heath, chairman Jack Mumford, vice chairman Ernest Gallagher, secretary Eddie Hartnett, treasurer Eric Gill, showground manager Peter Goodall, medical officer Dr Frank Daly, veterinary surgeon R.S. Kay, farrier T. Greaser and solicitor Frank Ogley. The list of stewards included Sid Hinchliffe, Albert Whitehead, Roger Mumford, Clifford Lister, Peter Connell, Harold James, Colin Rudge, Stuart McCreadie, Joe Kinsley and brothers Lionel and Malcolm Leader who still live in the village.

The timetable of events included classes for goats, heavy horses, Shetland ponies, donkeys, juvenile riding, Mountain and Moorland ponies, Welsh ponies, palominos, and foals. There was a separate Gymkhana Ring where gymkhana competitions, organised by Wentworth Pony Club, and junior show jumping classes were held. There was also a dog show. In the main ring the impressive show jumping competitions included The Lister Stakes sponsored by the Listerdale Motor Company, The Wickersley Stakes and The Daily Express Foxhunter Competition. The show jumping events were highly competitive affairs and horses were entered by some big names including Banks and Massarella. Local farmer Tom Pashley, who lived in a farm at the old crossroads in the centre of the village, regularly entered his best horses that were always ridden by his son Phil. Top international competitor North Yorkshireman Harvey Smith was a regular competitor and I remember seeing renowned horsewoman Pat Smyth taking part on one of her horses. There were a wide variety of trade stands and displays encircling the showground along with trade marquees and a buffet tent. There was also a special marquee housing a handicraft section that was organised by headmaster at Wickersley St Alban's Junior School Stuart McCreadie.

Money that enabled the show to continue year after year was donated by local businesses that sponsored the major events and provided the prize money. The top prize for winning the big show jumping competitions was £10. Sponsors of prize money for the jumping events included Foster Fine Foods of Thrybergh, Massarella's Ices, Exley's soft drinks, Tom Bennett car accessories, Aven Tools, Brittain Brothers, Listerdale Motors, Blackham's Supermarkets, Manhire Ltd, E.C. Sayers, Coopers Toy Store of Rotherham, C.F. Booth and Orly Travel. Funding was also obtained from advertisers who took out space in the show programme. Another source of income came from those who paid a few pounds for the privilege of becoming vice presidents or members of the society. This entitled them to tickets for the show, free use of the member's marquee and car park and an invitation to the AGM. Members of the society were also invited to purchase tickets for the annual dinner and dance. The venue at the time for these formal occasions was the Steel, Peech and Tozer pavilion in Sheffield. Later on I remember attending one at the long since demolished Clifton Hall in Rotherham.

So these are my memories of Wickersley Agricultural Show. It was a much-anticipated annual event that was well attended by village folk, by those from the surrounding area and from further afield. Officials including my dad committed huge amounts of their time to its organisation; all of its wide variety of classes and categories were well supported and every year it provided a full day of entertainment for the many thousands that attended. Perhaps Wickersley Agricultural Show now represents a bygone era when the village was primarily a farming community and when people were prepared to give freely of their time to organise such events. It will be long remembered by exhibitors, competitors and spectators alike. Maybe one day Wickersley Agricultural Show will be resurrected in some form or another. But I have a feeling that we will never see its like in the village again.

Last updated: Wed, 15 Feb 2023 22:01