"Why me?" was the question I asked when approached to open St Mary's Christmas Fair this year. I was told it was because I had attended a great many and perhaps would have some memories I would like to share. It was later suggested I should put some of the memories I mentioned into the Pump; hence this article.
The first fair I attended was in 1955, when of course everyone would have arrived smartly dressed and wearing hats. I was very excited as Father Christmas was coming, as he will be later today, and there would be lots of things to buy. But before anything like this happened we children had to stand and listen to a dignitary open the event. He, or she, would be on the stage, which used to be where the alcove is, along with the Rector and his wife, Churchwardens and Church Council officers. A formal vote of thanks would be given and later they would all return to the stage and be served tea at a laid table. Each year after the opening we children would make a beeline for the stall which stood alongside these double doors. Here Elsie Board and the late Mary Netherway would have a table laden down with sweets many of which were homemade - pink and white coconut ice and various flavoured fudges spring to mind - delicious! Perhaps some of you will remember this.
As youngsters and as we grew older we would look amongst the stalls, in particular the one organised by the Sunday school and perhaps the toiletry or china stall for Christmas presents. Sometimes we were able to pick up a small gift from the Working Party table - The Working Party was a small group of ladies who met weekly throughout the year knitting and sewing goods to furnish this stall - and also if we were lucky there might have been a bran tub lucky dip.
Year after year there would be the Guess the weight of the homemade cake competition and who could forget the famous Culm Davy Basket! Today of course we have a wonderful food hamper. The basket was always packed to the brim with the most amazing collection of mainly household goodies - sewing needles, a screwdriver, a ball of string and a Stanley knife were perhaps tucked away (we wouldn't be allowed that nowadays with all the Health and Safety regulations!) and it was the raffle that everyone wanted to win. One year my sister was the lucky recipient and she also says she still has a brooch bought from the new stall by a local butcher, CJ Hannaford, and given to her when she was 7.
Of course before the afternoon ended we all went for our refreshments . But where? The Forbes Lounge was the Billard room and had a full size table filling the space so card tables were laid and placed in front of the stage and you took your seat before being served your tea. The end of the fair was not the end of the day though as in the evening a whist drive was held and run for many, many years by the late Thelma Lowry.
In 1971, when the whist drives were still being held, it is interesting to read some details from the church magazine which tells us that the cake stall took £10.48, the Mens stall £21.47 and the Working Party stall an amazing £91. The hire of the hall was £4, purchased whist prizes £2 and presentation gifts 85p. The profit on the entire day amounted to £293.40 - a tidy sum for that time.
Some things suddenly start one year and before we know it, it has become part of our traditions. This morning Carol Pring told me that she has been running the chocolate raffle for 32 years which began following a family bereavement - thank you Carol. I also understand that one of our Wardens is today wearing a 3-piece suit made in 1949 - the year the First Christmas fair was held - obviously made to last!
Since the Christmas Fair began 2 things have remained constant - the fellowship that is shared and the support given to all the stallholders.
St Mary's is not a building which stands there opening its doors just for Sunday services, festivals, baptisms, weddings and funerals. It is open almost every day and lovingly cared for and of course Culm Davy Chapel has a beauty all of its own.
They are our churches - but unfortunately they presents us with bills - annual insurance for St Mary's alone is £2,410.25 It is the generosity of people like yourselves at various fund raising events that help the church meet these bills to enable the buildings to continue to stand and be there for us all for whatever and whenever we may need it.
So, as the latest person to have the privilege of opening this event I invite you all to open your hearts, wallets and purses and give generously throughout the afternoon and I have great delight in declaring the 60th Christmas Fair of St Mary's Church with Culm Davy Chapel open.