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As we wake to another damp and dismal June day I am reminded of another June day in the dim and distant past which also commenced very wet. One of the sad facts of growing older is that one is able to recall even the minutest detail of certain events in one’s life and I recall this day as if it were yesterday not thirty-seven years ago, helped also by a photographic record.

As I have mentioned before I worked at a local authority children’s home from 1975 until 1978 and inevitably some of my enthusiasm for vintage machinery rubbed off on some of the lads at the home. During my time at the home I gradually introduced vintage rallies to the boys (and girls) and this brief tale is of a 1976 day-trip to Oxfordshire to visit the Holton Steam Rally, a first-time encounter for the three young residents that came with me.

Holton Steam Rally 1976

It was raining and windy in London, the boys (and I) were disappointed, we had planned this trip all week and needed sun and warmth, what we had was cold and wet but decided to go anyway. It was not a very long trip so I told the boys to wear their wellington boots for the journey as the weather indicated there was no need to take extra footwear. I also suggested that as it was quite cool for the time of year they might prefer to wear their jeans or track suits rather than shorts. Inevitably, on arrival at our destination, the sun was shining, the lads were completely overdressed for the conditions and lost no time at all in telling me! As you can see from the photographs, it obviously hadn’t been raining there as the ground wasn’t the slightest bit wet or muddy.

The boys at Holton Steam Rally 1976So, from left to right we see seven-year-old M••• the youngest lad in the home, then nine-year-old D•••••. Next in line is nine-year-old H••••• who just happened to have his shorts on under his jeans as he was in too much of a hurry to be on our way to change out of them before we left. This boy was immediately interested in everything at the show, and he became one of the regular rally attenders with two slightly older lads, and the three of them visited many vintage shows and steam rallies with me over a two year period. The other two boys shown here were more interested in getting rid of their pocket money on trivialities at the many sideshows and stalls.

Holton Steam Rally was usually on the second weekend of June; held in a field in Oxfordshire it was a popular show and attended by many exhibits and visitors. The following year I applied to exhibit my stationary engine at this event and was accepted, so a number of the lads came with me and my Lister engine to spend the weekend. Unusually that year, the rally was held in August, presumably because of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Unfortunately I don’t seem to have taken any photos of that event but do have the rally plaque given to all exhibitors so have photographed that instead.

Exhibitor's plaque - Holton Steam Rally 1977

I exhibited at Holton again in 1979, making the long trek from South Wales, but somehow it had lost the magic of the previous two visits and I never exhibited or visited there again, also the journey of over four hours was a little daunting. The rally doesn’t appear to be held any more unless it is now located elsewhere, the last reference to Holton I can find is 1985.

This story has been recycled from my flickr photostream and re-written for a new audience on WordPress whilst waiting impatiently for important phone calls to be returned!

You can also view a number of photographs taken during my time at the children’s home in a set on my flickr photo site entitled The London Years.

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