In 1977 I exhibited for the first (and only) time in the stationary engine section at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, in those days known as The Great Working of Steam Engines. That year the site at Stourpaine Bushes was extremely wet and muddy and I had to be towed onto the site, drop the engine off at the exhibiting area and then towed to the camping area. Four of the boys from the children’s home I worked in at that time had travelled with me; C aged 12, H aged 10, S who was 11 and D the oldest at 13, left to right as shown in the above photograph.
We had set off at 5.00 on Friday morning and in our haste to be on the road I inadvertently left my camera at home, remembering it when we were about half an hour into our journey. I decided to press on as surely there would be a stall at the site I could buy a cheapie? . . and a cheapie it was, using 126 cartridge film it was not until I developed the pictures later that I realised what a useless thing it was, however, it’s the only record I have of this adventure! This photograph shows the three younger boys posing by my stationary engine, exhibit number 111, a 1936 Lister “D” type. Many of the other exhibits didn’t arrive as you can see by the large number of empty spaces in the stationary engine enclosure.
The first night on the site it poured with rain constantly and we awoke to a very wet site. After just a short while sloshing through the sea of mud and getting caught in a few showers, I soon realised the boys’ jeans or trousers were beginning to get wet and caked with mud and as we usually travelled light with very few spare clothes I decided to buy some cheap waterproof plastic overtrousers. The youngest boy managed to split the side seam on one of the legs of his within the first hour so he discarded them and doesn’t appear in any of the photos wearing them.
It didn’t rain at all on Saturday night but on Sunday it was still horribly muddy though so our wellington boots were still essential although coats weren’t really necessary once the sun had warmed everything up. Here’s a rare photograph of myself with the three younger lads by a showman’s traction engine, you’ll notice I’m still wearing my waterproof coat, it was bright blue so the boys could find me more easily should we become separated on that vast Dorset show site.
When we came to pack up on Sunday evening we discovered we had to wait our turn for my trailer to be towed to the exhibiting area as it was still too muddy to attempt driving over. By the time the engine was back to the van it was well past 7.00pm so we arranged a tow to a drier part of the site and stayed another night aiming to set off early the next morning. The following morning it was warm and sunny so we had a quick wander around to use up the last few photos in the camera before setting off for home after a very tiring but enjoyable weekend.