Chapter 7

Projects, 1957-61

IT IS, AS IT SHOULD BE, difficult to disentangle Community Service from Fellowship. A glance at Appendix III will remind us, if we need reminding, that no one can say where one begins and the other ends, and vice versa, or even side ways. They merge, and each assumes characteristics of the other.

Such an appendix can be at the best but a guide. It is incomplete in that it deals only with money. There are no statistics for inspiration, compassion, aching muscles in digging gardens, decorating old peoples’ homes, building greenhouses, repairing toys and chopping logs, patience in running garden parties, taking children to pantomimes and picnics, and transporting and entertaining old and handicapped people. No figures of man-hours can be given for the money-raising projects that became progressively more ambitious as the years went on.

Out of the Fellowship of the Table came all these things, which we loosely call Community Service, but out of Community Service came a still stronger fellowship, forging links that have endured.

In this field the 50’s may well be looked upon as preparation for the 60’s. In these years the idea of doing something for others, not merely contributing to a charity box, became firmly fixed in the Table mind.

What was to become an annual event, Carol Singing, started in 1952. Two years later came Higgs’s Bazaar, the first of the annual Jumble Sales. In 17 years the former has raised nearly £900, and the latter over £1,100. Apart from these, the 50’s saw few original ideas beyond dances and fashion-parades. In 1958 the York Table introduced the [40] Scarborough Table to large-scale raffles, for in that year the former enlisted the latter’s help in running a moped competition (How long would the infernal thing tick over on a pint of petrol?).

Scarborough netted £25 of the proceeds and the following year, under the chairmanship of Fred Coopland, the Community Service Committee proceeded to run its own moped competition. Known as Fred’s Folly and organised by Basil Young throughout five weeks of the high season, this raised £91.*

*For those of an enquiring turn of mind, the time was 1hr 24 min. 5.8 sec., and three people tied with 1hr. 24 min 10 sec. How one measures the dying splutters of a petrol engine to a fraction of a second comes under the Official Secrets Act.

The following year it was decided to do the same thing again, but the previous year’s selling site (next to the Lifeboat House on the Foreshore) was no longer available. The aim was to raise some £400 to buy a van for the W.V.S. for their Meals on Wheels service, and it was obvious that a great deal of work was going to be necessary. The project was the largest yet undertaken and was to involve every member of the Table. Tony Squire has vivid recollections of it:

‘We organised a raffle,’ he writes, ‘with the likely first prize of a refrigerator and a week’s holiday in Scarborough for two people. Our sale site was a garage forecourt at the Floral Hall end of North Marine Road and it was manned, through the combined efforts of the Community Service and Entertainment Committees, from 6 p.m. to 8.30 or 9 p.m.
throughout July and August.

‘One of the hazards involved was manhandling the refrigerator, mounted on a dexion display stand, out of the garage on to the forecourt and back again. Though many feet were squashed in the process, it never actually did run down the hill.

‘Steve Lee sticks in my mind as the person who always sold not less than a full book of 5 tickets to any purchaser, his turnover per session being almost double that of any of the other barkers. As a sideline, hotel receptionists were inveigled into selling tickets at 6d commission on cash book sold. In addition to manning the stand, every member of [41] the Table sold £5 worth of tickets, and eventually the first prize was won by a Scarborough couple living in Hatterboard Drive.

‘The project, although using prodigious quantities of man-hours, did achieve success, and a mini-van was duly presented to the W.V.S. at County Garage by Tom Pindar, then Table Chairman.

In all, £369.3.2 was raised. The van and insurance cost £415.15.3. The gap was bridged by an anonymous donation of £40.

The Night of the Dragon
Should this book fall into the hands of any reader not familiar with Scarborough manners and customs, it should be mentioned that for a number of years the town has organised a festival week with continental overtones at the beginning of the season. For many of those years Holland and Scarborough worked together to produce the Dutch Festivals which many visitors still remember with pleasure. One of the highlights was a procession of floats designed to bring the town’s traffic to a standstill on the Wednesday afternoon of the Festival.

In the 1959 and 1960 processions the Table had entered a magnificent 45 foot dragon, thereby winning a silver cup and bringing the whole procession to a halt on the Foreshore.
As these were the years of the moped and the refrigerator, it will be appreciated that the Table had not a great deal of spare time on its hands.

After the 1960 procession it was not unreasonably felt that for display purposes the dragon had had its day, and the problem was what to do with the beast. It took up a lot of room. No other Table wanted to buy it, but it was far too attractive to consign to the knacker’s yard.

Loch Ness was at this time receiving some of its periodical publicity. Arch-schemer Arthur Holmes saw no reason why a North Sea monster should not appear in the bay on August Bank Holiday. What followed is best described by Eric Rushforth:

‘A committee was co-opted and flotation trials were carried out in Scalby Beck with one middle section 16 feet long by 4 feet in diameter, and a plan of action was put into [42] operation at 0200 hours on Bank Holiday Sunday at Burniston Road car park.

‘Transport was ably provided as usual by the vans of Tony Squire and Jack Knowles, and the loading of the eight large sections completed in darkness and transported to the Golden Ball slipway, where the construction party of Peter Dean, Eric Rushforth, John Priestley, Derek Towle, etc. started to secure three car inner tubes into, and a two-gallon can full of sand as ballast under, each section.

The 7 foot dragon’s head had a 10 foot pole centred up the neck, and each body section was then secured by rope along the whole body. The effect was fantastic as the 45 foot dragon, riding high in the sea, was towed as dawn was breaking by motor launch (thanks to Arthur Slater) to a point in the middle of the South Bay and anchored at 0600 hours.

‘The gentle waves caused the whole green and gold creature to undulate, and from the shore it appeared to be alive, much to the amazement of the visitors who, half an hour later, were beginning to appear in numbers along the Foreshore.

‘As the Harbour Master was reporting an unidentified floating object to the police, the tired, wet and dirty working party were consuming bacon and eggs in an early-morning cafe. Ken Dix had a very profitable day as his reports and photographs appeared next day in every national newspaper – a total of 67 single column inches – and Ken was paid for every word.

‘The sequel at 8 p.m. on that glorious Sunday was when a party of brave dragon-killers ably led by Stuart Leslie, armed with rifles, set sail and towed the dragon three miles out to sea. There she was suitably despatched to Davy Jones’s Locker, a memorable ending to an entertaining dragon.’

The First Wykeham Garden Party
The last project to be undertaken prior to the 1962 Conference was a Garden Party and Barbecue held at Wykeham Abbey, the seat of Lord and Lady Downe.

We are indebted to Tom Pindar for his graphic recollections of this party, held in 1961, which turned out to be the [43] largest project so far undertaken:

Quite where the idea came from I have forgotten, but it was a good one. Two of us were deputed to visit web to approach Lord Downe and discuss arrangements. We were received in the Brown Drawing Room and had an an amusing time listening to the Peter Sellers record of ‘Balham – Gateway to the South’ and ‘The Family Retainer’ at which his Lordship rocked in his chair with laughter, with John Ellender a good second.

This beginning made us feel much more at home, and since then many people have come to have a greater affection and respect for Wykeham Abbey and those to whom it is home.

It was eventually decided to have a Garden Party in the afternoon with a monster Chicken Barbecue in the evening. The whole Table was involved in preparation and gradually we realised just how much work was necessary. Dennis Hart’s reputation as an intrepid driver of coal lorries grew apace as he ferried chairs and tables, side-shows, cooking gear and much more. I recall Peter Dean demonstrating a fine nautical vocabulary after narrowly escaping death at Dennis’s wheels.

Bit by bit the place was prepared and Lady Downe’s memories of a pre-war Red Cross Garden Party and the siting of stands were invaluable. Barbecues were already growing in popularity, but we had little experience of cooking for them and could only guess at probable numbers. So a decision was taken: 500 chickens would be cooked, providing, I think, half a bird to each person. Brian Gooch, who was the assistant manager of the gas works, produced yards of pipe, concocted a large area of gas burners over which dixies of soup and the chickens were to be heated.

A marquee was erected for dancing, and other members erected a hitherto unparallelled network of notices and posters. Wives arranged teas in the coachyard, and miles of wire went up for lighting and public address systems. Gradually one realised what an ideal place we had for the job: there were even strategically placed toilets.

Memory of the actual day remains something of a blur. We were involved in doing our jobs, and as the evening wore on it seemed there would never be an end to serving [44] chickens. Too soon, however, they were finished, and suspicions were confirmed that certain citizens had come back for second helpings.

There was a lot of clearing up to do, and then came the inquest. The lesson learned was simple. In order to make full use of the day we had staged what amounted to two events, of which the Barbecue needed most work, caused most worry and made only a minimal surplus. But it was a first-class bit of experience, and we raised a goodly sum for the Y.M.C.A.

The net sum raised was £448.3.8, and £450 went to the Y.M.C.A. This was not the only benefit, for the experience was to prove invaluable in 1964 and again in 1967, the years of the second and third Wykeham Abbey Garden Parties. [45]

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