Y Ffair/ The Fair.
Fishguard Fair 2022 has little in common with these descriptions of local fairs in years gone by, though it is still held at the old ‘Swan field’ (more commonly called Bettabuys Car Park today). Below is a 1910 article on Fishguard Fair. Above, a 1938 poem about Mathry Fair.
Bach iawn sy’n gyffredin rhwng Ffair Abergwaun 2022 a’r disgrifiad isod o Ffair Abergwaun yn 1910. Uchod, mae cerdd yn disgrifio Ffair Fathri o 1938.
‘FISHGUARD FAIR – BRILLIANT WEATHER GRACES RECORD FUNCTION.’ (C. Echo 13-10-1910)
Of recent years there have been some grounds for fearing that the revolution which has been affected in the interests of Fishguard and her immediate environs was destined to react adversely upon the annual hiring and pleasure fair, one of the chief events of the year in the Northern County. Hiring had fallen largely into desuetude, and careful observers were able to discern a marked diminution both in the number of standings and, in some instances of the nature and quality of the fairings exposed for sale.
Were this retrograde process to continue for any length of time, a serious financial loss would have been entailed to the town, whilst rural residents would have been deprived of a form of relaxation which they can ill afford to spare. Hence it is with considerable gratification that we are able to chronicle, this year, an upward tendency.
The Swan Field, long disused as a venue, was leased by an entrepreneur hitherto unknown in this locality and became actually the dominant feature of the fair. The Brodog Field suffered no diminution—in fact, an excellently equipped cinematographic theatre added considerably to its wonted attractions —but it was completely overshadowed by the ambitious display at the new centre. So far as The Square was concerned, it was patent to even the casual observer that, not merely is the centre of interest changing, but the general display in this quarter is rapidly deteriorating. The number of standings was far less than heretofore, Main Street being practically deserted; there was less variety in the goods displayed for sale and the pattering cheap-jack was, with a few exceptions, who found but a poor market for their wares, conspicuously absent. Nevertheless, many hardy annuals were observable, and for the most part drove good bargains, though it is to be feared that the umbrella merchant must have sighed for a return of the weather which had prevailed on several occasions in recent years.
Fears had been entertained on the Friday that the Indian summer was about to break up, but the pessimistic prognostication proved premature, and ideal weather graced the function, with the result that many visitors hardly recognised in the hard-baked field at Brodog the abominable quagmire to which they had become accustomed. Whether or not the influx of pleasure-makers into the town constituted a record is somewhat difficult to decide, but the fact that the Swan Field and its approaches ere densely thronged throughout the entire day, without effecting any appreciable diminution in the crowds in the streets and at other centres, lends weight to the supposition that such was the case. Furthermore, the fact that the function fell this year on a Saturday served considerably to augment the dimensions of the assemblage, as the whole of the men employed on the Construction Works were released at noon, and naturally availed themselves of the op- portunity for patronising as many of the entertainments and merchants as appealed to their tastes. The day of the week was also responsible for a greater circulation of money than would otherwise have been the case, for, whilst the rural community saves up for the fair, the townsman is apt to place it under the head of “current expenses.”
Hiring, we understand, showed an upward tendency, though there can be little doubt that the system is, in the face of the altered conditions of the twentieth century, doomed ultimately to extinction. Actually, the fair was inaugurated on the Friday night, for most of the showmen began to arrive on Thursday afternoon, and, having rapidly erected their structures, naturally lost no time in tapping the pockets of the townsfolk.
The spectacle presented by the transformed Swan Field was an exceedingly attractive one. Stalls, well laden with every variety of comestibles and fairings, lined the approaches an unusually well equipped electrical theatre, a novel roundabout with porcine steeds, and a miniature circular railway occupied the centre whilst in one corner had been erected a helter-skelter “a novelty not hitherto seen in the town. All were accorded a generous measure of patronage, and it may safely be assumed that their enterprising proprietor will seriously consider the advisability of making his visit an annual one. Should he do so, we would suggest that the chute of the helter-skelter should be extended entirely to the ground, as the present drop at the extremity is decidedly dangerous.
The most attractive feature at all points in the fair appeared to be the competitions in which customers were invited to test their skill at casting rings, quoit-wise, over ornaments and useful articles which might happen to take their fancy. The quality of the prizes so displayed was such as to stimulate keen competition, but it was apparent that, whilst those who succeeded had every reason for self-congratulation, the task was one involving a far greater amount of skill than might be expected.
Both the Brodog and the Swan Field were, after nightfall, ablaze with arc lamps, whilst electric bulbs glowed on many of the stalls, but it was interesting to observe at the latter venue that more than one standing was brilliantly illuminated with inverted incandescent mantles burning vaporised petrol. Excellent arrangements for the preservation of order were made by Supt. Rees Brinn, who drafted into the town constables from Letterston, Mathry, Maenclochog, and Dinas, but, as a matter of fact, these guardians of the peace had but little to do, the crowd being particularly good-humoured.
It would be a matter, however, for congratulation were some steps taken to prohibit the sale of teasers.” Clean water, though annoying, can be tolerated, but we fear that care is not always exercised in ensuring the purity of the contents of these tormenters. For the first time within our recollection confetti was freely sold and extensively used, and we imagine that most people will agree that this commodity would make an exceedingly effective substitute for the squirts to which we have referred, the use of which is, we believe, technically illegal.
Owing to Mathry Fair falling on Monday, the majority of the showmen and stallholders had no option but to remove their plant, &c., on the Sunday. In the case of the Swan Field, however, the work of demolition was not commenced until the night of that day, a well-attended sacred concert and cinematographic entertainment being given in the theatre during the course of the evening.
Wes gyda chi hen luniau o ddwarnod ffair yn yr ardal? Falle y byddech yn fodlon i ni eu rhannu fan hyn?
Have you old photos of ‘fair day’ in the area? Maybe you would be willing for us to share them here?