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13 November 2014

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Goose Fair

You are in: Nottingham > Goose Fair > The man behind the cock-on-a-stick

A cock-on-a-stick

A cock-on-a-stick

The man behind the cock-on-a-stick

Ray Whitehead has been the man behind a Goose Fair tradition for over 50 years.

My name is Ray Whitehead. I'm 72 and I live in Arnold.

"Some women are very frank, they say things like: 'can I have a stick-on-a-cock'. There's lots of double meanings"

Ray Whitehead

My family have been making cocks-on-sticks for over 100 years. My grandfather Ben Whitehead, started the tradition at the end of the 19th Century.

He passed on the secrets to me. I've been making and selling the cocks at Goose Fair since 1950. My grandfather had the theory that they originated in Italy.

I think it started as a goose-on-a-stick. But as I've said before I think the ladies of Nottingham changed it's name. I'm not sure why but, I guess, there's a lot in the name!

I don't really get fed up of the jokes because one has to be entertained. Some women are very frank, they say things like: "can I have a stick-on-a-cock". There's lots of double meanings.

I start making the cocks in June and I take my time. It's a slow process. To make them you have to boil glucose and sugar to 200° F and then pour when it's malleable.

We then add the colour. We pull the toffee and it turns white. Lay it in stripes and pull portions off, cut each piece and shape it and add a flourish to the tail.

Remember, no one wants a badly shaped cock!

Ray Whitehead with a cock-on-a-stick

Ray Whitehead with a cock-on-a-stick

Goose Fair has changed over the years without doubt. In the old days you could get anyone to look after your stall. We're all a bit cagey now.

Nowadays, the Fair seems to melt at 10pm. In the old days the fair was still rammed at 12:30am in the morning. People are too scared to stay out late now.

However, there's sill a sense of community among the traders.

Lord, yes! I still enjoy Goose Fair. I enjoy meeting people and people from all over come back and say: "do you remember me?" It's great to see certain people again.

This may be my last Goose Fair. Although I've said that for the last few years. I nearly sold the stall to a gentlemen but it fell through. But my neighbours are interested in taking it on though.

last updated: 16/09/2008 at 13:41
created: 16/09/2005

You are in: Nottingham > Goose Fair > The man behind the cock-on-a-stick

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