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All the Fun of the Fair

By Michael Harris
September 2005, Blaenavon
A digital story from Capture Wales

Swings and Roundabouts

Uncle Manny's travelling fair holds some fond memories for Michael.

"Kids love vehicles, we never had one when I was growing up, unless you included bicycles or the ponies my father kept.

My uncle Howard had a motorbike and sidecar - impressive! But even more impressive was my uncle Manny who owned a bus and lived in a caravan.

A bus! His nieces and nephews were drawn to it like magnets. But only I got to see what was inside, in all its glory.

My uncle Manny loved fairs and amusements and had the gypsy in his soul. The bus was his means of transporting his very own carousel and swing boats to local fetes and shows.

One such fete, Govilon, I was probably ten years old. My uncle Manny in charge of the carousel, my father the swing boats. I wanted the luxury of riding the prancing horses of the carousel, but no, I had a job too.

Swing boats require two people to operate. A pull on one rope sends the swing boat in one direction and a pull on a second rope sends it in the opposite direction. The harder you pull, the higher it swings. No idle passive amusement this, you had to work at it.

So if anyone didn't have a partner, I was the second person in the boat.

Back and fore, back and fore, on a hot summer's afternoon with hardly a break and little reward, except for the odd ice lolly or ice cream. And at the end of the day, my head spinning, stomach churning, legs turned to jelly, my father and I trudged the four miles over the mountain back to Blaenavon. No lift in the bus from Manny.

I haven't ridden swing boats since."

Michael Harris

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I'm 54 years old. I have a son - who's 21 - and a daughter - who's 18. I have lived in Blaenavon all my life. I work for a local company that specialises in forged components for aerospace industry.

What's your story about?
My uncle Manny and his small travelling fair which comprised of a carousel and swing boats and were transported in an old bus.
I have fond memories of my uncle Manny and my childhood. I wanted to try and recall the period just before the 1960s boom which changed society so radically.

What did you find most rewarding about the workshop?
It was challenging and a complete departure for me. I enjoyed the interaction with the other storytellers which made this such an enjoyable experience.

Your comments

"Wonderful to hear this. The first time I heard it Michael was very much alive. He sadly passed away on June 28th 2009. So good to hear this tale so eloquently told by him." Cathryn Evans. Blaenavon.

"It made me want 2 sell me drum n buy n horse n trailer/wagon wotever!! just get up n go ... live without a poxy letterbox." Andy Hall, Epsom.

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