Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Widecombe Fair





Widecombe Fair takes place annually on the second Tuesday in September, attracting thousands of visitors to the tiny Dartmoor village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor. It is well known as the subject of the folk song of the same name, featuring Uncle Tom Cobley and his friends.
The earliest written record of the fair was in 1850, when it was described in the Plymouth Gazette as ‘a cattle fair’. It soon became an opportunity to show and sell other livestock - particularly locally-bred sheep and Dartmoor ponies, and by the 1920s it had also become a sports day for local schoolchildren. In 1933, stalls were introduced, selling rural arts and crafts.
Widecombe Fair was suspended during the Second World War, but reinstated in 1945 with new attractions, including a gymkhana and tug of war. All profits were donated to the 'Local Welcome Home Fund' for returning soldiers, sailors and airmen.
Horse Judging
In 1989, it was decided to cancel the pony classes following an outbreak of Equine flu (these were replaced with terrier races, which have continued ever since). The Fair was cancelled altogether in 2001 due to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease.
However, despite these interruptions, the event has steadily grown in size and reputation. In its earlier years, it was held in various locations around the village, including the village green. Today, however, it occupies a large field to the south of Widecombe (known to locals as The Fair Field). Other fields become car parks, and a complex policing and marshalling system is put in place, with the narrow lanes transformed into a one-way road system.
Today's visitors will still see displays of quality livestock, although there are many other attractions, including: a dog show, displays of local produce, vintage farm machinery, rural arts and crafts, bale tossing and a now traditional appearance by Uncle Tom Cobley himself - featuring a local resident in fancy dress, riding a grey mare.



    "Widecombe Fair", is a well-known Devon folk song about a man called Tom Pearce, whose horse dies after someone borrows it to travel to the fair in Widecombe with his friends. Its chorus ends with a long list of the people travelling to the fair: "Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all." Some research suggests that the names originally referred to real people.[2]
    As the last name in a long list, "Uncle Tom Cobley" has come to be used as a humorous colloquialism meaning "anyone and everyone". The surname is spelt as "Cobleigh" in some references.
    Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare.
    All along, down along, out along lea.
    For I want for to go to Widecombe Fair,
    With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
    Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.
    And when shall I see again my grey mare?
    All along, down along, out along lea.
    By Friday soon, or Saturday noon,
    With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
    Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.
    So they harnessed and bridled the old grey mare.
    All along, down along, out along lea.
    And off they drove to Widecombe fair,
    With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
    Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.
    Then Friday came, and Saturday noon.
    All along, down along, out along lea.
    But Tom Pearce's old mare hath not trotted home,
    With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
    Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.
    So Tom Pearce he got up to the top o' the hill.
    All along, down along, out along lea.
    And he seed his old mare down a-making her will,
    With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
    Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.
    So Tom Pearce's old mare, her took sick and died.
    All along, down along, out along lea.
    And Tom he sat down on a stone, and he cried
    With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
    Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.
    But this isn't the end o' this shocking affair.
    All along, down along, out along lea.
    Nor, though they be dead, of the horrid career
    Of Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
    Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.
    When the wind whistles cold on the moor of the night.
    All along, down along, out along lea.
    Tom Pearce's old mare doth appear ghastly white,
    With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
    Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.
    And all the long night be heard skirling and groans.
    All along, down along, out along lea.
    From Tom Pearce's old mare in her rattling bones,
    With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
    Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
    Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

    Unfortunately we missed it this year but will make sure we put it in the diary for 2015.Jump up


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