The first of Marlborough’s ancient Mop fairs made a remarkable return to the Wiltshire town’s historic High Street after being absent in 2020 – and enjoyed one of its best attendances for decades.
This and its sister presentation, usually held a week apart, were hugely missed by townsfolk when they were cancelled last year due to the pandemic. So, with there being an appetite at the moment for outdoor Covid-safe family events, crowds flocked to this usually traffic laden stretch of the High Street on Saturday, October 9.
The glorious weather also undoubtedly helped and, unusually for this time of year, shirt sleeves were the order of the day. As the afternoon progressed and dusk began to fall, numbers were reminiscent of the large crowds that used to be a regular occurrence of the Mops back in the seventies.
Fairgoers were queueing for all the rides, and more than often were then having to make a dash to secure a seat the moment they became unoccupied. Every ride operator’s dream!
Then, almost as if a switch was flicked, at nine o’clock the multitude suddenly disappeared, leaving just a band of young adults to keep the more daring machines running for another couple of hours. This had not happened before and resulted in the rest of the amusements packing up and pulling off considerably earlier than in the past, which was a little surprising after doing so well for most of the day.
The gathering was well organised as always by the Western Section of the Showmen’s Guild, with a colourful ceremony to the mark the opening of the two fairs.
At midday, Marlborough’s Town Crier, Mike Tupman drew the attention of the gathering crowds with three hearty rings of his bell. From the platform of his and Charles Farrell’s Sizzler Twist, past president Billy Whitelegg then extended a warm welcome on behalf of the Guild, before the Town Crier returned to read the Mop’s proclamation in his usual theatrical and entertaining fashion.
The town’s mayor, Councillor Mark Cooper said he thought it was absolutely fantastic to see the fairs back in the High Street where they belong. Twelve months earlier, Councillor Cooper had stood on the steps of the nearby Town Hall with members of the Guild in a special ceremony to mark the absence of the two events and maintain the fair’s royal charter.
Back to this year, it was down to Western Section chairman Tommy Charles to bring the ceremony to a close. He said that the showmen were delighted to be back after a very difficult 18 months and thanked Marlborough Town and Wiltshire Councils for their continued assistance. Particularly with regards to health and safety, and for having faith in the Guild in staging the events in a Covid safe fashion. A reception and tour of the amusements followed.
As this presentation has clearly shown, the public has confidence in attending such gatherings once again. Such entertainment, by its nature, complies with our recent reawakening to enjoying ourselves in the fresh air.
The second Marlborough Mop took place on Saturday, October 16.
Major rides and attractions at the first Marlborough Mop
Charles James Farrell’s Sky Flyer (new for 2021)
Aaron Bradley’s Re-Mix Miami (new for 2021)
John & Keeley Wall’s Superstar
Billy Whitelegg & Charles Farrell’s Sizzler Twist
W&KN Rowland’s Big Wheel, Helter Skelter and Hall of Mirrors
John & Leah Jennings’ Waltzer
Thomas Benson Jnr’s Meteor Round Up
Edward Burton’s Ghost Train (new for 2021)
Harrison Rogers’ Roller Ghosta (new for 2021) – see main photo
Lee Matthews’ Fun House (new for 2021)
Baron Phillips Jnr’s Crazy Jungle House of Fun
James Squires’ Hollywood House of Fun
Ross Larby’s Mystical Mirror Maze