Masham Steam Rally – A Potted History
In the early 60s our impressive and handsome Town Hall, then nearly fifty years old, had become somewhat dilapidated, and with the little funding available only realised by hirings, repairs on a large scale were unthinkable.
The two storey hall, a most generous gift from the Swinton Family in 1913 was let on a generous basis being for the benefit of the rural working community of Mashamshire. It was used a great deal in the Second World War as a billet and a hospital so had also had intense use.
It was faced with an unthinkable fate as a garage, or chicken factory, a fate which often befell public buildings in the 60s unable to sustain themselves. It was at this time that a number of concerned locals formed a fundraising group. Ideas were aired and one individual who had been to an early Pickering Traction Engine Rally , suggested a visit to Pickering to canvas ideas. The Pickering group were of generous spirit and immediately a bond was formed and with much help and support, the first Masham Rally took place in the field at Westridge, at the junction at Common Head, on 4th & 5th September 1965,
The weather was unkind and despite incessant rain, hardy supporters turned up in their macs and wellies, and the committee broke even. All working men and women, they had put their holiday money for collateral in case.
The event had been well appreciated amongst locals and visitors so the intrepid committee under the leadership of the late Arthur Nunn, decided to have another try, this time in July and the event was to be taken ½ mile up the Leyburn road to Marfield. After 3 years it outgrew this site and moved to the popular site at Low Burton over the bridge on the Ripon road, under the leadership of Bill Wise, with Doug Lambert as his assistant.
Summers were mostly fine, luckily, and many happy sunny years resulted in large attendances, one year estimated at 22,000. There was very little competition of events on a similar scale, or such diversity, in this area.
At first the events consisted of a huge variety of vintage vehicles of all descriptions as well as the ever popular spectacular Steam engines and beautiful Fair and Street Organs, but arena entertainment carnival style was demanded and a great variety of entertainers graced our arena. From parachutists, Aerial Acts, Wing Walkers , hot air balloons, army displays, escapologists, barrel divers, to fast running horse acts, dog displays, military bands, gymnasts, Naval gun races, and the especially racing camels, Sheep dog displays,and the very popular heavy horse and drays displays, all have had the distinction of appearing at our well loved event. Today’s most popular acts are fast paced, daring motorcycle acts, and monster trucks have replaced some of the more traditional styles.
On one occasion the displays of the famous White Helmets attracted a following of a large group of Hells Angels, who surrounded Bill Wise and Doug, and afterwards, they admitted to an act of cowardice and beat a hasty retreat in the interests of keeping the peace. Otherwise they were known for their no nonsence but fair approach, which was legendary.
In the early years we were very fortunate for not only the help and support of the Pickering folk but also engine owning families ,many of whom we are delighted to say are still supporting us and in particular, The families of The Prestons, Parkins, Rockiffes, Fearnleys, Harrisons, Meadowcrofts Staffords, Robinsons Websters, and many more for which we will be eternally grateful.
We have had some extremely beautiful exhibits, none more so than the various sets of gallopers which we have been fortunate to acquire. The Screetons/Armitages are possibly the most frequent attenders, being at the first event. The Ayeres family have also been regular attenders with gallopers and the well known and distinctive landmark lighthouse slip.
All of our exhibits are treasured and are examples of their type of the Heritage of a past age of our great country, and nostalgia is mostly a warm and pleasant look back at past times
We are also very proud of and grateful for the support of our loyal followers, many of whom have been with us for many years.