For many years the high spot of the village social calendar was Carnival Week. The old Carnival back in the 1930’s were known as Hospital Carnivals. This was because the funds raised from them were donated to local hospitals and ambulance services. In those pre-national health days, hospital boards relied heavily on self-finance and donations to maintain a service. In 1938 the then handsome sum of £100 was raised by the Carnival for the hospital fund. A children’s Christmas party was also financed from the Carnival proceeds.
A hard working Committee of villagers planned and organized the events, Mrs. Gregory Rose-Innes being the President for many years. Carnival Week was always held at the end of August, this being a time well before the Bank Holiday was moved to that date.
Carnival Saturday was the start of several days of events which by and large kept to similar format each year; it ran something like this. The start of the festivities began with the assembling of the fancy dress parade at the Green, in front of the War Memorial. The procession then left there for the Maynard Arms led by the Grindleford Silver Band. The route was via the laundry, where the procession did an about turn to go back along Main Road and over the bridge up to the Maynard. The parade would include many decorated vehicles, lorries, cars, bikes and prams.
On arrival at the Maynard, the parade would regroup on the lawns for the afternoon’s entertainments. The Carnival Queen, surrounded by her entourage, would be crowned by a local dignitary. Then followed maypole dancing, which was a very strong tradition in Grindleford, as several teams of dancers competed with each other. The fancy dress would be judged and prizes awarded. There would be a host of stalls and sideshows, featuring many old favourites such as the treasure hunt, bran tub, hoop-la, apple-bobbing, darts and fortune-telling. A gents’ knobbly-knees competition would always provide a good laugh which would be followed by a ladies ankle competition, very risqué stuff!
Another year Harry was in his usual place at the front but instead of being followed immediately behind him by the band, there was a troupe of girl majorettes. They had to go in front of the band because they went along much faster than the puffing bandsmen could march, and they didn’t want to be slowed down and lose their tempo. Just as Harry was going round the corner at the top of Bridge Lane, by the school, he tried a complicated twirl with his cane. In attempting this he knocked his top-hat off and it fell onto the road behind him. The lively majorettes were following up fast and before they realized it they were trampling over Harry’s topper. They then began to play football with it, kicking it to one another as Harry desperately tried to pick it up!
The Boat Race was a great opportunity for the village comics to excel themselves. Crowds from all the surrounding villages and from Sheffield would line the river banks and pack onto the bridge for a view of the finish-line. Preparations for the race would start before Carnival Week when the contestants began to build their boats. Secretive trials would often be held at night to check that the craft was ‘seaworthy’. Designs were a closely guarded secret and materials such as inner tubes were at a premium at this time of year.More often than not, the Boat Race would be won by John Gosney. He was a big, strong chap and built equally sturdy boats. One year he constructed a craft which was modeled on The H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth, complete with funnels, port holes and dummy propellers. His practical skills would usually win for him the prize of the best decorated boat.
John’s most famous victory in this blue ribbon event was the year when he caught a giant cod in the Derwent. He had carefully planned this clever joke after he had been in the Sheffield Fish Market. There he had seen an exceptionally large, whole cod on display, with the boat race in mind he decided to buy the fish. When he built his boat he hid the monster fish, with its huge staring eyes and silvery tail in a secret compartment on board. As he approached the finish at the bridge he was well in front of the other boats. The tightly packed crowd were cheering him onto victory when he suddenly dropped anchor. He carefully took the fish from its hiding place and slipped it down the front of his shirt. He then cried “Man Overboard!” and dived into the water. He surfaced with fish in his hands and then proceeded to wrestle with it, much as Tarzan would with a crocodile. The crowd went wild with delight. One of our young boys really thought that John had caught the fish in the river! Afterwards he took his ‘catch’ home, filleted it and his family enjoyed a hearty supper of fresh cod, straight from the Derwent!
The Boat Race could be a very hazardous affair, as the river is very deep in parts, especially just behind Toll Bar Garage, and there are many jagged rocks hidden just below the surface. This would not deter the intrepid men of Grindleford, who were determined to take part in the race, even when they could not swim.
One chap who was a bit apprehensive about taking part was George Stone. He was Sam White’s tractor driver at Goatscliffe Farm and was a popular village character. He desperately wanted to have a bash in the boat race, but as he couldn’t swim was understandably a bit shy of the affair. In addition to this he was a bit deaf and was afraid of getting water in his ear holes and worsening his affliction. His mate Geoff Vaughan did eventually persuade George to take part one year, after he had built a boat with George’s safety in mind. It was basically a door with a seat at the back for Geoff and a large piece of fine mesh chicken wire covering the front. The wire was fastened loosely to three sides of the door and the plan was for George to slide underneath the wire. He would then be perfectly safe, for he couldn’t fall in the river, protected by the safety net of chicken wire.
The plan seemed to be working well as the boat set off with Geoff at the helm and George safely below deck in the wire. Suddenly the boat hit a submerged rock which threw Geoff off his seat and into the river. The boat then shot up in the air and landed back in the water upside down, with poor George trapped underneath in the chicken wire. After the initial hilarity of the incident had subsided, it was soon realized that George was trapped in the wire and was in grave danger of drowning. Several rescuers jumped into the river and hauled him and the capsized craft out to safety. That was enough sailing for George. He never entered the boat race again and would blame his deafness on “A head full o’ that damn river watter”.
Carnival time was soon over and the village settled back into its normal routine. Harvest time was now approaching and that meant plenty of hard work ahead.