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Friday, 10 August 2012

A Village Gala Day, c.1950 - Sepia Saturday

Summer Sports is the theme of this week's Sepia Saturday postings atSummer Sports

This is a picture of the junior dancers at Staining Gala around 1950, and I am the little girl kneeling on the left of the front row. .

I lived near Blackpool, Lancashire and all the surrounding  villages had the their annual gala day, when the local band led the Rose Queen in procession with her maids of honour and retinue to a field where she was crowned Queen by some local worthy, followed by dancing displays  games, stalls, craft competitions, refreshment tents - and sports.  

These dresses were in apple green satin with silver cardboard headdresses and I remember other years wearing peach satin and yellow taffeta. For me, the dress was always destined to be my party dress for the year. I always wanted to be one of the bigger girls who danced with garlands.

The worst aspect was the torture the night before of having my hair put into rags, in the hope I would end up with ringlets the next day. 

After the dancing, a quick change into shorts for the races.   The egg & spoon   and bean bag and potato  races were for the "little ones".  More energetic versions were leapfrog races, sack races, wheelbarrow races and three legged races.  Do these still take place,  or, as I suspect, have they fallen foul of the current  "health and safety" regime?  I certainly remember plenty of thrills and spills.   The climax of the day was a tug of war competition for the boys and men - and afterwards a weary walk home.

Looking back, this was not long after the war, with people still having to put up with rationing, but the gala days were a great tribute to community efforts, and my mother, as the local dressmaker, was heavily involved in making the dresses, headdresses and crepe paper flowers.

Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved
For more lovely photos, follow the link to the Sepia Saturday Blog


  1. What lovely memories. The taffeta dresses were very pretty. Your mother must have been talented at the sewing machine. I too have fond memories of picnics with those great rough and tumble games, but I don't think I ever saw a real, live tug-o-war. I suppose they do it electronically now!

  2. I love the pictures and great story. Sounds like a fun day to look forward to each year.

  3. I am sure your mother was on overtime during this Gala. Judging by the number of dresses she must have been exhausted when it was over!
    Thanks for this post.

  4. My grandkids have sports days at their school but I think they just do races and things, not three legged races or anything fancy.

  5. I can still feel the rope burns from the tug of wars I took part in back in the 1950s.

  6. How exciting, great memories and photos and a delightful story! Looking forward to seeing more! Thanks.

  7. What fun this must have been for you!

  8. The costumes sound lovely Sue. I wonder if all the other little girls had their gala dresses as party wear too. I can imagine you all turning up at the same party in your shiny apple green.

  9. I remember these village galas and fetes from the 1950s well. I suppose they still take place to some extent, especially in more rural areas. But villages close to larger towns and cities - like the ones both you and I grew up in - seem to have been drawn in to the urban areas they surround and lost some of their individuality.

  10. Thanks for telling us the colors of your dresses. So many times when I look at old sepia photos I wonder what they would look like in color. Imagine it was a bright and colorful gala.

    Field day at schools here still have tug-of-war & sack races. Thankfully they haven't outruled everything yet!

  11. These are great pictures and I get that you wished to be one of those dancing with garlands. In the first pic, something got your attention, like one of the girls in the back row... Do you remember what it was?


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