After the war, a group of people in the village decided to form a committee with a view to holding an annual Christmas party for the senior citizens of the parish. Dad was one of the committee members, as were a number of his drinking partners and their wives. They organised whist drives and suchlike to raise money for the event. The committee was entitled ‘The Old Folks Treat Committee. Not a phrase one would use today in this politically correct environment!
Regular meetings were held to discuss arrangements at the houses of the committee, and they came up with the idea of forming a concert party to entertain their guests on the day. And so the Barnby Dun Follies were born!
There were about ten people in the group. The men wore white shirts and black trousers and the women white blouses and black skirts. They took their task very seriously and even wore stage make up. They thought they were so good.
On the evening of the event, the partygoers were given their Christmas tea and then settled down to be entertained. The show opened with the whole ensemble on stage singing ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’. Remember this was just after the war. Then there was a series of ‘comedy’ sketches by some of the group. It didn’t take much to make people laugh in those days, and the acts were a bit basic. My aunt and another lady appeared on stage with a pair of handlebars each with bells on and proceeded to waltz around the stage one behind the other singing ‘Two on a Tandem’. There was also a sketch involving a dentist’s waiting room and the dentist appearing in front of the patients with the inevitable extra large drill. We made our own entertainment in those days.
But the ‘old folks’ seemed to enjoy it, word got around to neighbouring villages, and the Barnby Dun Follies went on tour. To villages close by. I was about nine or ten years old at the time and used to travel with them to these events. I would sit in the front row feeling proud as punch that I was connected with the travelling players. My brother from an early age could play the mouth organ, and he was called upon one year to entertain the troops. As he wasn’t very old, he seemed to go down well with the audience. In later years more polished groups were enlisted to entertain.
In the later years I was asked to help, and I will never forget my first party. I had a large teapot and was going round the tables pouring tea for our guests when I suddenly poured hot tea down the back of one old gentleman! He was very nice about it despite the fact that he could have been scalded, but his wife wasn’t so understanding and had a few choice words to say. I fled into the kitchen and didn’t reappear until the guests had all gone home.
Memory fails me as to how long the Follies were in existence, but the Christmas parties continued until about 1975. Dad had been chairman of this committee and he died that year and the remaining members seemed to lose heart. And the old folk were better entertained with TV and bingo.
Dad’s ‘acting skills’ must have been passed on to me as years later I appeared in two pantomimes organised by colleagues at the glass factory where I worked. My first appearance was in a non-speaking part. I and another girl were handmaidens to a sultan played by my boss. Our roles consisted of standing on either side of him fanning him with carpet beaters. The poor sultan suffered from piles and had to sit on a tyre covered with cushions for his performance. I’m not sure which pantomime it was. Maybe Aladdin.
My next appearance was as the Fairy Queen in Red Riding Hood . I may be wrong, but I don’t think there was a fairy queen in the original story. Maybe they created the part just for me. I was required to trip lightly across the stage as fairy queens do and my little attendant fairies would follow. My first line was to say, ‘Fairies, salute your queen!’ and they were all to curtsy. Unfortunately for me, I have big feet and tripping lightly was not easy. I sounded more like a heavy horse. One of the group tried to teach me, but as he was a six foot male with bigger feet than mine, he didn’t help much.
No more acting for me, I decided, so neither I nor the Follies ever got further than a village stage. Them were the days.