Canvey Carnival 1927-2000
Interview with Mary Dallas
Mary Dallas nee Andrews moved to Canvey Island from Southend-on-Sea when she was about 5. She remembers ‘the dirt track, dykes each side and there wasn’t any road’s’. Mary says you could leave your doors and windows open and when you came back it was all as you left it. If you did not see anybody you would knock on the door to see if they were alright. Mary’s father was Ted Andrews who owned Andrews fair which was at the bottom of May Avenue. On the other corner used to be the Pavillion Restaurant (see picture in Gallery)they would have meals at first then in the afternoons they would have tea dances raising money for good causes.
The fair was very much a family affair. Mary at the aged of seven would help out every afternoon on the rides in the summer and during the winter helped to restore the equipment for the next season.
Mary’s father along with three people, clubbed together to take the carnival fair up to the Red Croft Paddocks. (Now the Paddocks) In front of it used to be the Stables and there was a racing track. Mary says ‘They were old man Freddie Fisk, Alderman Longman, he was Alderman at Southend, he had a business on Canvey and it used to be near the Haystack. Chambers he had a farm and another man’.
Kate Carney, a famous Music Hall singer and a friend of Madam French often used to visit Canvey staying at the Haystack. Madam French and Mr Dellaway were the first landlords of the Haystack Public House. (Picture of Madam French in the Gallery)
‘What they did years ago, there was not a carnival queen as such, it was a princess until the last day and they counted the money, then whatever girl had the most money became the princess. The money all went to the blind. That went on for a few years and then they decided to more or less turn it into a carnival’. The actual carnival started in 1927.
There was a carnival in the 1900’s but it was an event to celebrate ‘The King of Canvey’. There was a procession in the Winter Gardens area. (see picture below and in the gallery)
‘We used to have two great big marquees on the Paddocks and the builders on the island would put wood floors down and in the evenings we used to have carnival dances and the baby shows (see picture in the Gallery) that was all after 1927. But everybody of the island used to bring presents to us we never went begging for them. It was such a big thing that we used to have one marquee especially for the raffle, and we used to have a man who was a night watchman to keep watch over these presents, that was how big it was in those days. The dances were big and we never had any trouble’.
‘During the war, my father, who used to get petrol coupons for his motors, would bring his fair up to grassland opposite the Haystack. One year they raised money for ‘Tanks for Attack’, the next was for ‘Battleship Week’ and another was ‘Wings for Victory’. Canvey were awarded a plaque for each event’. (A page about Battle Ship Week’ also known War Ship Week can be seen here)
The heydays of the Carnival were the 1970’s and 1980’s. Below are some pictures taken of the Silver Jubilee Carnival in 1977.
Mary had taken over the running of the Carnival from her father in the early 60’s and with the support of her family and the Carnival Commitee she run it until the end in 2000. Sadly the support for the carnival declined over the years and the last Carnival was on the 15th July 2000.