Our History


History of the Gala (As we understand it) An Extract from the 100th Gala Program. Thornton-Cleveleys Gala is now in its 100th year. Having first been, we believe, celebrated in 1898. We have two version of its conception and how it was formulated. The first account of events taken from the Fiftieth-year programme. Our second version is remembered and disclosed by Fred Anyon to our Gala Chairman, Tom Croft, when Fred was a reporter for the Evening Gazette. The Fiftieth-year programme tells us the founders were local stalwarts including Mr W.A Hardman and Mr Walsh. Their intension was to hold a field day for a handful of youngsters on the lines of a club day. To obtain funds they solicited subscriptions from residents to provide refreshments and prizes for the races. The use of a field was obtained, and a local farmer provided a farm lorry and decorated horse, this was the only vehicle in the procession at that time. Fred Anyon’s version tells us the Gala was developed by members of a Sick Club who paid a weekly amount into the club to cover any loss of earning or Doctors expenses to members and their immediate relatives. One of the regulations being that once receiving sick benefit they had to be home at 9pm each evening no matter what time of the year, this ruling was strictly adhered to and anyone not conforming was heavily fined. Each year at mid-summer they held their annual meeting in The Gardner’s Arms, Thornton where a balance sheet was presented and the benefits subscriptions agreed for the following year after attending a Church Service at Christ Church, Thornton conducted by the Vicar the Reverend Eddie Meadows. After the business was agreed a fiddler came from Poulton and the jollifications commenced. The Sickness Club was an all-male affair and the initial starting point was the Tarn Gate railway crossing. The first stop on the route to Christ Church was the Bay Horse Hotel to pick up other members of the group. The Gala progressed according to the programme as the idea appealed to the local vicar who decided it should be a church event, He approached Messers. Hardman and Co to hand over the function, but they refused as they wished to keep it non-sectarian. Thus, the local Parish Council were approached and agreed in future to take the reins. The precedent was thus formed whereby the Chairman of the local authority convened a public meeting each year upon taking office. It is interesting to note that until 1923 each child received one penny upon entering the field, but this was doubled, and an orange added in 1924. The number of children catered for at this time had grown to eleven hundred. The introduction of a Rose Queen Ceremony was debated for a number of years prior to 1924, and it is recorded at that time during one of the discussions…” that the question of a Rose Queen ceremony be deleted from the proposed programme owing to the high cost entailed…”. The following year, however, saw the advent of this popular feature. The first Queens were selected by the scholars of the Elementary Schools. A draw was held for the rota of the provision of the Queen and retinue from the five local schools. The first school was beach road, Cleveleys, who undertook the task of supplying the entire programme of this part of the Gala. During the years a very healthy competition was created, and the procedure worked very successfully for six years. Intimidation, however, was received from the School Head Teachers to discontinue this arrangement and of necessity the committee undertook the future selection and training of the children. This method has thus become the recognised practice, with the exception that some neutral adjudication is now insisted upon. As recounted to Tom Croft, eventually the ladies and junior members of the family were involved with the decoration of their perambulators, thus the procession was born and the decoration of the individuals and vehicles, including bicycles, following this was the decoration of horse and carts with the children riding on the carts. All this occurred in the early 1920’s. It is remarkable the few wet Gala days one can recall. Outstanding was the Gala in 1927 when owing to a severe outbreak of measles, particular amongst the Rose Queen and her retinue, it had been decided to postpone the coronation until later in the year. The Gala morning turned out to be quite fine, but after the procession reached the field the rain came on and it was impossible to proceed with any further part of the programme. The sports in their entirety were therefore postponed until the day of the coronation. A second procession was held later in the year on Saturday 23rd July, and the entire programme was carried through. One recalls the excitement of 1936. Following a dispute as to the right of the committee to select its tenants for the Roundabout site, the Showman’s Guild two days before the Gala, set up a rival fair- and what a mammoth fair it was- in the immediate neighbourhood. Naturally the committee suffered financially, although the local population naturally supported the official Gala. The personnel of the organisation has changed as the years rolled on, but the inspiration and enthusiasm of the workers seems to remain permanently with the volunteers who take it upon themselves the task of providing this annual “joy day” for our young people. The Gala as we know it today (1998)Little has changed since the fiftieth occasion, other than instead of the cups of milk, oranges and the sandwiches, the children were given concession tickets to spend on the field. The cost of producing the event is approximately £6000. The Gala Queen, Princess and their retinues are chosen in January from any child living within the Thornton Cleveleys boundary, this being a legacy of the Urban District Council days, when the council donated £250 towards the expense of the event. In those days the participants had to pay rates to the council. Another big change from the 50th occasion is that in those days adult sports were held during the evening whereas nowadays out spectators drift away after about 4pm. At one period the Gala spanned over a fortnight of daily events but today people have so many events to enjoy. Some years ago, a Gala Secretary discovered these lines by John Masefield, which so aptly fit’s the work “He who Gives a child a treat, Will earn a place in Heaven’s seat”