The 2008 Thurlow and Haverhill Steam & Country Show, known by many purely as The Thurlow Rally, was dedicated to the memory of the late Don Loveday, who sadly died of cancer earlier in the year. Don had organised the rally for almost two decades since 1989 and had been involved since the start. Respecting his legacy, Michael Pumfrey has stepped forward to organise the rally, which continues to be sponsored by the East Anglian Daily Times.
There were a total of 28 full-size steam engines (numbered 1-12 & 14-29, avoiding the unlucky number 13 as tradition dictates) and no less than eight fair-organs entered in the programme. This year there were more rollers on display and also a trio of showmen’s engines with Burrell, Foster, Aveling & Porter, Fowler, Aveling & Barford, Wallis & Steevens, Foden, Garrett, Marshall, Ransomes Sims & Jeffries, Ruston Proctor and Sentinel all represented, plus Case and Coulson & Wear in the miniature section.
With over 80 tractors entered, this is one of the better-supported rallies and generally here the standard is good with relatively few off-farm machines to be seen. There are usually a couple of rarities on the Sunday only, which this year was the Heider and the International Junior. The German Lanz Bulldog and classic Fendt tool-carrier stood out, as did the RAF-liveried Fordson N with high-top gear and the immaculate Massey Harris Pony from the Brandon stable. On a slightly different tack, an Oppermann Motocart and a pair of Bonser trucks were also machines not seen every week.
Opposite the tractors, stood the line of stationary engines. Alan Cullen of the Sussex & Kent Weald Stationary Engine Group brought up his maroon carrot-hopper Ruston PT which means I’ve seen two of the known 13 survivors this year. Another member of the group brought a 1911 Cushman engine, a make I’d not seen before. Paul Sole brought his Tangye, and there were several open-crank Ruston engines on display. Interspersed amongst the engines was the odd collective horticultural display containing their own stationary engines although the Gravely did roar into life Sunday morning, much to the delight of its Fenland owner.
Leading on to the cars, these were a little thin on the ground on Saturday but rallied on the Sunday with a number of Austin Princess limousines on a club outing. Perhaps the rarest was the Fordson military staff car in desert camouflage, many of which were destroyed in the post WWII boom of stock-car racing. Again, there was good variety with the Ward La France making a welcome return, but I can’t get used to seeing the likes of B-reg Vauxhall Cavaliers and Volkswagen Golfs in the line-up, albeit they’re possibly 25 years old nowadays. Motorcycles numbered so few that I missed them completely from a photo point of view.
The commercial section was also a bit disappointing but would have been twice as good if the Smith family’s trucks and the two preserved fire engines from Clare had also parked in the line-up. The rigid lorry and draw-bar trailer outfit was spoilt by having its dummy load of folding caravan erected all weekend, but the regular pair of double-decker buses and accompanying Atkinson recovery lorry made up for that a little. There were a trio of American light trucks to look at , including two Chevrolets and a Ford.
However, there was one bugbear for many this year and that was the muck-up that saw the real-ale beer tent become a soft-drinks emporium due to a lack of an alcohol licence. Although the showmen’s engines (and occasional roller) made their way up to the beer tent on Saturday night to generate some atmosphere, it was noticeably quieter than previous years.
There seemed to be a similar number of stalls and trade stands this year to last, maybe slightly fewer, but there was more competition in the catering with a number of non-traditional food outlets. The patisserie trailer moved pitch overnight and ended up next to the all-types-of-chicken stall, who chucked half-a-dozen crates of his salad stock into the skip on Sunday, so I guess neither did particularly well, but then when you’re up against the likes of S&F Catering with their excellent traditional fare of fish, chips, sausages, bacon, burgers, chicken nuggets, etc, you need a real big event to do well with the more eclectic foodstuffs.