Our Memories of Babbacombe Fayre

Babbacombe Fayre, one of the biggest events in the Torbay calendar

Babbacombe Fayre, one of the biggest events in the Torbay calendar - Credit: Archant

Many of Torbay's summer events have been floored by the pandemic -but the memories live on

These were the days of waiters and waitresses' races, when thousands flocked to events for which Torbay and other towns and seaside resorts were famous.

Babbacombe Fayre was one such event when traders, hoteliers and other businesses united to put Babbacombe and the Bay on the map – and to have bags of fun at the same time.

The event started in June 1953 and was known as the Babbacombe and St Marychurch Carnival Fete.

It was run by the Babbacombe and St Marychurch Hoteliers and Traders Association. The format of the event, which included the famous waiter and Waitress races, involved numerous stall and attractions - all non-commercial - and the monies taken on the day was collected gross by the traders. When all the expenses of the event were logged the balance of the monies left was distributed to the stallholders and attractions in proportion to their gross take.

It was quite a cumbersome operation as there were no computers in those days!

The traders convened a meeting of all the members on November 4, 1987 and the meeting decided that the traders no longer wanted to carry on with the event through lack of helpers.

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The event was offered to the Rotary Club of Babbacombe and St Marychurch which was accepted.

There were a number of members of the traders who were also members of the Rotary Club of Babbacombe and St Marychurch - Leslie Lownds Pateman , Len Newman , Joe Gard, George Ellis, Bert Waddling, Ben Burnett, Bob Hunt , Bob Kellow, and Robin Evans - Bird. This made the decision easier for the club.

Bert Havill was to be the first organiser of the event and in his usual manner he mobilised the club and involved all the members in the event.

In his letter to the members asking them to help his last paragraph was: 'Ask yourself - why am I a Rotarian ? Why did I accept the invitation to join? Am I proud to be a Rotarian? Perhaps this is the opportunity to 'square the circle' and GET STUCK IN!'

All Bert's planning was written on the back of the Trecarn Hotel menu and written in pencil. The name was changed to The Babbacombe Fayre.

The format of the event was also radically changed - all the stallholders were charged a nominal rent to cover costs.

The refreshment tent carried on for two years being run by the Scouts and the format was then changed and run by the Inner Wheel Club Club .

A new event was introduced. Enter the Schools' Tug of War.

The waiters and waitress races continued.

It was emphasised that the Rotary Club was a facilitator for the other charities to raise funds for themselves. For many of the smaller charities this was their only shop window to raise funds. And a very important fund-raising opportunity it used to be.

Bert was very successful in organising the event with the help of Jim Barnett, Bruce Savage, Andrew Wiltshire, Geoff Wilde, John Sharpe, and Peter Williams

It was a tradition of the event that we all retired to the Buccaneer Inn for beers on the Tuesday evening after setting out and Wednesday evening after clear up.

Bert ran the event until 1990 and then handed the reins over to Geoff Wilde. His approach was totally different to Bert's but was equally successful.

The event grew under Geoff's leadership with more stalls and attractions and a modern type tent for the refreshments which were now organised by Sue Hellyer and Janet Heal.

The Club began to invest in equipment for the events - chairs, tables, water heaters, BBQs, washing facilities etc.

Geoff ran the event until 2007 and Peter Williams took over and ran it for another 10 years.