Traveller's Tale: the Making of a Fairground Showman
by David Slattery-Christy
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ISBN Number: 9781838136505     
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 244
Publication Date: August 2020
Publisher:
Christyplays Publications

Traditional fairgrounds were the most popular and eagerly anticipated events in cities, towns and villages across the United Kingdom and especially so in the first half of the 20th century. In that inter-war era the music hall’s dominance was starting to fade with the rise of cinema and radio becoming increasingly popular forms of entertainment.

Nothing however replaced the joy and excitement of the annual fair arriving for two or three days each year. David Slattery-Christy’s book gives us an insight into the life of his grandfather Reg Pratley, born in a small Berkshire village called Appleton near Oxford, who literally ran away to realise his dream to be a fairground showman. He worked and toured with the famous William (Billy) Nichols fairground empire and established himself as a Master Showman by the time of his death. It is also a fascinating insight into the life in those small rural communities of that period; a life that has now all but disappeared.

Walter Edward Reginald Pratley, known to his family as Reg, was a Berkshire farm boy with a dream. He wanted to escape the everyday and experience adventure. Hearing stories of his families lost heritage as travellers from his grandmother Lucy Clemstone Pratley awoke his dream. When the fairground came to his village of Appleton near Oxford he befriended them and decided that the fair would never leave him behind again when they packed up and left.

Fate, the Royal Navy, love and the Great War all stood in his way but he survived against the odds and managed to make his dream come true. During the 1920s and 1930s he became a respected Master Showman travelling for the famous William (Billy) Nichols and his fairground empire. His Gallopers were his pride and joy and he named the carved wooden horses after his children. His travelling circuit included London's Forest Gate and annual fairgrounds at Reading, Newbury, Swindon, Abingdon, Banbury, Stratford Upon Avon to name a few and of course Oxford's famous St Giles Fair.

A few months prior to WW2 tragedy struck him and his family. Nothing was ever the same again. This is his story and a story of that time when the fairground reigned supreme for leisure and excitement and was eagerly awaited each year by thousands in towns and villages across the country.

My grandfather's story is truly remarkable and is now preserved as part of fairground and social history from the early 20th Century.

David is an award-winning playwright and author of several books and has worked on many theatre, musical theatre and film projects. His play on the life of preeminent Victorian music hall comedian titled ‘Naturally Insane! The Life of Dan Leno’ had a successful tour and will have a West End showcase at the Criterion Theatre in 2021. He was also the Ivor Novello Consultant on the BAFTA and OSCAR winning Film Gosford Park.He studied for a BA (Hons) in Journalism at London’s City University; a PGCE at Lancaster University and a Master of Arts in Scriptwriting (Dist) at the University of Central Lancashire. In addition to this he has undertaken Research and History courses at the University of Oxford.

**Signed by the author**
 

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