Interview by Gary Radice
: Added April 2009
Griff (real name Neal) was born in 1961 and has lived in Wallasey (Wirral, UK) all his life. He has four daughters with ages ranging from 6 to 25 and has three grandchildren. He is a heavy goods driver. From the age of 12 he worked on the outdoor fair situated next to the boating lake in New Brighton, then moved to The Palace indoor fairground.
What rides can you remember from back in ‘72/’73 at the outdoor fair?

There was a Monte Carlo Rally, some little Bumper Cars, a kids’ Paratrooper, a large enclosed Bouncy Castle (one of the first I think) some Jumping Jacks (Trampolines).

A kids’ Roller Coaster and a few roundabouts.

One of the roundabouts was a set of Chair o’ Planes that was operated by turning a big red handle.

That was my ride - I would have to stand in the middle and turn this big red handle all day until about 5pm!

You mentioned a Roller Coaster. Can you remember what it was called?

The Surf or Surf’s Up I think.

I would also work on the boating lake at the weekends.

What did your work on the boating lake involve?

I would get to the lake on Saturday Mornings at about 9am.

I would then be taken out onto the middle of the lake by one of the older guys by boat (his name was Dennis) and he would drop me off on to each of the other boats that were moored out there.

I would then row each boat approximately 40 feet to the shore and then I would help wash the rides at the fair in ready for them to open.

At the end of the day I would row the boats back into the middle of the lake for which I was paid 50p.

I remember falling in the lake once when I was manoeuvring between boats but the lake was only 3 foot deep in the middle.

Who was your boss during this time?

A man called Wilf Griffiths. He was a big bloke with a black beard. His wife also worked there – She ran the lake and the cafe. All the lads called her Ma Griffiths and she was as scary as Wilf.

They never seemed to smile and treated you as they owned you.

When I got a job in the Palace I was 14 years old. I thought if I lied about my age I would get a weekend job there.

Were you successful in getting a job there?

When the season started I was I was at The Palace at 9am on the Saturday morning.

When I arrived at The Palace there were about 30 lads all standing at the Dodgems’ paybox all waiting for a job. It was like this every morning.

Bob, the boss, would come along and look at all of us to see if there was anyone he knew. All the regular faces would get a job. He would point to people he recognized and tell them which ride they were on.

Once all the regular faces were gone it was just pot luck as to whether you got picked.

I was lucky in a way because Bob had seen me working for Wilf and he cracked a joke about me “coming over to work in a proper fair now.”

I remember him calling out my name followed by “Monte Carlo” meaning I was on the Monte Carlo Rally ride.

I spent a few weekends on the Rally then went onto The Satellite.

In time I was put on different rides at the weekend but never The Waltzer.

The same lads were put in charge of The Waltzer all the time.

Why did you want to operate The Waltzer?...Wait...I think I know why...

Yes! It was as if you became a magnet to females when you worked on it!

Bob ran The Dodgems but during his break he would go up to his office so I would go up to The Waltzer.

The lads were only too happy to let me try and ride the platform. All the lads thought it was funny to watch as I tried to stay on as the ride picked up speed.

I started by standing on the edge of the platform but to begin with ended up jumping off early on.

The more times I tried to keep my balance though, the longer I stayed on.

When the ride was going “flat out” it was just a case of leaning back and hoping you stayed on.

If I lost my footing I would just jump off and try and make it “look good”.

Eventually Bob, one morning, called out my name followed by the word: “Waltzer!”

My dream had come true!

I worked on that ride for years but over time the day trippers got less and less.

themagiceye remembers the Palace Ghost Train from the 70s...There was a sign at the beginning saying: “You have been warned” and it then went down a slope. Of the three times themagiceye rode it (once with its nan) it stopped inside...er...was it supposed to?


The lads (with a girl in tow) used to give the Ghost Train ride op a nod and 55 seconds into the ride the car would stop for ten seconds. The couple would then get out the car and go into a room for about 20 minutes..

Why?...I’ll leave that up to you!

The empty car would then carry on its journey to the end of the ride...

I finally left The Palace fair and a few years later got to know the new owner of the outdoor fair where I had first started working. He had taken over the lease of the fair and had bought the Speedway ride off Wilkie’s.

I went into partnership with my mate on the Speedway and all went well in the first season. However in the winter of 1990 that followed the baths were destroyed and the storm also caused a lot of damage to the rides on the kids’ fair.

The tides were very high and the rides ended up under water. Many of the rides were wrecked.

The council decided to level the pool and the site of the kids’ fair and The Speedway was sold on to someone in Scotland. As far as I know they still have it in storage.

I moved on once more.

Today (March 2009) at the age of 48 I still go down to New Brighton and all my memories come flooding back.

If anyone out there remembers me please email me at de922000@yahoo.com. I would love to hear from you!

Wilkie's Wonder Waltzer in the Palace. Photograph: National Fairground Archive

Another view of the Wilkie's Wonder Waltzer, a ride that was always popular with ride operators. Photograph: National Fairground Archive

The Jets at the Palace in 1980. Photograph: National Fairground Archive

The Speedway on New Brighton seafront. Griff was a partner in this ride, but disaster struck... Photograph: National Fairground Archive

The New Brighton outdoor pool after the destructive 1990 storms. Photograph: Jim at Postcards from Vale Park

Your Comments

It was so enjoyable reading this article on New Brighton Fair. I worked in Adventureland from 1989-90 then moved over the fence, free at last! Ended up being ride manager of this wonderful Waltzer ride for 3 years and definitely true about the female magnet – the pay was pants but the perks (wink wink) were worth it. One bank holiday Monday I remember the vomit competition where I believe I beat “Woody” 15 sicks to 8. Also believe I hold the record for most “doubles” – 17 minutes continuous which resulted in one person passing out (a first and last for the ride) – quiet an achievement at the time.
Neil Taylor

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More on New Brighton's Amusement Parks
Old New Brighton
New Palace and Adventureland Official Website

Many thanks to Griff for the interview.

All photographs on this page are reproduced with kind permission of the National Fairground Archive.

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