Donkey riding, donkey riding …

Donkey rides have been a part of English beach culture for generations. A nostalgic and evocative article by Bel Mooney in the Daily Mail (Oh, I still like to be beside the seaside), written last year after the disastrous gutting by fire of the pier at Weston-super-Mare, includes:

The idea of the seaside holiday is inseparable from the industrialisation of Britain, with the development of the railways, the craze for sea bathing and the ‘wakes weeks’ when all the Lancashire cotton mills would close to allow the workers a break.

In the second half of the 19th century, tranquil fishing villages like Scarborough and Brighton transformed themselves into holiday resorts and local people realised there was money to be made. In 1875, the local Blackpool newspaper summed up the appeal: ‘This is a place where people expect to have a jolly, care-for-nothing scamper.’ Penny slot machines in arcades, blow-up rubber rings and beds, metal buckets and spades, windbreaks (doggedly erected in the teeth of the gale), deckchairs for hire, crazy golf courses, Punch and Judy, donkey rides, fairgrounds, tooth-rotting candy floss and sticks of rock – so it grew: all the panoply of the British seaside holiday, somehow recognised even by those who never experienced the chilly reality.

There’s simply nothing else in the world quite like it.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Child in chair on a donkey at the beach, Scarborough
Postcard 139 x 87 mm, undated
Image © and collection of Brett Payne
This postcard from my own collection shows a young child having a donkey ride on Scarborough beach, North Yorkshire, on the north-east English coast. The child is seated in a wooden chair-like contraption instead of a saddle. There are a couple of blurred figures to the left, many more in the distance and numerous sailing boats in the water.

Scarborough became a spa town and then Britain’s first seaside resort in the late 1600s, with the first bathing machines appearing in the mid-1700s. By the time the Grand Hotel was opened in 1867, the flow of holidaymakers to Scarborough had increased markedly, mainly due to the arrival of the York-Scarborough railway in 1845. By the time this photograph was taken, probably in the early 1900s, its reputation as a holiday spot was well established.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Reverse of Real Photo Postcard
by Will Ricketts, Royal Studio, 2 Eastboro’, Scarboro’
Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Although it hasn’t been through the post, the postcard has a message written on the reverse:

Dear Mr & Mrs Ryley
We are having a fine time at Scarborough & fine weather. Father is enjoying himself very much. Our boy looks very well on this card.
Yours sincerely
J Holmes

Image © Shrewsbury Museums Service and courtesy of Darwin Country
Donkey ride on beach, unidentified location
Lantern slide by unidentified photographer, c.1905-1910
Image © Shrewsbury Museums Service Ref. SHYMS: P/2005/0043.
This lantern slide from the Shrewsbury Museums Service (courtesy of the web site Darwin Country) shows a family on a donkey ride at an unidentified location, probably towards the end of the first decade of the 20th Century.

Image © Shrewsbury Museums Service and courtesy of Darwin Country
Donkey rides on beach, Rhyl, North Wales
Lantern slide by unidentified photographer, undated
Image © Shrewsbury Museums Service Ref. SHYMS: P/2005/0044.
Another image from the same source shows a number of donkeys on the beack at Rhyl in North Wales. One of these donkeys has a similar child-carrying device.

Image © Tom Barlow and courtesy of the Bramham Village web site
Donkey rides at Robin Hood’s Bay, near Scarborough, 1949
Image © Tom Barlow and courtesy of the Bramham Village web site
Tom Barlow in his memories of childhood holidays spent at Robin Hood Bay, adjacent to the beach at Scarborough, has several photographs of activities on the beach, taken in the late 1940s and early 1950s. These include a couple which feature the then ubiquitous donkey rides.

Image © and courtesy of Dave Ford
Donkey rides on the Scarborough beach
Image © and courtesy of Dave Ford’s A Personal Tour of Yorkshire
According to Dave Ford “Scarborough is one of the few [English] resorts which still provide donkey rides on the sands.”

78th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Pony Pictures
This article is my submission for the 78th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Pony Pictures, hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene.

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~ by gluepot on Sunday, August 9, 2009.

One Response to “Donkey riding, donkey riding …”

  1. >I, too, have a photo of donkey-riding, but in Texas…Great photos/history! Thanks for sharing.

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