Arthur Tuby could be said to have been the one in family closes to ‘Tom’ Tuby, his grandfather. For not only was his father Manager of the Coliseum, but Arthur himself lived with his grandmother after the death in 1932 of ‘Tom’ Tuby right up to him going into the army.
And he went to school from their house in Doncaster. But the great man never called him Arthur. To ‘Tom’ Tuby, he was ‘our Jimmy’. There was, as Arthur recalled, after the Coliseum, the Switchback and Scenic and three sets of Savage gallopers with the Victory Horses, the tree abreast built to four abreast specifications obtained in 1920. The Victory Horses were taken over by his Uncle Harry after he came out of the Army at the end of the First World War. Although the war was over, it was not immediate release for the conscripts. However, priority was given to any soldier who would employ labour on his release. So an application was my by ‘Tom’ Tuby, for the release of Harry Tuby, now back in England from France, on the grounds that he was wanted to manage this new ride, the Victory Horses, and he would employ staff to work them. And it was the Victory Horses, which successfully brought Harry back into civvy street, which were also instrumental in ensuring that the family got their first Ark. For as Arthur recalls, it was his Uncle Harry who took this ride to Gainsborough Mart, while Arthur’s father was in charge of the Whales. It was at this Gainsborough Mart that they saw their first Noahs Ark . Arthur said that he believes that it was painted Gary with no colouring on it. His Uncle Harry saw it as a ride of the future and he took his father to have a look at it. It was a primitive machine by today’s standards, there no animals, only blocks of wood for the customers. ‘Tom’ Tuby was not impressed. “They won’t ride on skittle blocks” was his comment and Arthur said the seats were just like the blocks that skittles stood on at the fair. And it seemed as if this pioneer showman was going to be right. The Ark did nothing at Gainsborough, as Arthur puts it, “It was stinking. The public would not look at it, it did nothing at all.” From Gainsborough the Tuby family made the move to Pontefract Statutes and the Ark came too. A different fair was the reverse of the Gainsborough experience for the Ark. It packed all the others up. The public loved it and it was the only ride that was really making money. So, convinced that it was going to be a ride of the future, Harry once again got onto his father.
“Let’s have one of these Arks, Dad”, Harry requested. This time ‘Tom’ Tuby agreed. “Get onto Ortons” he told his son, “and order one”. However Harry was not the only showman who saw the potential in the Ark. It was now October time and Harry went to Ortons at Burton upon Trent, wanting anew Ark for the Sheffield Christmas Fair..
The builders just laughed at him. There was, they told him, so many Arks ordered that there was no way the Tuby family could open with an Ark at Sheffield for Christmas. Then there was a telephone call asking Ortons if they had a second hand set of three abreast Gallopers for sale. They were about to say no, when Harry saw his chance. He told them that if the family could have that Ark in time for the Christmas fair opening, they would sell Ortons their Victory Horses. A deal was done. The Ark was delivered by rail to Sheffield and as they started to build up, so other parts of the ride were being brought from the station. The railways played an important part in those days in the lives of showmen. For while ‘Tom’ Tuby. Had two horses in his early days, as his fairground empire increased in size, so he relied on the railways to move packing trucks and living wagon. Both Arthur and George Rhodes can remember the days of rail travel. One of the conditions was that no one travelled with the fairground loads. However, there could have been few families who followed this rule. As George Rhodes relates, they would sneak into the living wagon on its truck and be careful no noise was made until they were off railway property. Arthur explained that some of the packing trucks and living vans would be pulled to the railway station by a traction engine and then put onto the wagons built for this purpose. A straight bar was fitted to the engine and then the truck and the engine would steer the trucks onto the wagon. It would go back to the fair, couple up to the remaining trucks and take them to the next fair. Then, uncoupled, the empty engine would go to the railway station for the rest of the ride and living vans that had come rail. This made sense when you consider, as Arthur remembers, there were eleven loads to the switchback. Two or three of these loads would be taken by rail, then the engines, for there were two with the switchback, would return to the fair ground and collect the rest of the ride and take it to the next fair on the list. There they would uncouple and go to the railway station and bring the rest of the ride to the fair. Usually the trucks would be waiting at the Goods Yard by the time the engines arrived. For, as Arthur related, travel by rail was quick. In most cases as soon as the wagons had their trucks on they would be away.
All the packing trucks and the living wagons were built to go under the loading gauge, that curved piece of metal hung from a post and found in all goods yards to check the height was not too great for the tunnels en-route.
Arthur Tuby’s father, Arthur Snr., looked after the Coliseum for a period and then took over the Scenic when the family obtained it in 1912. When this was sold to Pat Collins, Arthur took over the Switchback, which they worked until about 1932, and believed to be one of the last of the Steam Switchbacks to travel. Thomas Tuby Jnr., George Rhodes’ father died at the early age of 39 years, in 1924. This left Arthur, the eldest son, Harry Tuby and the youngest, George Edgar. Before ‘Tom’ Tuby died in 1934, Harry and George Edgar asked their father if they could buy a machine themselves. By this time, Arthur relates, such as the Switchbacks and Gallopers were passing their prime. The family already had the first of this later breed of attractions, the Orton Ark. Arthur Tuby was content to stay as he was, managing the switchback. But the other two brothers wanted to branch out with a more modern ride. When their father approved them getting a new machine and travelling his fairs, Harry and George Edgar bought a set of dodgems from Billy Butlin later to become Sir Billy Butlin. This was one of the old square sets and they travelled this for a year or two. This set of dodgems had a dummy of a policeman in the middle, so the riders could knock and punch him about. It was a large heavy figure with a tyre round it so that the cars could not knock it over. Later the clothes were changed and the policeman became a woman, still to the delight of the riders who were as happy to abuse her as they had been that officer of the law. Harry and George Edgar Tuby created a partnership and travelled with the dodgems. George Edgar had looked after the three abreast, the one before the Victory Horses, for his father, but with the arrival of the dodgems, this was packed up. At the same time Arthur Tuby packed up the switchback and travelled with the three abreast. In 1936 there was another addition when Harry and George Edgar bought a Ben Hur which made its debut at the Whitsuntide fair at Barnsley that year. The dodgems were sold and they bought a two year old Swish or Swirl from Corrigans. Up to this time, Harry Tuby had been travelling the small Ark. This was the time when larger Arks began to appear on the fairs and it was obvious that the small Ark owned by the Tuby family would not be able to compete.
Farrar’s were one of the families who got a larger Ark in place of the small one and the Tuby family had to do the same as they were opposition to Farrars at sever places, Selby Status and Sheffield Christmas Fair etc.
So the Ben Hur was bought. When the Ben Hur came out, Arthur Tuby took over the Ark so that up to the outbreak of war this was how they worked, Arthur Tuby with the little Ark, Harry had the Ben Hur and George Edgar the Swish. ‘Tom’ Tuby had died in 1934, and with Thomas Jnr having passed away ten years earlier, his widow Annie travelled the Flying Chairs with George Rhodes having the dodgems. But it has to be appreciated that in the years before ‘Tom’ Tuby died, it was a hard life financially for the travelling fairground fraternity. In 1932, four years after the General strike, ‘Tom’ interviewed on Barnsley Market Place, told the reporter that since the strike he had never been to a fair where he had recovered his expenses and if he had not had money behind him he would have been out of business some time ago. And, as Arthur recalls, ‘Tom’ Tuby although one of the nicest men you could meet, was a very keen business man, hence his motto, ‘Whilst I Live I’ll Crow’ . And he used to have gag boards on his fairground organ, one of them said, ‘The People are Ruled by Parliament but Tuby’s are Ruled by the People’, and another said ‘Samson was a strong man and Solomon was a wise man, but when neither had it they couldn’t pay’.
And some years after the war, with things hard for a returning soldier, one showman remembered this particular saying. He got into arrears with his National Insurance stamps. An Inspector called at the fairground believing all showmen were rich
‘Listen’ the showman told him, ‘Samson was a strong man wasn’t he?’ “Yes” came the reply, “And Solomon was a wise man”. “Right” replied the Inspector, “But if they hadn’t got it they couldn’t pay”. “Right”, smiled the Inspector and left a card for the stamps to be put on when finances improved. After six years in uniform Arthur returned to the family who were now travelling again. And at the end of the war the position was that Arthur’s grandmother had died in 1940, his own father, Arthur Snr died In 1943. This left only Harry and George Edgar as the sons with their rides. Arthur himself travelled the little Ark with his mother. However, while Arthur was in the Army the Ark had deteriorated so this was sold about 1948. When this was sold Arthur bought himself a set of juveniles which son Trevor has today. He also bought a six wheeler Cressley from his Uncle Harry. He had just got married and had the twins, Trevor and Terrence and life for the most returning showmen was hard as they built up again after the conflict. Then, Harry’s son, George Thomas Tuby Jnr was travelling with his father with the Ark or Ben Hur and they also bought an Autodrome. George Rhodes remembers that there was one occasion which brought a smile from the family in relation to the Matador which Harry Tuby got from ex-W.D. Surplus. One the side was the Tuby motto, “Whilst I Live I’ll Crow”. On one occasion when it was being driven by a George Sharp who managed the ride, with the Caterpillar the Autodrome was converted into, behind, it was stopped by the police. There were no effective brakes and the police began to ask who was the fellow “Whilst I Live I’ll Crow”. They finished by saying “If you don’t tell that fellow to get some bl…y brakes on this truck, I’ll give him something to crow about”. While George Rhodes was proud to carry the cockerel that was part of the motto, that incident was enough for him to ensure there was no reference to crowing on his vehicles. Old Enoch Farrar had a wagon with the end carved with a fox with a cockerel in its mouth and the words, “I’ll kill that cockerel”. This was particularly effective as this wagon and a Tuby wagon with the motto on it, made a pair for a show front. George remembers that Harry Tuby’s Autodrome was converted into a caterpillar because of the trouble they had with the motors. The four motors were on the outside and they could let them down. If they had a motor with bad brushes and it was not pulling it put more strain on the others. At this time Harry had an old RAF type Leyland lorry. This was a four wheeler and he had a massive paraffin engine, a marine type out of a boat.
This was fitted on the back of the lorry and was a full lorry load, and he used this as a generator. Harry’s son, George Thomas Tuby, remembers the Autodrome as a ‘heavy bruit’. The Autodrome was bought from Orton and Spooner’s because, as ‘G.T’ remembers, after the end of the war there was no way you could buy a machine, not even a second hand roundabout.
But Orton and Spooner’s, described By ‘G.T.’ as the best of the pre-war builders, came out with the idea to make an Autodrome. They made it out of steel and George Thomas recalls it was the hardest thing he has ever built up. Because it was made of steel it was never the success they imagined. However the travelled it for a few years and then turned it into a caterpillar. This was later sold to another showman. Eventually Harry Tuby settled down in a bungalow at Balby and his son took over the rides. George Thomas and Arthur were always good friends and Arthur spent some time helping with the Ark and travelling his own juvenile attraction. The Ark was labour intensive and it could spell trouble for the owner if he was a man short. So Arthur’s help was more than appreciated by George Thomas. And during a period when George Thomas was suffering from a bad back Arthur took over his job at building up time, pulling down and moving from fair to fair. Like may other showmen in those immediate post war years Arthur used to get a job in the winter. Peter Brotherhood, the Peterborough engineers were one of his employers for a job in the Doncaster area. But when George Thomas needed help again for the build up at the first Retford Fair, Arthur came to his assistance and spent a number of years with him. George Thomas then moved to an amusement arcade at Whitby and put a manager into the Ben Hur. George Thomas also bought a set of ex-Harniess dodgems from Charlie Spencer and Arthur agreed to look after them for him. Here we can look at another feature of the Tuby family in that that they had a nick name for each other and it was ‘Bog’. Arthur’s father was called ‘Bog’ by others in the family and he became ‘Young Bog’. As Arthur recalls, if another member of the family saw his father he would not have called out, “Arthur, where are you going”, rather “Bog, where are you going”. Then George Thomas told Arthur he was thinking of selling one of his machines and he could have first refusal. Sometime later possibly three years, he told Arthur that he was getting rid of the Dodgems. Arthur consulted with his wife, Kathleen and they bought the ride. So, after those years when he was in Khaki receiving two old shillings a day, usually a ten shilling note at the end of the week after deductions for so called barrack damages, Arthur was back where he was when war broke out, with a family machine. Strangely, this Orton set of Dodgems which Arthur’s son Terrence has now, started work, not on a fairground. For when they were new Arthur believes that they were commandeered by the Government and they went to Liverpool docks. There they were built up, the top tilt put on and it served as a canteen for troops embarking for overseas service. Ironically what is now working on the fairground bringing pleasure to the masses, must have been the place where many soldiers had their last cup of tea in England before losing their lives abroad. And here there were words of praise for the builders, Messrs Orton and Spooner of Burton upon Trent. The family, which had so much equipment including living vans built by them, looked on Ortons as perfectionists. As Arthur recalls about this now defunct company, “if it wanted a screw, a nail did not go in, and if it wanted a bolt it did not get a screw in, each job got what it needed. The job was done properly and they only used seasoned wood, whereas lesser builders could use green wood. And this is why the rides lasted so long”. And Arthur remembers the perfectionist which his grandfather was when he recalls his first fair ground job as a youngster. For he used to earn six old pence a week ensuring that there were sufficient blocks with the vehicles when they were travelling. In those days of steam transport George Thomas Tuby was a perfectionist. As Arthur recalls there was no cutting corners to save a penny or two. Every trailer and wagon had a block so it could be blocked behind a wheel if necessary when travelling. These had chains on them on an ‘S’ hook and each wagon and trailer had a large staple knocked into it near the back wheel. It was young Arthur’s job when they reached a fairground to go round and collect all the blocks and put them in the middle box on his grandfathers living wagon. On the morning they were going away he had to go and get them out of the box and hoop them in position on all the vehicles. And if ever his grandfather saw a block was missing, young Arthur knew he would be in trouble.