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Buckley Jubilee
Buckley Jubilee
Buckley Jubilee is more than 150 years old

Buckley has a proud annual tradition which brings the community to a standstill for one day a year when everyone, it seems, takes part in a procession through town, writes Nick Bourne.

"It is Buckley's great day of the summer, and is as fixed as Christmas is in winter", wrote author Thomas Cropper in 1923.

And the same can still be said of Buckley's Jubilee procession through the Flintshire town involving schools and church groups.

Mr Cropper said back then that it was impossible for an outsider to quite appreciate or understand the affection the Buckley native has for it, "for there really does not seem to be much in it".

Arthur Messham has taken part in the parade for 80 years

He said: "This gala-day custom survives still in as healthy a condition as at any period since the first procession in 1857. I speak of it as a custom. It is certainly not an organisation, and no organising is necessary."

So, how do today's locals explain the tradition and its importance to them?

Eric Hayes
By Eric Hayes
Pensioner Eric has taken part in the jubilee as man and boy

My reminiscences of the Jubilee are more limited than most Buckley people of my age. St Matthew's Church, of which I was brought up as a member, did not join in the Jubilee procession until the mid 1930s and I was a teenager. My parents were staunch church members and I was raised on similar lines.

In those days, church was church and chapel was chapel 'and ne'er the twain shall meet' and that had been so for many years. The Jubilee was regarded as a chapel event and our vicar of the time was very 'church', having come from a curacy at Hawarden, where Lord Gladstone and his family worshipped, and left to become rector of Hawarden.

These days, attitudes to religion have changed completely. At last, people have begun to realise we are all aiming for the same result - just using different routes
Eric Hayes

There were, in effect, three religious bodies - church (of England/ Church in Wales), non-conformist (chapels) and Catholics; there was no love lost between any of them. It was not thought proper for men in collar-and-tie to preach (lay preachers) only those in 'dog-collars' (ordained priests).

Your place of worship also often indicated which school you attended - church boys and girls to church schools (Bistre or St Matthews), chapel children to board (council) school in Padeswood Road.

I attended Sunday School held on Sunday afternoons in Lane End Infants' School until I started to go to day school at the age of 7 at St Matthew's Boys' School. Our Sunday School was then known as 'Catechism', and was held in Church at 2.30pm. Misses Beatrice and Lydia Catherall were in charge (Miss Lydia was a day-school teacher at Penymynydd).

At age 15, I attended Bible classes, held in the Gladstone Hut at St Matthew's Girl School, usually taken by the Curate.

Pensioner Eric Hayes received postcards about Buckley Jubilee when he was a POW

I have often wondered whether the Jubilee had been regarded as a chapel event, rather than a Sunday School event, and if this was the reason St Matthew's took no part - as did the Roman Catholic Church until very much later.

I was then at the age when boys began to notice girls. One of the old Buckley customs was to walk down the 'Mile' - there were no street lights between the Cold Arbour and Dobshill - every Sunday evening, dressed in our Sunday best, after church or chapel.

Chapels were usually first because their services started at 6, whereas church services began at 6.30. Similar groups from Dobshill and Penymynydd walked up towards Buckley and the road would be full of people meeting each other coming or going until nearly 9pm. I have often wondered how many romances began like this!

We held our Jubilee Service in church at 2.30pm, then assembled on the Vicarage Lawn, while our Jubilee teas were being prepared in the day schools across the road. After tea, we went into the church field behind the school playgrounds and had races, etc, at which the winners received prizes of 1d (one old penny). (The church field is now full of houses up to the boundary of the graveyard) In the evening, everyone went to the travelling fun fair on Lane End.

The arrival of the fun fair always caused a major upset. The entrance to the ground was between two shops and was barely wide enough for the vehicles to pass through. To do so, the fairground engines and all their huge trailers had to do a right-angle turn off on Chester Road, and the engines were forced to mount the opposite pavement, churning up several feet of paving in the process. Leaving the field after their week's stay was a similar upheaval, but I never heard anyone complaining. It was Jubilee time!

Older people than us would flock (some via the pubs) to the dances at the Albert Hall, or Bistre Parish Room, or the Ex Serviceman's Institute (The Hut) in Church Road to finish off their day. Pre-WWII, the Wednesday following Jubilee Day was known as Ladies Club Day, when lady members of clubs or friendly societies (Shepherds, Buffaloes etc) would hold their own procession through the town. I don't remember much of this event, but it was a much lower-key event than the Jubilee.

When St Matthew's first joined the procession, I was a member of the Church Lads Brigade, and played a side drum in their drum and bugle band. We were well down the procession, and took over from the town band during their breaks. My fingers were really sore after playing and beating step for the whole procession!

I missed several Jubilees during the war years, and afterwards became a spectator rather than a participant. As a result, my contemporaries have many more vivid memories than I, and their jubilee reminiscences are more valuable than mine. Long may that continue!

These days, attitudes to religion have changed completely, and the present trend is towards ecumenical religion. At last, people have begun to realise that we are all aiming for the same result- just using different routes!

Buckley Jubilee traditionally takes place on the second Tuesday of July, starting at Buckley Common.




SEE ALSO
My Buckley Jubilee
04 Jun 09 |  Religion & Ethics

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