JOHN DILLEY’S WWI BLOG: Keeping calm and carrying on

Ex Harborough Mail editor John Dilley with a copy of the Market Harborough Advertiser.
Ex Harborough Mail editor John Dilley with a copy of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

Two Mexican rough riders are set to ‘take over the town’ during the forthcoming August Bank Holiday, according to the July 17, 1917, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

Carlos Mier and his partner Pablo Ramos are the remarkable gentlemen who will star at not just one but TWO holiday fetes, demonstrating ‘a wonderful display of trick riding, lariat and stock whip manipulation, and lasso throwing’.

Miss Emelie DAlton, assistant to 'world-famous illusionist' Carl Hertz

Miss Emelie DAlton, assistant to 'world-famous illusionist' Carl Hertz

They are booked to appear at the Gymkhana and Sports in the ‘town football field adjoining the cattle market’ on Saturday August 4 and then at a Grand Fete and Sports on the Market Harborough Cricket Field on Monday August 6.

It is hard to believe that this weekend is the THIRD anniversary of the outbreak of war and, of course, hundreds of young Market Harborough men are still fighting in France and across the world.

But life must go on – and with some gusto or so it appears: besides the attractions from Central America, there is Blanko ‘the famous man monkey’, Prof Hamilton ‘the drawing room wizard’, a boxing contest between Young Griffo and Kid Langford which is promoted HH Luckman, better known as Punchinello, wrestling on horseback, and a tug of war. Both events are rounded off with dancing into the twilight.

Those unlucky enough to be fighting overseas are not forgotten of course as both events are raising money for war causes but it does seem as if the world has been split in two – between horror and happiness.

That point is hammered home in other advertisements for the local cinemas. There are still twice-nightly performances at the County Electric Palace on The Square, Market Harborough, with the line-up dominated by comedies.

At the Leicester Palace Theatre ‘lovers of mystery are to have a feast of their own special liking’ with the visit of the ‘world-famous illusionist Carl Hertz, assisted by Miss Emelie D’Alton and a troupe of beautiful Nantch dancers’.

Hertz is apparently famous for his ‘baffling illusions, mysterious changes and wonderful surprises, some of which appear to be little less than miracles’. His latest ‘positively amazing’ mystery, which is to be performed in Leicester, is ‘The great Indian rope trick’.

The lengthy editorial – which reads like a paid-for promotion and enhanced by a photograph of Miss D’Alton – says: “The trick is produced amid Oriental scenery with all the glamour of gorgeous Eastern costumes and accompanied by original music of a peculiarly appropriate type.”

From a distance of 100 years it is impossible to determine whether this is a ‘head in the sand’ approach to life and death during this terrible war or if it is a more callous and calculated than that: ‘we’re fed up and we’re going to enjoy ourselves while we can’ attitude.

There is some news from those who are fighting for their lives, although it is pretty brief with only NINETEEN lines given over to the stories of THREE men.

Private G Sturgeon of Market Harborough is in hospital in France with a severely fractured leg having been kicked by a horse; 23-year-old Private Earnest Downes of the Three Horse Shoes pub in Great Bowden is ‘dangerously ill suffering from an accidental chest wound’; Staff Sergeant W Tomlinson of Market Harborough, who is serving in Salonika, has been promoted to Staff Sergeant Major.

Many thanks to readers who spotted relatives listed in last week’s story about the Market Harborough Carnival – among them was Christine Blissett, whose mother-in- law E Bertillon was mentioned, and Heather Powell whose great-grandmother Miss H Downes was listed as part of the Tango Tea and Ernest Elliott, who was a cousin of her grandmother, was listed in an aeroplane.