SKIPTON Charities Gala was first held in 1901. In the second in a series about the history of the annual event, Lesley Tate looks back to the first ever event.

THE first ever Skipton Gala was held on Saturday, July 13, 1901. Originally called ‘Hospital Saturday’, the gala and fete was held to raise money for the Skipton and District Hospital.

The hospital was built as a memorial of the jubilee of the late Queen Victoria, was opened in 1899, but was in need of regular funds to keep it going.

The Craven Herald reported that there was no dispute over the usefulness of the hospital and its importance to the area, but the endowment had proved inadequate to keep it going, without public support. Other towns up and down the country, including Keighley, had started ‘Hospital Saturdays’ in support of their own hospitals, and so, Skipton did the same.

“Similar celebrations are very popular in other places throughout the country, and notably in Keighley, where perhaps they have more scope for carrying out the function on a more elaborate scale than Skipton can be supposed to possess, but what Skipton lacked in scope on Saturday, was made up for in enthusiasm,” said the Herald, which went on to pile praise on the hard working organising officers and committee, who had for many weeks worked with ‘dogged determination’.

“The procession was a triumph of management born of effective organisation; and all who have been connected with such ventures know the painstaking care necessary to make the wheels revolve smoothy. That the committee succeeded so admirably the first time is all the more to their credit; and to all the added experience gained by Saturday’s proceedings there is no cause to fear for the success of Hospital Saturday in the future.”

The first Hospital Saturday enjoyed good weather, with the procession setting off from Gargrave Road to the fete itself in Brick Buildings Field, off The Bailey.

From midday, there were streams of people making their way into the town centre, while the roads themselves were thronged with vehicles.

The appearance of the procession was awaited with great curiosity, and was greeted with surprise by about 90 per cent of the crowds, it being very much larger than expected.

Leading the way were mounted police officers, and between them, the striking figure of Mr S Marsden, the town crier, garbed in his official ‘costume of ancient design’. His demand to the people to ‘make way, make way’, was probably all the more respected owing to the presence of the police. The Skipton Brass Band came next, and then the members and officials of the Skipton Urban Council in carriages. Next came a carriage with representatives of the district hospital committee. The Skipton Board of Guardians came next, followed by the Christ Church Drum and Pipe Band, the Church Lads’ Brigade, and members of the Skipton Traders Association.

The Ancient Order of Rechabites had a capital display in the form of juvenile Rechabites occupying a ;’nicely embellished’ car, followed by others on foot. The most picturesque came from the Ancient Order of Foresters with their car ‘I was sick and ye visited me’ and preceded by two mounted foresters, in all their garb.

Preceded by some ‘merry little maids wearing sun hats’ came a decorated float from St Stephen’s RC schools.

Comic bands were ‘exceedingly funny’, with the Midland Locomotive Department taking the lead. “Their instruments were much mixed and while cutting the most grotesque capers, they managed to produce some fairly reasonable music.’

A creditable section of the procession was the ambulance corps of Skipton and Carleton, comprising men in khaki and a stretcher with a patient bandaged in the ‘most approved manner’.

Lady members, wearing ‘their pretty uniforms’ came next. Comic cyclists were ‘good’ ,but not numerous enough, and it was hoped there would be more of them in the years to come.

Following the procession, everyone moved to the fete in Brick Buildings Field where the promoters had arranged an entertaining programme on a ‘liberal scale’.

A platform in the centre of the field provided all with a good view of the entertainment, which opened with Skipton Brass Band. It was followed with Punch and Judy, and some ‘very clever’ high trapeze work.There was also ‘hand-balancing’, ‘pyramiding’ and ‘tumbling’.The Keighley Parish Church Athletic team showed their prowess, and the Daunton-Shaw bicycle troupe contributed some ‘capital trick cycling’.

In the evening, the field presented a gay spectacle, with around 5,000 people present. The programme of entertainment was repeated, along with playing by the bands and the sending up of ‘grotesque balloons’. The final event was a firework display, which passed off successfully, and terminated a celebration which had from beginning to end, been a conspicuous success.