SKIPTON Gala this year coincided with the Queen's 90th birthday, and a very happy day it was too - but a hundred years ago, the most popular of Craven events was held just before the second anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The then Skipton Hospital Gala - because it raised funds for the hospital - was held in the gala field off The Bailey - known at the time as Brick Building Field, and owned by a Skipton magistrate. In July, 1916, organisers looked set to move the event back a week, because the poor summer up to that point had meant the hay had still to be brought in. But a last minute upturn in weather, meant haymaking could take place, and the gala went ahead as planned. Many of the gala stalwarts were away at war, and just about every family in Skipton and Craven had suffered some tragedy as a result of the fighting, so the general mood was not particularly light-hearted. But, reported the Craven Herald, future generations would look back and see how the good people of Skipton refused to let one of their most deserving institutions - the hospital - to suffer the loss of its main fundraiser. In the 15 years the gala had been held, a total of £2, 766 had been raised, and in 1916, despite the hardships of war, the event raised £200 - about £18,500 in today's money.

The Herald reported a number of soldiers had been treated at the hospital, and a new wing had recently been added - thanks to the hospital committee.

The Gala attracted large numbers of people from Skipton and villages across Craven and with straw boaters and dressed in Sunday best, they lined the streets. A magnificent celebratory arch crossed Ship Corner, which was on the route of the procession.

Although not as large as pre-war galas, the procession was 'quite up to standard' reported the Herald, the various schools, Sunday schools and scout groups who took part, stepping up to the plate to put on the best they possibly could - and their themes were amazing. There were a number of hotly contested classes for both children and adults and they included horse drawn floats and walking groups. The procession was also joined by local councillors, hospital committee member and the MP of the day, William Clough.

First prize winner in the 'tableaux' class was the Skipton Congregational School, which for its theme came up with the Biblical scene of 'Joseph interpreting Pharoah's Dream of the Seven well-favoured Kine'. The group included teachers dressed as the Pharaoh, the Pharaoh's bodyguard, his family and several slaves, which must have presented quite a sight and worthy of its first place. Trinity Wesleyan Sunday School came second with their Lost and Found float, which represented a lost wounded soldier found by a scout dog. Gargrave Road Methodist School was third with another biblical scene their 'Rebecca at the well' while Otley Street Sunday School got a mention for their Dedication of Samuel. In other classes, the Independent Order of Rechabites got a prize for a South African war scene, which included someone dressed as a fatally injured Highlander and a colleague saying his last farewells. Meanwhile, The Old Patients Association's entry, The Sender and the Receiver, included an actual soldier, whose leg had been amputated at the front. He was shown re-creating what had actually happened to him, as he received a letter from home.

The head of the procession was taken as usual by the town crier, in 'full war paint of bell and uniform' and a 'gorgeous button hole'. He was followed by the various dignitaries, scouts and girl guides. There were also three bands, the Skipton Mission Prize Brass Band, Carleton Prize Brass Band and Cononley Brass Band.

Once the revellers reached the gala field, they were treated to some six hours of entertainment, which the Herald reported was 'by arrangement with Messrs W and J Wilder, of Birmingham. There was also entertainment from the children of St Stephen's School, who performed Maypole dancing. However, the main attractions included Chinese acrobats, 'eccentric comedians' Vimbos; Mons Tykov, on an aerial spar; Pauletti, a comedy trick cyclist, and Larett, a tightrope walker, who apparently carried out his act while pretending to be drunk, and described by the Herald as an 'intoxicated equilibrist'. The show also featured 'hand balancers', the 'Two Reays'. Sadly, the usual fireworks did not take place - presumably so as not to worry people unnecessarily, but to general disappointment. There were also children's sports, including flat races, sack races, egg and spoon and tug of war, for both girls and boys. Nurses went head to head in their own competition and were judged in bed making, taking temperatures and roller bandaging - the overall winner being a Miss Smith. The judge, Nurse Eggles, Matron at Skipton Hospital, said the competition had been pretty even, but commented that the nurses had taken up too much time making beds. The Herald reported that the day itself turned out fine, which following a summer had been summer in name only, had been a blessing. And the sum raised of £200 - in times of 'so many calls on the pocket' was no mean achievement.