Irish Arks and Waltzers
Part 4 - The 1960s and earlier
click here for Part 1
- 1990 to Present Day
click here for Part
2 - The 1980s
click here for Part
3 - The 1970s
The period of the 1960s and earlier presents a difficult
challenge in locating source material to research Irish fairground history.
The Worlds Fair newspaper carries regular bulletins from Irealnd, but
this often relates more to circus history in the Republic, and indeed
many of the current crop of showmen have emerged from this tradition.
Some rides were indeed travelling, and parks were also in operation, but
specific details and images are almost impossible to come by. This area
of research remains active and open, and I'm sure, piece by piece, progress
will be made.
What is Known...
The Murray family are a long-standing fairground family
in the north, and they purchased an Ark from the Barry family around 1950.
This Ark is something of a mystery, but it could possibly have been built
new for the Barry family, who at the time had parks at Portrush, Belle
Vue (Belfast) and Bangor. Separate research is currently underway on the
Barry family, but Isobel Murray clearly remembers buying the Ark out of
Belle Vue. Murray's converted the ride to a Waltzer in recent years, and
it still travels on their circuit in a somewhat traditional guise. The
machine is numbered A109 on the recent Ark list.
Murray's Waltzer - A109 - photographed 2004.
Harrisons of Bundoran are the next family of interest.
The park has been in existence for many years, and at present enquiries
are underway to try and uncover vintage pictures - watch this space. The
Harrison family, however, were avid buyers and sellers of machines. It
appears that two Arks were purchased in the 1960s. The first of these
was an orton and Spooner machine sold by East Yorkshire showman Robert
Franklin around 1961. This machine - A90 - was sold a few years later
to Frank Turrens of Sligo, who travelled the ride for many years bfore
selling it to Teddy McFadden around 1980. It has since been scrapped with
parts going on to AU15.
Harrison's second Ark appears to have been purchased
around 1969. This is a Lakin machine - A40 - sold on from the Ayers family
in London. The ride is ex White Brothers (South Wales), and was stripped
of most of the elaborate front. Superb, classic decoration remained throughout
the ride, even when a set of modern fibre-glass choppers and chariots
were added from albert Manning's 'Orbit' Ark - A184 - around 1986. The
Ark stood open at Bundoran up until the mid-1990s and was then part stored
in a field, its current fate is unknown.
Harrisons might have well owned other Arks in the pre-1960
period - as stated above, research is still underway.
Orton Ark A90 in its early form with the Wadbrook family.
Ayers' Ark - A40 - shortly before sale to Ireland, the birdcage roof survived
until the 1990s, the wooden bikes were replaced.
Harrison's Ark - A40 - Easy Rider bikes from fitted from 'Orbit' Ark A184,
photo Tim Wilkinson.
Fine detail surviving right up until the 1990s - photo Tim Wilkinson.
The centre laid up under 'cover' around 2001- its classic style still
Charles Sherratt sold an Ark - A253 - to the Piper family
in October 1963, the ride being picked up from Billingey Fair. The Pipers
are a large family with interests in the parks at Crosshaven and Tramore.
This machine was sold to Sal Perks and was eventually scrapped.
Sherratt's Ark - A253 - sold to the Pipers soon after this picture was
Similarly Billy Proctor and Victor Manders of the Lancashire
section sold an Orton Ark - A91 - to Hector McDonald around 1956. This
machine was later travelled by Tommy McCauley, and then sold to the Butlins
Park at Mosney. It was taken out of the park by the Curry family and moved
into the north. Later owners included Bertie Cartmill and finally the
Woods family - it remains packed up and part dismantled.
A91 in the original ownership of Charles Heal.
A91 on its last stand with Bertie Cartmill - photograph from Richard Laughton
/ Paul Wright.
Another Ark has a history that has been traced from
start to finish. A55 was briefly owned by Anderton and Rowland, following
a swap deal with the Welsh Linsey family. The ride was sold to Ireland
to possibly the Lamb family, then the McCormicks, then McFarliane, and
finally to Bernard McCormack at Bettistown. The front artwork was a classic
hunt scene with Arab riders hunting wild animals - this artwork stayed
with the ride and was sold to auction by Bernard McCormick and is now
with collectors Scrivens and Smith. The ride was sold to the Culla family
(no longer travelling) as a topless machine, but was soon laid up.
Forgotten Names, Frustrating Research...
The rest of the article consists of rides known (or
rumoured) to have been exported to Ireland and details of researched owners
of Arks and Waltzers. The phrase 'exported to Ireland' was a common statement,
such that it was often used as a cover when details of the ride's sale
(or scrapping) could not be ascertained by the enthusiasts of the time.
Rides assumed to have been exported include: Toogood's Lakin Ark A32 (exported
1948), Noble's Waltzer W233 (no details), Frank Harniess' Orton Ark A110
(exported in the war years), Ingham and Morley's Orton Ark A106 (exported
The names of owners and operators of Arks in Ireland
presents a further conundrum. There appears to have been the fairground's
equivalent of an 'ice age' whereby a whole generation of families just
stopped travelling and a new set of names (the current crop) emerged.
Micky McMahon of Inishcrone used an Ark with his famous engine 'Pride
of the Shannon' - no details exist of this machine. The Blundell family
of Belfast were reported with an Orton Ark in 1948 - the name no longer
exists on the fairground circuit. Similarly with the Sharples family who
travelled a jungle themed Ark in the 1950s. The Williams family of Limerick
were selling a 45 foot Orton Ark on 27/11/43. Harry Tofts opened an Ark
in Galway, Tom Cullen of Strabane used an Ark in 1937, and the McGiverns
were a major family in the north until recent years. Kevin McGivern travelled
at least one Ark, and this was later sold to Harry (Dublin) Cullen and
used up until the 1980s. It was described as having "no flash and
lots of steps" and research suggests it could possibly be A172 -
the Lang Wheels machine for sale in Scotland around 1966. The image below
shows the ride (in part) at Warrenpoint, it is described as "a heavy
machine, about 40 years old, and having 120 seats". The machine was
eventually laid up by Harry Cullen, after many years of taking centre
stage at the famous Stradbally Steam Rally.
A newspaper image of the McGiverns in front of their Lang Wheels Ark -