Every Summer there’s a steam and traction engine rally event just down the road. It’s quite a sight as they trundle by, even though our windows rattle worryingly and the walls creak with the vibrations. The other day one on its own clattered past – painted in red and gold and looking very fancy. The words on it caught my eye the most:
FREDERICK SAVAGE GALLOPING HORSES AND PEACOCKS
I had a vision of a fantastic race in which riderless silver stallions with thick, swishing tails compete against giant peacocks, perhaps with jockeys perched high on their backs shaking multicoloured reins. A quick check on Google dismissed this far-fetched concept (sadly) although I still liked what I found out and maybe it wasn’t so distant from what I’d imagined.
From his humble roots making farm machinery in the late 1800s, Norfolk-born Frederick Savage went on to develop traction engines and then used his flair and expertise to revolutionise and manufacture fairground equipment. This included steam-powered galloping horses - and yes, racing peacocks - for carousels. He didn’t stop there; he also manufactured Jumping Cats, Flying Pigs and Giant Cockerels and Ostriches. All of these variations were known simply as ‘Gallopers’. (Ah, I want to change my profession! I wonder how easy it would be to make and paint fantastical creatures for merry-go-rounds…)
On another note, they may not be racing around on a merry-go-round but I've also been delighted to see peacocks of a different kind in the garden at last. Peacock butterflies have made a welcome appearance again after what seems to have been a dearth of flying beings this Summer. Along with the now abundant Red Admirals, their hues and patterns are as rich and vivid as any roundabout models. It's not difficult to imagine tiny passengers on their furry backs, clinging on as these colourfully winged creatures take them on heart-stopping flights that would far exceed the thrills of any fairground ride. Although... I do rather like the thought of riding on a steam-powered Flying Pig.
The Hollies: On A Carousel
(and what a nice quality clip for this great song)