cut a long story short, what passes for 'vintage' at
the park isn't really that old. Ok, the Haunted Mine
is notable because it was built using the wood from
the ride which preceded it, the Scenic Railway
roller coaster, built in 1939. But, predictably, I
was there to check on the Galloper set, which
although a product of the 1990s should have been
worth the trip. Galloper sets always are!
Wrong! In keeping with the rest of the rides at the
park (with the exception of the Waltzer and the new
'Evolution' thingie) it was crying out for a
paintbrush and ten gallons of 'Mr Muscle'. The
colours on the mounts and rounding boards are more
suited to military exercises in Kuwait than
attracting punters onto the ride.
So, what's going on? Perhaps some park owners
believe they have a captive audience that will pay
good money for any old mince, just because they are
'on holiday'. Why bother making the place look nice
if the cash keeps coming in? Ok, that's a cynical
view, but it's a reasonable certainty that if the
same logic was applied to a travelling fair then the
Showman would be out of business pretty sharpish.
As if proof of this were needed, let's compare the
Galloper set at Barry Island with another operating
nearby. Only a few miles away, spending the summer
in Cardiff city centre, the Gallopers of Showman
Charles Holden were going about their business - and
after leaving Barry I stopped off to take a look.
For those of you who really know your onions the
Holden set was operated by Owen Smith on behalf of
Tommy Matthews on Brighton beach until 1998. And
what a difference a few miles makes to presentation
Correct me if I'm wrong here, but both the Barry
Island and Holden sets were made one after the other
by the same company (Mardi Gras?) in 1995 and 1996
respectively. How can it be that one looks like it
left the factory yesterday while the other, er,
well... Doesn't! Could the answer be corrosive sea
air? Yeah, that'll be it.
Arriving in Cardiff in late afternoon business was a
little slow and the outer row of Anderson replicas
were being polished (I kid you not). The Holden set
really looks the part with gleaming brasswork, a
shining platform, immaculately painted horses
(fibreglass admitedly) and some interesting looking
Dragon Gondolas, similar to the ones at Yarmouth
Pleasure Beach if memory serves.
Certainly it was 'thumbs up' to those hard working
people who make their living on the road.
But the $64,000 question remains. Is Barry Island
any different from other coastal amusement parks in
Britain these days? The simple answer is 'not
really', although most have a lot further to fall.
With thanks to Nick Laister, for the history of
Barry Island Pleasure Park. Thanks also to Keith
Gallopers at Barry Island
Gallopers in Cardiff
Gallopers at Barry
Gallopers in Cardiff