Rain didn’t dampen Horsham carnival spirit in 1973

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It was the end of July 1973. The schools had broken up for the long summer holiday and the weekend held the promise of a carnival which the people of Horsham had been planning for weeks.

Naturally enough, it rained.

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Did the participants and spectators let that get them down? They did not. Mainly because the weather managed to stay vaguely sunny until the procession was already under way, by which time it was too late to stop the fun.

These pictures were published in the County Times on July 27 1973, which reported thousands of people lining the route as the procession wound its way through the town.

The floats passed along West Street rather than the usual London Road – apparently the latter had a “concave ramp” in the middle of it which would have been difficult to navigate.

They had almost reached Horsham Park when the rain hit, with the County Times report making it clear who was responsible for the downpour – the carnival commentator!

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His name was Peter Mackem and he was also secretary of the Horsham Chamber of Trade.

Young Peter made the rookie mistake of announcing to one and all as the floats approached: “We hope the rain holds off”.

Well, after tempting fate to that degree, the town was lucky there wasn’t a flood.

The parade was led by the pipe band of the Scots Guard with the recently crowned Little Miss Festival – five-year-old Sarah Rose – taking pride of place at the head of the 47 floats. Sarah’s retinue was made up of her cousin Julie Robinson, five, and 10-year-old Mandy Fielder.

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The standard of floats was good, with the bar set high by the first, Weller Electrics’ ‘Round the World in Eighty Days’, which won the first prize in the industrial class and the Tom Benson Cup for the second year in succession.

Fisher’s Garage depicted the wedding of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, with the Princess portrayed by seven-year-old Julie, and the Captain by her brother Jeremy, aged five. They were given first prize in the trade class.

The angels and devils of the 3rd Horsham brownies and guides were followed by the Chichester City Band, which should probably have learned to play Singing in the Rain.

With the carnival having been organised by the Chamber of Trade, their trophy was the most coveted one of the day.

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The two main contenders were China Town, by the mums and children of Jockey Mead, Horsham, and the Sun Alliance Group’s showboat entry. It came complete with paddles made entirely of flowers.

The winners were China Town, much to the delight of all involved.

While the carnival was lauded as one of the town’s finest, one little gripe cast a shadow – and it was nothing to do with the rain.

Miss Horsham 1973 – Penny Priestley, from Henfield – was given no sash, no gown, no crown, no flowers and was perched on the boot of an ancient Bentley while her attendants were in a completely separate car.

As the County Times report said, hardly anyone knew who she was – that’s no way to treat carnival royalty!

Did you take part in any of the Horsham carnivals? Do you know why young Penny Priestley was denied the decorative trappings of a carnival queen?

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