I'm deeply indebted to a contributor who has asked to remain anonymous for these stories of The Diamond Jubilee during it's time at Wonderland in Cleethorpes. First-hand accounts of this type are invaluable for preserving the history and lore of the fairground and these organs.

September 16, 2008

Hello, Roger.

I read with interest, the notes on your website about the Cleethorpes Gavioli.

This organ is of special interest to me, because our family has been based in Cleethorpes for many years. That Gavioli was the first organ which I ever heard, in the late 1950s. I was enthralled by it. In those days, and until the mid 1960s, it played superbly. Consequently, my love for mechanical music has never waned.

A couple of points which may be of interest. My father operated the ride and organ, on occasion, as a young man, and he confirms that there was indeed a glockenspiel fitted to it. I also distinctly remember seeing it fitted with castanets - a point of fascination to me as a young boy. Not many organs seemed to have castanets fitted; hence my noticing them.

The ride was operated at the North end [the Grimsby end] of Wonderland, right next to the big dipper. There was also a go kart track inside the dipper. There are a few photographs around which show this.

During the winters, Wonderland was always closed down, and the organ and ride taken indoors, just a few yards away. The organ would be raised up on a trailer, to protect against the worst of the damp weather, the chance of flooding, and to keep vermin [this included inquisitive children!] away from the instrument.

Organ pipes made good whistles for small boys, and a few holes would allow for tunes to be played....  ....I now shudder at what was sometimes done to such organs, but, in those days, a  Gavioli could be bought for 100 or so. Indeed, one now-famous 89 key instrument was sold in the early 1950s for about 50. Many were even burned in bonfires, because it was the cheapest way of disposing of them.

The Cleethorpes gallopers had an extra fitting, not shown in the Keyframe article linked to your site: Grab rails. These were later removed throughout Great Britain, for 'safety' reasons. I suspect that another, more commercial motive also came into the equation:

As children, we used to get illicit free rides by catching these rails when at speed. The less alert operators rarely caught us, because we jumped aboard out of sight of them!  A rarer prize was to be had, by actually mounting the horses whilst the ride was working.

Sometimes, our reward was a thick ear, and being chased out of Wonderland, if the operator was sharp-eyed. But it was worth it for the fun.

In the early 1960's, a man we knew as Mr. Mumby-Croft operated some of the rides at Wonderland, possibly also having some control of Wonderland itself, although I cannot confirm this. He was, however, one of the most generous people I knew at the time. During quiet periods, local children could persuade him to let them ride for free. He also owned a small garage near our house in Cleethorpes, and always had time for teaching youngsters about simple car repairs.

The organ was very badly neglected after Mr. Mumby-Croft died, and salt water was allowed to corrode the keyframe. This led to ripped music. Vandals and neglect resulted in pipes being blocked with paper, and also broken or stolen.

The last recording I have of the organ was made around 1972. What a sorry sound! Tunes which once played beautifully were then almost unrecognizable. Untrained operators had no idea about looking after the expensive music books, many containing arrangements which are no longer heard on organs.

The organ was later bought by George and Edgar Screeton, of Barton on Humber, a small town right next to the South side of the magnificent Humber Bridge. George in particular loved organs. He looked after their number 1 Gavioli, an 89 key VB instrument, and purchased an 87 Key Hooghuys - a beautiful sounding organ which I had the privilege of hearing, in private with an ex-employee of Screeton Bothers, for the best part of a day, as George played their full repertoire of around 5 hours of 87 key music, in the shed, just after both organs were acquired. The Cleethorpes organ was being rebuilt at the time, and was in good storage, a few yards in front of the Hooghuys.

Unfortunately, Edgar, George, and also their sister, Rosie died, and in the meantime, restoration ceased, and the organ was moved outdoors, underneath only a tarpaulin, by John Armitage. Consequently, all of the restoration work was wasted, as the summer and winter weather took its toll, over the following years.

February 15, 2009

Hello, Roger.

A little more information for you, about the organ.

I spoke today to my father. He operated the organ for a time, somewhere in the early 1950's. He confirms that there was no glockenspiel fitted to the organ, and that up to that date there never had been one. It did have, as we both remember, two sets of castanets. The owner also experimented with an additional side drum in addition to the standard snare and bass drums, but this was soon removed.

A glockenspiel was indeed fitted later, as you guessed, but this was only from around 1968 - 1970, shortly before the organ fell into disrepair due to neglect, and due to being placed in the 'care' of teenage operators, who neglected and abused the instrument and its' music.

My father says that some of the daily maintenance involved the following, in the 1950's:

The first jobs were to clean the Savage ride engine, drain the pipework of water, check the boiler water and lubrication, and get the fire back up to temperature. The next job was to do the same to the 1.5 H.P. organ engine. This latter solely worked the Gavioli drive belts. Next, the keyframe was dusted off with a camel hair brush, to remove debris. The keyframe metalwork was then oiled thoroughly with a rag containing very light 'sewing machine' oil. This was then wiped down to remove excess oil.

In addition to this, every week the music book pages were all opened, and debris brushed away from the folds in the card [with another camel hair brush], and any necessary repairs were then done to the books. Also, the organ was re-tuned several times per season, by a professional tuner. If the weather was excessively cold or hot, then the tuning was also checked by Mr. Carl Mumby himself.

At the end of each day, the two steam engines would again be cleaned, and the fire damped down for the night. The organ would also be sheeted over to keep out vermin and wind-blown sand.

All of this would be in addition to the routine work of maintaining the gallopers themselves. Such care ensured that the expensive music books would last for decades, and that the keyframe would only rarely give any trouble.

In comparison, the neglect which it suffered in the last 3 or 4 years of its working life resulted in a jamming keyframe which ripped every book which passed over it. In 1971 or 1972, the last time I saw the organ working, the tunes were unrecognizable, and many pipes were stuffed with paper, because they were either out of tune, or else the notes were continuously playing.

I hope that this helps to further clarify your appreciation of the history of the organ?