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Tavistock Goosey Fair

[ Roud 10683 ; Mudcat 4976 ; C. John Trythall]

Tavistock Goose Fair, known locally as Goosey, or Goosie, Fair, is the annual fair in the stannary town of Tavistock on the western edge of Dartmoor. It has been held on the second Wednesday of October since 1823 and it is one of only two historically established traditional fairs in the UK to carry the name, the other Goose Fair being held in Nottingham. [Wikipedia]

This humorous West Country song was written by C. John Trythall and published in 1912. Tony Rose sang it in 1970 on his first album, Young Hunting with the Young Tradition adding support for the chorus. He commented in the album’s sleeve notes:

Being a Westcountryman it never ceases to amuse me that the mere mention of West Country is often enough to conjure up for many, pictures of a kind or rural paradise, which unfortunately has little in common with reality. However, Tavistock Goosey Fair does at least in some respects reinforce the traditional image of the West Country. I first heard it some years ago from a singer called Bill Chappell in Plymouth.

Trevor Crozier sang Tavistock Goosey Fayre in 1977 on his album Trouble Over Bridgwater.

Jim Causley sang Tavvystock Goozey Vair on his 2021 album Devonshire Roses and on his 2023 CD Songs of Dartmoor where he noted:

Written and composed by C. John Trythall. First published 1912. The Goosey Fair at Tavistock has been held every year on the second Wednesday in October since 1823. Bill Murray believes ‘John Trythall’ to have been the secret pen-name of the Dartmoor folklorist Charles Laycock of Moretonhampstead as Merrivale Bridge is exactly 13 miles from Moreton! (Not to be confused with the bridge of the same name in Brisbane!)


Tony Rose sings Tavistock Goosey Fair

’Tis just a month come Friday next, Bill Champerdown and me
Well us traipsed across old Darty Moor, the Goosey Fair to see.
And us made ourselves quite fiddy, us greased and oiled our hair.
Then off us goes in our Sunday clothes behind old Bill’s grey mare.
Us smelled the sage and onion half a mile from Whitchurch Down,
And didn’t us have a blow-out when us come into the town.
And there us met Ned Hannerford, Jan Steer and Micky Square,
And it seemed to we, all Devon must be at Tavistock Goosey Fair.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
And it’s Oh, and where be a-gwain?
And what be you a doin’-of there?
Heave down your prong and stamp along
To Tavistock Goosey Fair

Us went to see the horses and the heifers and the ewes,
Us went on all them roundabouts and into all the shows.
And then it started raining, and a-blowin’ to our face,
So off us goes up to the Rose to have a dish of tea.
And there us had a sing-song and the folks kept droppin’ in
And what with them what knowed us, well us had a drop of gin
And what with one and t’other, us didn’t seem to care
Whether us was to Bellever Tor, or Tavistock Goosey Fair.

’T were rainin’ streams and dark as pitch when us trotted home that night
And when us got past Merrivale Bridge the mare, her took a fright.
Well says I to Bill, “Be careful, you’ll have us in them drains.”
Says Bill to me, “Cor bugger!”, says he, “Why haven’t you got the reins?”
Just then the mare ran slap against a whackin’ great big stone;
Her kicked the trap to flibbets and her trotted off alone.
And when us come to reckonin’ t’weren’t no good standin’ there:
So us had to traipse home thirteen mile from Tavistock Goosey Fair.