Jonah the Great Whale

Oral history

Derek recalls his memories of the arrival of the whale at Belle Vue

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All the shows, when I say a show like the corner of the Kings Hall.  It might be the Spider Woman or anything unusual, they all use to have what you call a flash at the front of the show, that was a painting of what you got to see when you got into XX.  That had to big and brash.  When you actually got in there it was nothing like what you saw on the picture but my dad did all of that and I helped him in the early days of doing these flashes.

There was one season they had a chap come along, a Swiss fella with a whale carcass on a trailer and basically it was a dead whale on a trailer, but the flash depicted a scene of it at sea with the trawler landing, harpooning the whale and all the rest of it.  It was call Jonah the Giant Whale, but a few weeks previous to it opening in the grounds it was stored in the exhibition halls and the painters were busy painting the trailer and all the rest of it and my dad had the job of doing some lettering around it. 

One evening after we had finished work we had a drive down to the exhibition hall to see how far they were on with the job before we could go in and do the lettering on it, you know how far the painters had got, and we arrived there to one of the painters running backwards and forwards like a headless chicken because his friend had taken a tumble.  He had been on top of the whale, why I don’t know but he had fallen off the whale and he was on the floor there leaned up against the wall concussed and bleeding a bit, so I jumped in my dad’s car I’d just past my test, I rally drived, drove round to the lodge there at the back of Belle Vue and jumped on the phone, phoned ambulance who asked me “what’s the problem” and I said, well somebody has fell off a whale.  So there was a few seconds silence on the other end that I explained what had happened, anyway the ambulance eventually arrived and he was taken away but he was ok.  He got over it, but I think really he should go in the Guinness Book of Records of the only painter to fall off a whale, but I don’t think it happened

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