Posted 14th January 2018 by Maggie Clowes

Fancy letting your son go and watch the drunken gypsies being collected from the town pubs during Fair Week. And who was this irresponsible father? None there than John Rigg, fire chief for many years and mayor on several occasions.

Information arrives unexpectedly. Clearing out her attic a lady from Nottingham came across the account her god-father had written of his early life in Appleby. It is part of his autobiography which he obviously hoped to have published one day. The interest for us is that he was the the son of John Rigg who captained Appleby’s Fire Brigade for twenty seven years.years. His name was Michael, John Rigg’s second son, born in 1911 when his father was Mayor. The Council presented his father (no mention of mother!) with a large silver rose bowl to “Commemorate the birth of a son during his Mayoralty.” It is a fascinating account of his and his father’s life in Appleby” and will be available in the Archive. Meanwhile here are a few snippets.

John Rigg bought Elm Bank in a political tit for tat, but in fact it was far more suitable than his original house in Boroughgate for a man whose chief interest was horse flesh. There was room for stables and he took advantage of changes in the town. “He bought old Appleby Jail, which was built of large blocks of old sandstone, and had it dismantled. Father employed a well-known architect, and gave him the necessary dimensions and all his ideas which he required for the interior, and impressed on him that it must be an outstanding looking building. The stables would be facing on to the main road into Appleby. They quarried into the hillside of the grounds and built the new stables which consisted of loose boxes and stalls, harness room, large accommodation for two four-wheeled horse-drawn vehicles, with lofts over for hay, straw and corn, all of which opened out on to a large grass-covered yard.. . . .Leading out of the yard were two high and round-topped doors, hinged at either side and also a small door within one of the doors for personal use. the big doors and all the woodwork in the stables were painted pillar-box red and it all looked very smart with the red sandstone." Elm Bank is the large house on the corner of Station Road and the Sands

As a small boy Michael remembers being taken by his governess down to the Grapes at closing time in Fair Week. “ Twenty or thirty young and old women would drive down this hill (Battlebarrow) at full gallop with horses in two-wheeled flat carts to pick up their drunken husbands and sons before the police locked them up for the night. They were often so drunk that they had to be lifted on to the flat carts.”

Michael reports that in 1915 the whole family went to see the Canadian lumberjacks who were lodged at Whinfell, chopping down trees for the war effort. “The roads were made of sawdust and there were log cabins, shops, post office and even a police station as well as large stables for horses to pull the long timber wagons." Has anyone heard of this?

There is a somewhat gruelling account of the treatment given for an embarrassing condition. It did work!