A RETIRED showman has spoken of his pride after seeing grounded funfair operators help frontline workers during the Covid-19 crisis.

John Culine, a former president of The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, compared his industry’s response to coronavirus to that of the world wars when fairground families raised money to help the country’s war effort.

Mr Culine, who was made an MBE in 2007 for services to the Guild and his home town of Spennymoor, County Durham, said: “This is a very trying time and showmen are just like every other person who is either a director, labourer or a self-employed person.

“For the first time showmen everywhere are shut, their businesses are being maintained or packed away. It feels even harder because they’d have been busy during the holidays and good weather.

“All showmen are grateful, like everyone else, for the NHS and all the frontline so they’re out there contributing.

“I’m very proud.”

The Northern Echo:

Immediately after lockdown was announced The Northern section of the Guild, one of ten covering Great Britain, pledged £2,000 to help those in need.

Members called four hospitals across the region and asked staff for a wish list of provisions and set about collecting and delivering them.

A lorry owned by Michael O’Brien, of Hetton-le-Hole, was emblazoned with a thank-you message to the NHS, for free by James Thomas Toogood, and with Tina Manders they took donations to Sunderland Royal Hospital, The University Hospital of North Durham, James Cook University Hospital in Middlebrough and Northumbria Hospital.

The Northern Echo:

Many members have put up signs at their winter quarters to thank the NHS.

Mr Culine said the campaign echoes the Guild’s response to both world wars, when showmen staged blackout fairgrounds to keep up morale and Guild members funded 12 ambulances, a Spitfire named Fun of the Fair, provided a Forces buffet fund and provided heavy lorries for the war effort.

Mr Culine said: “I want to promote the showmen who are doing this, because even though their businesses are closed down, they will just keep quiet and get on with their lives and no one will know who they really are and what they are doing, especially in very difficult times with no income coming in.”

The Northern Echo:

John Culine at his depot at Tudhoe, County Durham, with signs provided by Vera Wright