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Friday, April 20, 2007

Syd's Octopus Ride: Re-armed & Still Rotating !

Here's something a bit different. While thinking about Octopus influences, I wondered about the funfairs Syd attended as a child. The Cambridge Midsummer Fair is one of the oldest and biggest in the country (over 800 years) and happens for two days around Midsummer's Eve in late June. So its quite a hot topic on the National Fairground Archive, and I was able to find several photos of the event between 1956 and 64,when Syd was aged 10-18.

You can find more of them in a Photobucket album here:

I couldn't find a picture of an Octopus ride at Cambridge from this era, but I did find others from the same region, so they're in the album too. Looking at the other rides, the name `Thurston' crops up repeatedly. Stanley and John Thurston were members of a Cambridge family who still operate fun fair attractions at the Midsummer Fair today, specialising in `white knuckle rides'.

Then I came across a history of each Octopus machine built by Lusse (and subsequently by Hayes) and discovered that Octopus No. 11 was owned by S. and J. Thurston between 1958 and 1960.

Did Syd ride this Octopus in his youth ? This sketch, from one of his letters to Libby Gausen, seems to include two or three Octopus arms and is captioned: "Jolly good drawing of summer fair to bring back memory".

If he did, the machine continued in use for many years in the UK, then was eventually sold to James Hudson in Ireland (in fact several Octopi ended up in Ireland). From James Hudson, No. 11 was sold to Bill McCormick, who used parts of Octopus No. 41 to make repairs in 2004.

And rather astonishingly, it's still going. The final pictures are of Octopus 11 in 2001 and 2004.

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