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Tommie Essam
Tommie & daughter Nellie The engine
Tommie & daughter Nellie
Essam's Amusements - Coventry

Tommie & family
Tommie & family
Thomas W Essam was born in Kettering in 1881. His showman life began when he worked the market and purchased himself a skittle board and took it to Market Hill in Kettering. Adding side stalls and rides over the years, the show was quite a spectacle for the shoppers. Tommie began to travel the locality with his stalls and rides, transporting them on a Foden Steam Wagon which he affectionately called "Betty". A life-long friend, Harry Wright also travelled with his show on a four-wheel-drive lorry.

Tommie took his show to Rowell Fair and Rushden Feast and also to many other sites around the county and spread out to neighbouring counties as it grew. He nearly always had his pipe in mouth and his dog by his side, and was well liked by his customers with whom he would have a bit of "banter".

Here in Rushden, Tommie first set up his fair near the Railway Hotel and he was good friends with the landlord, Leslie Dickens and his wife. Later he moved his pitch to the site where the Ritz Cinema was later built, behind the Rose & Crown.

His wife Martha and daughter Nellie travelled with him and were just as well known and liked as Tommie. Together they ran hoopla, roll-a-penny, ringboards as well as the rides such as swing-boats. Nellie later married another showman, from Newmarket, called Joe Johnson.

In the winter of 1938 Tommie became ill and was unable to take his fair out in 1939. Following a stroke a few days earlier, he died on 15th November 1939 and was buried on the 18th here in Rushden Cemetery. The cortege left the Railway Hotel for a service at the little chapel in the cemetery, and his wish to be buried in Rushden was granted.

If you have any memories or pictures of this fair that you'd share with us, please contact us.

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