Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
Nora says farewell to all the fun of the fairSeptember 6, 2012 - 11:26am
After thirty one years Nora Perks and her husband Russell are retiring from the fun fair business but that is not to say it’s the end of Perks Fun Fair. The fun fair has been a part of Galway and Salthill for three decades and you know the summer season is upon us when you see the amusements being set up at Leisureland.
And while the rides and thrills of the funfair may have fond memories for locals and tourists alike, there’s a whole other group of people who depended on Perks for summer work. Nora reckons at least 500 young people would have worked there over the years and some of them now return as adults with their own children.
Many may have assumed that Perks was an apt company name but it is a real surname and Russell is the third generation of his family in the funfair business, which originated in Coleraine.
In fact Russell’s love affair with Galway started in the mid fifties when he was just 16. He first came to town to help his aunt Rosemary and uncle (Claude Toft) with their annual funfair on Eyre Square.
When Perks first came to Galway it was to the back of Seapoint, a place now called Toft Park and again it was to supplement the Tofts’ go-carts and dodgems. But in 1983, after Leisureland opened, Perks got the opportunity to have their own site for the summer. They have been a seasonal fixture ever since, although there’s now an annual tendering process which makes planning in their business a bit precarious to say the least, says the outspoken Nora.
Nora doesn’t look like she needs to retire. She is very much hands-on and always has been, knowing the ins and outs of the business and also being a fantastic people person.
“I believe, no matter what business you are in, that the owner has to be visible, has to be available to the customers. Otherwise, it looks as if you don’t care.
“Over the years, I can honestly say we have enjoyed meeting people here in Galway and we saw many families returning to the funfair. And because we have repeat business, we always had to have something new every year but it is the dodgems and the waltzers which have been the consistent favourites.”
Unlike her husband, Nora, a native of Dungarvan and the eldest of 10, wasn’t born into the funfair business. Her father worked for the Land Commission and it was he who ‘found’ Russell and introduced him to the young Nora.
Russell was good with machinery and Nora’s dad had hired him and his JCB. Afterwards he was invited up to the house for dinner.
“I didn’t meet him on that occasion properly but he saw me and a week later, he called to the house again and invited me to dinner! Sure people didn’t go to dinner on dates in those days but we did,” she remembers.
That was almost 50 years ago. They were going out for five years before they got married 43 years ago this October.
It wasn’t easy she remembers as Russell was Church of Ireland and in those days it was practically a sin to for a Catholic to talk to a member of that church let alone marry one!
The local Canon threw her out of his house when she went to tell him of her plans but thankfully another priest who was sent to “talk” to her realised Nora was in love and determined to be with Russell, with or without the Catholic Church’s blessing.
“Thank God, all that has changed now and attitudes have changed. My father approved and we were in love. That’s all that mattered to me.”
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.