Terry Hood - I was that Bearded Lady

December 1997

    1974 was my introduction to the Plough Jag. The first rehearsal I attended was in Flixborough village hall. I was talked into playing the part of the Lady, Which involved a spot of singing, as you will know. As I had never sung solo before it was quite awful (for me as well as others). John Walker the perfectionist that he was, (and I say this with the utmost respect) said if I couldn't sing I would have to speak the part, but I persisted and overcame the problem. In later years Ralph Tomlins recommended that I sing in the key of D. (Is this a bad thing I ask myself?)

    On the appointed day, a Friday this year we all met at Bob and Mary Cleveland's home in Cliff Closes Road, where we made up and dressed in our costumes. Our first performance was at the Berkeley Junior School, from there we made for a children's orphanage at Barrow. These two were a good start for a first performance, (done while sober, I might add). We then stopped off in Barton market place and debated whether or not to give a performance, as there didn't appear to be many people about. We finally decided to perform. After we finished, we made our way to a cafe across the road and piled in for lunch. In our strange garb the owner was a bit dubious, thinking we would be trouble, but we were too hungry for that.

    Scunthorpe was the next venue. After the performance in the town centre we went round the pubs and clubs, the Blue Bell (it was called that then), Highfield House Club, then it was the Big Social Labour Club on the corner of Wells Street and Berkeley Street, which became "J.J's". Things were then becoming slightly hazy. We went on in the late afternoon to John and Gill Walker's home in Bushfield road, for a clean -up and tea, and, I might add, a bit of shut-eye. We were all pretty tired if I remember right. After tea we made our faces up again and set off to perform at a few hotels where Dinner dances were being held. We probably went into a few pubs to sing and play tunes and of course, collect some cash. By then my throat was in such a state that I was able to give a passable impression of Bernard Wrigley, 'the Bolton Bullfrog', singing Nelly the Elephant. We finally finished up at Bob and Mary's at about 1.0 am on Saturday morning.

    1975 We started from Bob's house and I believe we went to Caistor, which was a bit like Barton the previous year. Having had the obligatory pint or two we made our way back to Scunthorpe (Where did we go to be in Caistor at opening time?) I'm sure it was this year that we got out of the mini bus on Oswald road and walked down the High Street, ringing the bell, and going into shops collecting cash. We also persuaded the general public to part with a coin or two. It was at this time, myself and Geoff Miller or Dave Markham (it depended on who was driving the van) tried to persuade two Lady Police Officers to donate, but they declined on the grounds that they were not allowed to carry with them when on duty. We gave our performance in the precinct and then went on our usual rounds, but I think the Big Social was not too accommodating, something to do with members or membership. I seem to remember we were ok at Highfield House though. Things were hazy then, let alone twenty odd years later. Tea was taken at John Walker's. In the evening I'm afraid I don't recall exactly where we went. One year I remember going to Winteringham. I seem to remember that at sometime or other the Dinner Dances were not particularly interested any more. What do others think?

    At the request of Mrs Markham, Dave's mum, we did a performance at what I assumed was an old folks' home, but was more than likely Brumby Community Centre on Healey Road, near to the Comet pub. Whatever it was the audience was made up of old people (Photos) was this out of season? Our photos are dated 1974 but the Lady' costume does not match up with that of photos taken at Berkeley Junior's.

    As I remember 1976 was our first trip to Gainsborough, first calling at Mencap House for tea and sandwiches. Then it was a quick dash round to the Tiger for a couple of pints and a song and a tune coupled with a bit of 'Irish' dancing on the wood floor (eat your hearts out 'River dance') Then we went into the market place and performed the Plough Jag, after which we made our way to the 'White Horse’ for more drinking, singing, and tunes. It was at the above pub that the gents was outside, round the back, and I remember as the Lady going in there and startled a poor old boy when I walked in and hoisted up my skirt and smiled at him. It must have made his day.

    I remember one year we rehearsed in a bungalow on Ashby Road, I believe it was a day centre for Mencap. (This confirms Carl's recollection)

    The trip to Clamart in June 1976 was of course an out of season performance, but a very enjoyable Weekend. The people of Clamart were very hospitable, but I do recall that on the Sunday afternoon France just closed. - Shut down - nobody about, and we realised in the evening that we couldn't get anything to eat. A restaurant was finally found and the owners, who were Corsican, I believe, agreed to put on a meal. During the time we spent in there, John Connell was persuaded to bite the end off a green chilli pepper, and, not having seen one before, did so. We nearly had a riot on our hands.

    My years spent with the Coleby Plough Jags, although exhausting were very enjoyable. I do believe that one could go on remembering little snippets of information, and I probably will do.