The Garibaldi Lambs

AS we noted here recently, none of the clutch of Yarmouth-linked songs published more than a century ago ever caught the imagination of listeners, except perhaps fleetingly hereabouts and because of their local nature. If there had been a hit parade in those distant decades, I doubt that The Revolving Tower Polka or The Yare Side Waltz, for example, would have featured in a music hall era forerunner of Top of the Pops.

One I listed, A Garibaldi Lamb, would have been especially difficult to do as an Abba-style sing-along because most of it comprised a long spoken three-part chatty monologue interspersed between the choruses.

It was almost a hark-back to the Forties and Fifties when so-called novelty songs were popular – think back to The Dark Town Poker Club, Woodman – Spare that Tree, The Thing (in a wooden box a-floating in the bay bump-bump-bump), Deck of Cards, Two Little Men in a Flying Saucer, The Maharajah of Magador, Cigareets and Whusky and Wild Wild Women...

Garibaldi Lambs? That was the name applied to the lively young men who came on holiday around the turn of the 19th century to the well-known Yarmouth all-male hotel and devoted much of their time to charity fund-raising.

The two clerks in the David Howard ditty (sung by Harry Lemore) discussed the relative merits of Broadstairs and Margate before opting for Yarmouth and joining the Garibaldi Corps.

So they bought flannel trousers, a Garibaldi coat and a return ticket for the voyage from London – probably on one of the Belle steamers – and were very relieved to land in “Yarmouth-on the-Sea”, after a rough trip and sea-sickness, according to the lyric.

The sung part reported: “And though the journey coming down was not all we could wish, Yet still I fancied what I lost was welcome to the fish! And they said the sea was very grand, but the grandest sight for me Was when we neared the welcome shore of Yarmouth-on-the-Sea.”

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On their first day they saw some of our sights: the Queen’s (“a very quiet respectable hotel”), Aquarium (no fish – they had gone to Somerleyton on a day trip), Holkham (“nice oyster lunch, good glass of bitter”), Nelson’s Column (“that’s not Nelson at all at the top – that’s Britannia”), the “Ring-Beach Concert Party” (the Singers’ Ring, the central beach enclosure where shows were presented)...

They returned “to barracks” after their tour, describing Yarmouth as “a wonderful place”, and that evening enjoyed a fine concert at that Singers’ Ring.

Another place they had passed on their exploratory stroll was the Barking Smack public house on Marina Parade, coincidentally featured in this column last week when I wrote about a pre-war painting of it by a noted artist spotted in a Manchester area museum gallery.

The two visitors and their Yarmouth chum and guide agreed that the Barking Smack was immortalised by Charles Dickens in one of his novels but could not decide which one (Martin Chuzzlewit or Dombey and Son, it was suggested) before settling on David Copperfield.

Although much of the latter was based in Yarmouth – and featured a character called Peggotty whose name was later bestowed on the anonymous writer of this long-lived column – I cannot recall the Barking Smack being mentioned in the book researched by Dickens while staying at the Royal Hotel farther along Marine Parade.

The high-spot of their week was the Garibaldi Corps traffic-stopping parade through Yarmouth, some of the young men riding horses like cavalrymen, others marching like the infantry.

The sung version went thus: “One day the Corps were ordered out to have a grand parade, And the girls were all delighted at the splendid show we made. We’d infantry and cavalry, I can’t tell what besides, And every day some new event, some charming walk or ride.

“But holidays will have an end, and time so swiftly flew, And ‘twas not only time was was the money too! But whenever I come out again, no other place for me. With its pretty girls and jolly pals, old Yarmouth-on-the-Sea.”

And they vowed that the following year they would again “become a Jolly Lamb.”

I am indebted to local historian and author Colin Tooke, of Caister, for allowing me to reproduce the following information about the Garibaldi from his 2006 book Time Gentlemen Please! detailing local public houses. It evolved from a small 1848 beer-house at the corner of Factory and St Nicholas’ Roads, a quarter of a century before it was named after the Italian patriot-leader.

Joe Powell, who bought the beer-house, also owned an adjacent property in Northumberland Terrace which he ran as a men-only lodging house. In 1888 he rebuilt the beer-house as a four-storey hotel and offered young London men summer holidays with bed and four meals for 3s 6d (17p today) a day.

Colin writes: “In 1889 accommodation could be provided for 400 men, and nine years later the property had 135 bedrooms. It was estimated that as many as 6000 men stayed at ‘the Gari’ during the season, and they became renowned for their high spirits and sometimes rowdy behaviour, known by the unlikely name ‘the Garibaldi Lambs’”.

After Powell’s death in 1926, the business continued on similar lines and four years later was advertising itself as a hotel for gentlemen, with “180 bedrooms as seven shillings a day inclusive.”

Used as army billets during the war, Lacon’s Brewery rebuilt “the Gari” in 1957, removing the upper storeys and adding a new frontage. After some years as a nightclub, the property was demolished five years ago, and houses now occupy the site.

Many older Yarmouthians recall with affection the years when band-leader Gordon Edwards and his family ran the venue, and local organisations held their annual dinner-dances there.

My one memory is of a midnight reception for the top-name stars and other entertainers and staff involved in the Yarmouth summer shows in 1980 where the proceedings were interrupted by zany comic Freddie Starr (ABC) noisily accusing a young comedian named Dave Wolfe of stealing some of his jokes.

The two men were quickly pulled apart, and I think it was Ronnie Dukes (Wellington Pier) who acted as spokesmen for the rest of the showbiz folk present by apologising to the mayor and mayoress for the unseemly incident.