ONE of the great unsung traditions in Chester is the annual May visit to the Little Roodee car park by Pat Collins Funfair but few find out anything about those who make it happen. PAUL SAVILLE & REBECCA MONK spent an afternoon at the fair for a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on.
DRESSED in a grey suit, 65-year-old fun-fair owner Anthony Harris sits in his state-of-the-art motor home looking over some documents.
Our attention was immediately drawn to a picture of Mr Harris and his wife meeting Pope John Paul ll.
'It was taken in 1998 - as you can imagine it has been quite sad for us this last few weeks,' said Mr Harris.
He then produced a red book, well versed and illustrated, outlining the history of the Pat Collins Fair and his family.
He spoke fondly of his three sons, who also work on the fair. It was clear that Mr Harris was a passionate, lively man, who was proud of his heritage.
Life inside the motor home appeared distant from the thrill seekers and candy floss eaters outside, but the sounds and music from the fair never allowed any true escape although this is now perhaps a sound to which Mr Harris has become accustomed.
Mr Harris is the great, great grandson of Pat Collins, the successful showman and the fair's namesake.
Mr Collins was born in Chester on May 12, 1859. He left St Werburgh's School to join his father travelling the fairs of North Wales, Cheshire and South Lancashire with rides.
He married Flora Ross in 1880 and set up on his own as a roundabout proprietor. He settled at Shaw's Leisure in Walsall in 1882 and from this base in the Black Country built a large empire.
He went on to become a councillor, Member of Parliament and Mayor of Walsall. He died at his home in Bloxwich on December 8, 1943, leaving his second wife Clara.
But Mr Collins' legacy lives on and, generations later, the funfair is still very much part of the annual scene in Chester as well as many other locations around the UK.
An agreement with the city council ensures the fair's future at the Little Roodee car park. Its May date coincides with the Chester race meeting although it has featured in the Collins calendar for a century.
Mr Harris met his wife Christina while she was working for her father: 'My heart skipped a beat when I first met her,' said Mr Harris. 'I presumed it was a good thing!'
Of the many places Mr Harris takes the fair, he always likes returning to Chester: 'Along with Hull, I consider Chester my favourite place.'
He said: 'My family had good business heads. It's just a shame they decided to have a business on the move. It would have been a lot simpler to have kept it in the one place.'
Tomorrow will see revellers bid farewell to Pat Collins Fair for another year. By Sunday they will be welcoming fair goers from West Bromwich.