Today Dad and I spent the day in the Corby, Northamptonshire; once known as ‘Little Scotland’, now known as ‘the unhappiest place to live in Britain’ ironic since it was once considered as a potential site for Euro Disney, the happiest place on Earth.
Dad and his family were one of many Scottish families that migrated to Corby in the 1930s after Stewarts & Lloyds established a new steel works in the town. Dad spent most of his childhood here before joining the Merchant Navy, so the plan was to explore the town and visit places of significance but that took and unexpected and entertaining turn.
On the outskirts of Corby, sits Rockingham Castle, a 900 year old castle, established by William the Conqueror, first Norman King of England. It just so happed that we arrived in Corby on Father’s Day and Rockingham Castle were hosting a medieval re-enactment and jousting event. This was too good an opportunity to miss, so we changed our plans and spent a few hours at the Castle instead.
Dad remembered playing here as a kid and sledging down the castle hillsides in the winter; however, the restored castle and gardens was a far cry from what he remembered seeing through a child’s eyes 60-odd years ago. We had a bit of a look around before enjoying a fire-eating jester’s show and I had a chat to some of the medieval re-enactors. Most of these men and women have been dressing up in historical clothing and armour for decades and belting the piss out of each other for fun. The humorously named, Mike the Knight, talked me through his many injuries and explained the basic rules of mock-combat and apparently, you can give consent to melee with less restrictions.
We found a good spot on the edge of the field of battle and watched as the re-enactors fought each other to the mock-death. I admire their dedication and the craftsmanship of their clothing, armour and weapons was exceptional. All the kids in attendance were invited to join in and learn some moves which made me wish my own kids were with me as I’m sure they would have enjoyed it. My older brother, Adrian, would have no doubt loved it too, since he once made his own chainmail – making him a proper Level 12 nerd.
But the main show was where it was at on the day and I was pleasantly surprised to learn the jousting event was more of a light-heated pantomime show (with knights and horses) rather than a serious historical re-enactment. The event was between the good Knight of Rockingham, with his drunken buddy-knight and the evil Black Knight and his band of cronies. There were hijinks and foul play behind the referees back and much cheering and jeering from the crowd. The knights competed in various tests of skill and I must say, these guys could ride quite well and their skill on horseback was not acting.
The drunk knight who did more fighting with a flagon of ale than a sword or lance was definitely my favourite but the whole show was fantastic. Dad and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Afterwards, we checked into the Raven Hotel; a notorious pickup joint and rowdy pub from my Dad’s youth, now far tamer, civilised and early closing. Dad’s younger sister, my aunt Fiona, still lives in Corby so we paid her a visit and left just enough time to do some of that exploring we had originally planned. We visited Dad’s old home and school and the graveyard where Dad’s sister was buried after she died of pneumonia, but sadly could not locate her grave. The graveyard is not well maintained and Fiona said her gravestone is missing so we could not pinpoint a grave further than the area where most of the children were buried.
This will be our last night in the UK so we retired early and repacked our bags. Fitting thirty six whisky glasses and five bottles of whisky in my luggage was not an easy task