William Haggar, Fairground Film-Maker

About the Author

Peter Yorke's grandmother Violet was William Haggar's third daughter. She led his paraders and acted in his films: she can be seen as Mrs Dyson in "The Life of Charles Peace". In 1912 in Aberdare she married Cyril Sydney Yorke, the Haggar's fairground barker, by then managing William's temporary Shanty Cinema in the Market Yard in Aberdare. It was there, in the living van behind the cimema, that their son Cyril Haggar Yorke, Peter's father was born in 1914.

Peter's parents, Cyril and Dorothy, met when both worked in the Tax Office in Weston-Super-Mare, where Peter was born in 1939. Sadly, their marriage did not endure: after their divorce, Cyril went on with his career as Inspector of Taxes, marrying again and having a second family: he died in Cornwall in 1994. Peter grew up in Bristol with his mother - but he maintained contact with his grandmother Violet, spending frequent holidays with her in Coalway in the Forest of Dean. He remembers her as a comfortable countrywoman, always known as "Mrs Yorke". She had a part-time job in The Crown in Coalway, and, to keep her range burning, never went out without a basket in which to bring back wood chips from the forest opposite her cottage on the "Mean". She rarely mentioned her past: only once did she tell Peter that her father had been a travelling showman who had "brought the cinema to Wales".

After school at Quen Elizabeth's Hospital (a "Bluecoat school" where Peter, a boarder, wore the uniform of a long blue gown, white bands, knee-breeches and yellow stockings), Peter graduated in Classics at Pembroke College, Cambridge. After three years with Hertfordshire Country Council, he was appointed as Finance Assistant at the then new University of East Anglia in Norwich, arriving with the first 87 undergraduates in October 1963. In 1966 he transferred to the Estates Office, and unexpectedly stayed there for the rest of his working life, helping to build the new buildings by acting as the client on behalf on the University to such architects as Denys Lasdun, Bernard Feilden, Norman (now Lord) Foster, Rick Mather and John Miller. After a time in charge of the Estate, he took early retirement in August 1996. Moving to Sherborne in 1998, he has travelled widely, from West Wales to Australia, to meet his Haggar cousins, and obtain their stories and memories. "Why don't you write a book?", he was asked when retelling some of these tales of a hundred years ago - and in 2001 this idea became a reality when reading the "Aberdare Leader" for 1913 and 1914 suggested two chapters of the book. By April 2002 the first draft was ready: since then more research and kindly criticism has refined and tightened it. More details could be discovered about William and his films, but the main picture is clear, and he hopes that readers will enjoy the fruits of his research.

Picture: Peter Yorke (2005)
Author - Peter Yorke