Kirdford showman’s stone righted after storm

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Kirdford’s most famous resident Andrew Smith has finally got his rightful place back in the village churchyard after his gravestone was blown over by the powerful hurricane of l987.

Thanks to a band of strong villagers and the help of two of his great-grandchildren, the grave stone was turned over at the weekend so that the inscription can once more be read by the many gypsies who still come to pay their respects.

Showman Andrew Smith was not only Kirdford’s most famous resident but well-known throughout the south of England for his support for the ancient Charter Fairs.

When he died in l937, gypsies from all over the country came to pay their respects at his funeral in St John The Baptist Church and a huge grave stone was erected.

But for the last 24 years it has laid face-down, making the inscription impossible to read and the grave difficult to find.

For many years former church warden Tony Sanders had been trying to get up the manpower to restore the grave stone.

“It all started when a party of gypsies came to the church yard to see the grave stone and were very upset they couldn’t read the inscription,” he told the Observer.

“The thing that finally triggered off the working party was that our church yard became a Site of Nature Conservation Importance and I wrote an article about Andrew Smith in our parish magazine saying we couldn’t find the family, and that I was keen to see the stone raised again.

“By some miracle it came to the attention of his great-grandchildren, Brian Clarke and Albert Ayling.”

They contacted priest-in-charge, Rev Paul Redparth, and said they wanted to be part of a team to put the grave stone right.

“Our strong band of helpers have now done this,” said Mr Sanders, “and the inscription is now clear for all to see. We believe we have restored it in a way that is better than before as it is now more protected.”

When he died, his obituary appeared in the national press and later books were written about Andrew Smith, He grew up in a family of showmen and when old enough he specialised in the coconut shy, but his main claim to fame was his support for the old Charter Fairs. He challenged the right of a showman to hold a fair.