Nottingham Goose Fair memories: Big George, The Gentle Giant and my dad.
UP UNTIL THE EARLY NINETIES, ‘George the Gentle Giant’ was a Scotsman who would visit the fair each year who I remember as a youngster being a travelling attraction. Big George Gracie was a Lanarkshire man who measured fully 7ft 3ins tall, weighed 28 stone and stood in size 18 shoes. His size was caused by a brain tumour in his pituitary gland, as I understand.
Gentle Giant – George Gracie
The big man’s living was to allow people to come and stare at him on a fairground sideshow stall for a few pennies. People would pay their money and file around his pen. The big man was a most affable fellow, in spite of it all.
I recall dad took me to the Goose Fair one early October Saturday afternoon. After the various round of coconut shies, rifle ranges, Waltzers and confectionery, dad decided we would go and see George after spotting a garish ‘Scotland’s Tallest Man’ sign.
What followed was extraordinary to my young eyes. Dad walked in with me trailing behind him, hand in his huge strong hand and greeted George like he had known him all his life – just as he did everyone in fact. Big George instantly recognised dad’s very strong Scottish accent and they began talking like two brothers…far from home. It should be remembered that this was the 1960s when distances had a different conception and where having family 300 miles apart in England and Scotland, as I did, felt like having relatives on the moon.
George was from the village of Forth in Lanarkshire whilst ma daddy and me had family just a few miles away in Uddingston and Bellshill. The two men sat and talked and talked for what seemed like a very long time, maybe an hour passed instead of the prescribed two or three minutes, everyone else, the sightseers, filing past and being ignored, These two ‘brothers’ from the auld country, talking of young days, people, places. In a world of kinship and brotherhood, of blood being thicker than water. Two Scots lads who had found themselves meeting in strange circumstances.
I learnt something that day from this extraordinarily tender scene between that giant of a man and my big rough, tough dad.
‘We must always love our own, Stuart’ John said as he bade a fond goodbye to a newly met friend in George,
And I always have…
In 1993, after having mobility issues from an overworked heart, gentle George passed away from cancer, the same illness that had made him so large claiming him at the age of 53 years.
God Bless, George.