Electrician David Farrow

In her latest Face to Face interview, KAREN BETHELL talks to electrician David Farrow. Born the youngest of 9 in 1930, he first took part in Sheringham carnival as a six-year-old dressed as 1920s champion jockey Steve Donoghue.

In her latest Face to Face interview, KAREN BETHELL talks to electrician David Farrow. Born the youngest of 9 in 1930, he first took part in Sheringham carnival as a six-year-old dressed as 1920s champion jockey Steve Donoghue. David went on to found the event's notorious raft race, and to win cup after cup for his ever more ambitious carnival floats . . .

As a wartime pupil at Sheringham Primary School, David shared classes with around 30 evacuees.

Following bombing scares, youngsters were sent to be taught in a series of private houses and, with his 4 brothers and 4 sisters off helping with the war effort, David was left alone with his parents in the family's Brook Road home.

His father, who was injured in the First World War, sadly died when David was aged 14, and, after leaving school that year, a shortage of work meant that the youngster was forced to spend his days chopping kindling to sell.

But, in 1945, he was taken on by a local firm as a trainee electrician, with a starting weekly wage of 18 shillings and a penny.

After 30 years, David decided to branch out on his own and, as well as setting up on his own as an electrician, he opened a general store with first wife Joan at Common Lane.

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A regular cup winner at Sheringham's annual carnival as a youngster, as an adult David founded the much-remembered raft race after challenging local trader Ron Wright to a “Pirates against Ancient Britons” contest.

The race became more and more popular and, until it was stopped because of health and safety concerns, attracted up to 80 entries.

David also entered a carnival float every year, with themes ranging from Coronation Street and the French Foreign Legion, to the Tower of London, the American civil war, and a 60ft steam train.

In the 1980s, his Francis Drake galleon won at Cromer, Sheringham and Holt and, as his reputation as a float builder grew, he found himself working on up to 3 entries a year for local groups.

David, who, in the 1970s took a float advertising Sheringham as a holiday destination to Battersea Park, London, also helped out at Holt carnival, designed and built the first ever carnival queen float and, in the 1960s, drove a Father Christmas float on a tour of local homes for the elderly.

He and second wife Carol, whom he met in 1978, led the carnival torchlight procession with their “musical” pram for many years and, until 2005, when he passed his float-building mantle on to his nephew, David continued to take part in the annual parade.

At the age of 78, David, who has 3 sons, 4 grandchildren and a great-grand-daughter, doggedly refuses to retire and, as well as carrying out jobs for a handful of regular customers, crafts hand made furniture and repairs electrical equipment in his garden workshop.

What is the best thing about your job?

The sheer variety of it - I do everything, from plumbing and decorating to electrical work. And although I don't go out on jobs any more, I'm always making something in the shed, and I've still kept a few of my old customers, some of whom are now in their 90s.

And the worst?

There isn't one; I really enjoy everything I do.

Where do you go to unwind?

I take my binoculars to the car park overlooking the sea at Cliff Road. I like looking at the sea and reading the names of the boats going by.

What is your favourite Norfolk building?

I love the two windmills at Cley and Weybourne.

Have you ever done anything outrageous?

I volunteered for the fire service during the war and ended up being lowered out of a third floor window of the Grand Hotel at Cromer. I was only about 10 and it frightened the life out of me!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Nothing - I always turn every problem into a joke, I'm never fed up, and Carol and I get on like a house on fire, so I'm quite content with the way I am.

What is your proudest moment?

My life has been full of proud moments, but, having always dreamed of going on Concorde, it was wonderful when, as a Father's Day surprise 8 years ago, my son Raymond booked me on a two hour flight.

And your greatest achievement?

Turning my shop at 39 Common Lane from a little dairy into quite a big general store.

Who do you most admire?

The Scottish first minister Alex Salmond is a very clever man who talks a lot of sense and makes things easy to understand. To be honest, I think he should be in charge of England!

Do you have any fears or phobias?

I'm not that keen on heights or spiders.

What makes you angry?

People who you can't rely on, or people who tell lies.

Favourite book, film and TV programme?

My favourite book would have to be my brother Jack's diary, Darkness Before the Dawn. It was published last year and it's an account of when, as a sergeant in the 5th Royal Norfolks, he spent nearly 4 years at Changi jail as a Japanese Prisoner of War.

My favourite film is probably Monty Python's Life of Brian, and, on TV, I enjoy watching nature programmes.

How would you like to be remembered?

For making people laugh!