Sunday, May 11, 2008

What I did this weekend: flying teddy bears.

Instead of heading off to the Bristol International Comics Expo, this weekend I went off to watch several teddy bears fly down a zipline from the top of All Saint's Church in Pocklington.

It was the 4th annual Flying Man Festival. This is Pocklington's own little festival, one of those things that strated out as the church having a little fund raiser and now, 4 years later, has developed into an entire weekend of events based around the flying man of Pocklington: Thomas Pelling.

The Flying Man of Pocklington

There is a large church (All Saints) just off the town square in Pocklington whose foundations were laid by the Norman’s and was (still is) imposing enough to be known as the cathedral of the wolds. Its large square bell tower stands over 100 feet high and it was from this lofty vantage point that Thomas, in front of a large incredulous audience, would fly down a rope to the Star Inn, where he no doubt hoped to have a pint. The Star Inn used to be located in Market Square, unfortunately long since demolished.

Now, the exact details of the rigging of Thomas’s ropeway have been lost in time but it involved a windlass, a lot of rope, a secure anchorage point and several men. The time came for Thomas to fly, so with a short briefing to his men, which proved later to be totally inadequate, he climbed the bell tower stairs and out through the hatch on to the tower roof. He waved down to the crowds, climbed over the parapet, tied himself to the ropeway, gave the signal to his assistants and launched himself into the wide blue yonder!

Thomas didn’t make the pub; he didn’t even clear the church, due to a ‘misunderstanding’ with the men working the windlass, who could possibly have already been sampling the wares of The Star Inn! The ropeway became slack and Thomas was allowed to fly too fast and too low. With a sickening thud he flew straight into the battlements of the choir end wall and with a fractured skull he fell to his death!

Thomas Pelling “The celebrated Flying Man of Pocklington” was buried where he had fallen at the East End of the church on the 16th April 1733, a wall mounted plaque celebrates his memory.

The man was quite obviously an idiot, but we celebrate his idiocy every year now with children giving their bears over to the church, taken up to the top of the tower and flown down a zipline. Luckily, no bears are hurt in this endeavour since the technology has come a long way since Thomas tried it.

Saturday night saw balloons filling the skies of Pocklington as part of the celebrations, absolutely beautiful in the perfect summer dusk:

And then we woke up this morning to a blazing hot Sunday. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and as we headed for the church for the Flying Man Festival the big surprise was that the balloons were back; moored in the high street:

As usual, the highlight of the day was at All Saint's Church where the flying bears were launched off the top of the church at regular intervals. Molly spent a long time this morning trying to decide which of the 65 (yes 65!) cuddly toys she was going to launch into the air and there was even a spot of timely humour at the bear departure lounge:

Pocklington Post article, Town Council article,

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