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Onion Fair



It was a brilliant evening out at the onion fair, lots of atmosphere Dennis. The rides were indeed a tanner most of the time, but if two of you got in a bumper car, some of the ride helpers would try to charge you a bob.
We used to pick up the spent .22 cartridge cases, and use them as whistles. Going to the fair was also an oppurtunity to hang around with a few girls, especially if you could get them on the ghost train!!!

I am going to stop there cus I am getting all excited, and my blood pressure just peeked!!!!!


The Giant Swans!!!

I too remember the Onion Fair. Pat Collins used to run it. There were sheaves of onions hanging up all over the place. We used to walk straight down Vicarage Road and there it was at the bottom. We'd always have to walk round to the back entrance to get in though, because I was afraid of the roundabout with the giant swans on it. Dont know why, but there it is.

Dorothy Dodson

I posted the following on the 'Earning a bob' site when i first registered and was a bit unsure of the processess; but i have since decided :idea: that it is better suited to this site :roll:

The Onion Fair - in the 1920s :lol:

I have a tale to tell. My mother, was persuaded by her mother in law, my grandma, to go with her to the fair. Now my grandma was as round as she was tall, according to my mom. So it was with some trepidation that they started out. My gran used to like a tipple, and my mom was worried :oops: that once they had been to the fair, she would want to call in all the pubs on the way home :roll: ; which was Tower Road Aston. How wrong could she have been?

This was before I was born, so I am relaying my mom’s story. It seems that hardly had they got to the fair, then pandemonium broke out, and everybody started running towards them, picture the scene, one very frightened little woman (my mom) and one very old lady, who could hardly put one foot in front of the other, a weight watchers nightmare, so they turned and ran leading the panicking crowd. And it would seem, that most of the crowd overtook them, and then with one voice and accord turned back on my mom and gran, as the poor old lion by this time had beaten the crowd and was now chasing them in the opposite direction.

That night was certainly ingrained in mother's memory, and it was probably the only anecdote that she ever told with any certainty.


My gran used to tell a story about a lion escaping at the fair. We never believed her but it sounds like we were wrong. Sorry about that gran

Dorothy Dodson

So there ya go! but you don't even have to take my word for it, because in Carl Chinn's Brummagem magazine last year (Issue 16) there was a story about the actual Lion Tamer i think it might have been by his daughter; i haven't got the copy any longer - together with a photo of her father with his uniform in shreds (which might have been for dramatic licence) which had been in the Birmingham Mail (I think) that week. It seems that the lion tamer had run away to sea as a boy, and then finished up with running away to the circus (i do hope that i am getting this correct as the old brain cells are getting a bit cobwebby :? ). the family originated in the 'Black Country' so yo'll understand wunt ya :?: (his reason for running away. (Joke :!: )

Oh yes and one of my friends' brother was a choir boy at Aston Church and related that there are claw marks down the side of the church where the lion was cornered, but i cant vouch for that, not having been to confirm that story :wink: Glad you believe your gran after all these years, shame she doesnt know - cheers Dot

Eric Gibson

master brummie
I was on leave from my national service and had been to the onion fair with my wife, we were walking home and I put my hand behind me and took hold of hers. we'd walked a few paces and I turned to look at her and found a young lady who was not my wife grinning at me, talk about red faced. E.

Valerie Dunbar

master brummie
I remember the Onion Fair well. I always used to love those bonnets with a plastic type edging with words written on like Kiss me quick. Being only a very young girl at the time I have to add I always used to nag my mum for one and if lucky would wear it with great pride.

One evening when visiting the fair my dad and brother decided to have a go on the Ghost Train. Off they went with my mum, me and my sisters standing waiting for their re-appearance. To my mums consternation I insisted that my dad had been on one of the empty cars that came around out of the tunnel. Everyone panicked me most of all and the train was held up as mum ran in to find out where dad had dissappeared to. Suddenley from out the tunnel there came my dad and brother laughing and obviousley very ok. To this day I remember it with horror. When taken on the Ghost Train by my dad just to prove that it was only a fun thing I kept my eyes closed from start to finnish.

Later as I grew older I loved the Waltzers, and could be found hanging around there most of the time listening to the great music that they used to play, which seemed to attract all the best boys I thought.


Kiwi Brummie Admin' Team
:D Had a peek, it's a brilliant artical. I remember going lots of times and enjoyed graduating to a new more scary ride each time as I got older. I do also remember while doing my paperround one day reading a report of a teenage girl from Alum Rock being murdered after she had visited the fair, I had a number of friends who knew her as we went to the same school, this would have been around 1960ish. Sad to say later on in the sixdies one of the main suspects to the murder was later charged and served time for another murder commmited around 1969 of another teenage girl, I'm sure no one was charged for the first one.  :(


Aston- Onion Fair

Me mum and dad would take us kids to the onion fair which was situated in Aston. I remember it being by a church yard and I think it was not far from Aston Hall. Today me dad hates fun fairs as it brings back memories when he lost his wages while walking us kids around the fair. If we won a prize me mum would not let us bring in the house if it was an ournament that was made out of calk as she said it was bad luck.
Are there any photos around of the fairin the 50's and 60's?

Beryl M

I have never been to the 'Onion Fair '

I found a couple of pictures quite sad but mild compared to the Canadian Exhibition Fair - when for enternainment they had a 'Freak show' Poor people put on show to be laughed at - It was sickening - something we can do without - I am glad they don't have that anymore. . .

The Baron

master brummie
I remember a strong man side show at that fair, He lifted two horses up on a platform system, the booklet he was selling stated that:
"you SHOULD DRINK LOTS OF WATER as you never see a weak LION & that all they drink"
I used to drink gallons but it never did me any good, spent more time in the loo.
The pianist with no arms I remember seeing once at the Aston Hip; when I was a kid, "fantastic" how he mastered that, what a great achevment & what an example to us who have all our limbs.


I read somewhere that when it started the main thing that was sold there was onions.


master brummie
Staff member
Interesting that they never sold onions at the Onion Fair. There is a book for sale on the British EBay at the moment called "The Birmingham Onion Fair"....probably outlines the connection.

I certainly remember the Onion Johnnies, as the men from Breton were called. It seems that they sold a special type of Onion which was sort of pink.
I had a look around the Internet and a real French Onion Johnnie came from the harbour area of Breton. I bet selling Onions in Britain was a family thing and was handed down father to son, It looks as though it started in 1828.


master brummie
I have that book, it was published by Uralia Press 2001 ISN:1 898 528 07 0
by Ned Williams
it's a paper back it cost £9.90 when new


master brummie
I never made it to the onion fair,although i did know of it. I did get taken to the Stratford upon Avon Mop fair, no idea why it was so named but it was great fun. ???


gone but not forgotten
Onion Fare

There Was No Other Fair Around That Could Compete WitH The Old
Onion Fare And They Most Certainly Did Sell There Onions There
They Was The Biggest Spanish Onions You Could Get In Them Days
To What You Could Have Bought From Fenchies Spud Shop And Old
Robinsons On The Lichfield Rd In Them Days And Old Johnie ,
Would Be Dressed Up In His Costume As A French man
With his Blue And Striped Jersey AND With A Moustoche And Wearing A Beret
He Done A Roaring Trade And Some-time There Would Be Father Christmas Standing Next To Him With His Big Red Sack , YouWould Get A Lucky Dip
For A Tanner ,The Acts, And The Side Shows Was Fantasticly brilliant
Tere Was The Elephant Man , The Wall Of Death The Side Shows Was Out Of This World ,good old fashion steam enginges puffing away
I Actually Won A COCO NUT One Night For A Single Penny By Throwing A WOODEN Ball IntoA Bucket Those Were The Days Guys , ASTONIAN ,''''