The silly races from 1984 were wheelie races with prams, pushchairs, wheelbarrows, wheelchairs or similar with three in a team, and two pushing the wheels, but tied at the ankle, and one riding in whatever wheeled contraption was in use – and the wheelies race became an annual event starting from the Ypres garden at noon on a Sunday.
In the first wheelies race in 1984 the winners of the fancy dress came from the Granary Club (now closed) and were dressed as clowns – and their “wheels” were a wheelchair.
Other entries included the Flowerpot Men and Daisy (from children’s TV) and Bunny Girls in a wheelbarrow (not from children’s TV), while the Union team had a mobile bar on their pram and there was a team from the Ferry Boat Inn with a pram. Judging the fancy dress and presenting the trophies was the Mayor Roger Breeds (a familiar surname) with the help of Miss Rye and the race winners were a team from the Standard Inn.
1985 was the only silly race to run in the rain and wind, but fourteen teams turned up to brave conditions with the race starting from the Ypres pub instead of its garden.
The 1986 race had a sunny day with twenty teams which included the Bonny Girls with a bar stool on wheels and the race winners were William the Conqueror from Rye Harbour.
And the Flintstones win
1987 was the most successful wheelies race, as twenty teams took part in glorious sunshine with some dressed as gorillas, others as vestal virgins, some as St Trinians school girls and one team like the victims of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (a popular film at the time). The fancy dress cup went to the ladies of Rye Club – Jackie Parkinson, Sharon Turner and Beverly Moth, dressed as members of the cartoon Flintstone family.
The fastest team were the Ypres Inn with 35 mins, and the Union and William the Conqueror tied at 36 mins. The ladies’ fastest team was Rye Club with 43 mins and the race made £196 to fund the annual Christmas party for old folks. A barbeque was held in the Ypres garden on the wheelies race day with live music from Pass The Cat.
After winning in 1986 with J Robus, T Bryant , A Clark and G Bryant, in 1988 William the Conqueror were race winners again with J Robus, S Brown and I Preble – and the Standard Inn won the last two wheelies races in 1989 and 1990.
Elf and safety cry goes up
The last silly race in 1991 was a four legged race with teams of three tied at the ankle which started and finished at the Globe Inn. The winners were an all women team of Jane Elcombe, Tricia Hole and Alison Burt from the Ship Inn.
It has been suggested we run the a silly races once more but, due to health and safety requirements, and the pubs in Rye becoming more about food and tourists, this seems unlikely and, even when the last silly races were run in the nineties, publicans did not want their food customers being distracted by silly racers going into their pubs.
Image Credits: Rye Express and Rye Citizen's .