Pinelands had its own Gretna Green complete with a marriage anvil and marriage certificates. It was part of the Pinelands Old World Country Fayres that were held in the early 1940s with the aim of raising funds for the Mayor’s National War Fund.
The first fair was held in April 1940 over three days on the Village Green (now the Garden of Remembrance) and emulated 18th century England. To make the event as authentic as possible, there was a Town Crier and village idiot, and the olde inn, called the Crusaders Arms. The Village idiot played by Mr Madden amused all by walking around juggling three apples.
Pinelanders, dressed in period costumes, manned over 50 stalls which recreated the atmosphere of an Old English Village. One of the many highlights was the Village Green Maypole Dance by local pupils.
The Fayre was opened by Mrs. Smuts on the site where her husband, General Jan Smuts, had laid the foundation stone of Pinelands in 1933. Mrs. Smuts was accompanied by Isobel McLeod, who had been crowned Queen of the Fayre.
Miss McLeod was the first to take advantage of Gretna Green by “marrying” the Town Crier who was in fact Archie Foster, a popular ex-Mayor of Cape Town. The organiser of the event Mrs Popkiss was jokingly quoted as claiming to be a runaway bride on the day.
The successful formula of the first fayre was repeated later that year in December. This time the Governor General’s National War Fund for Servicemen of South African was handed R164 000.00 which was double that raised in the first fayre.
In November 1941, however, the Pinelands Fayre Committee restricted the event to a one-day, 16-stall “Forest Free Party”.
Extending the one-day format in the following year, the Pinelands National Effort Committee opted for a two-day Victorian Day Fair. This hosted the usual variety of side stalls and even boasted a fortune teller called Silver Sultuna and a small circus. The weather turned out to be disastrous, but the convenors were still able to present R102 500.00 to the Governor General’s Fund, the Merchant Navy and the Seaman’s Institute.
The last fair was held in 1943. This time the Pinelands National Effort Committee decided to hold a “Pinelands Allied Unity fair” with the stalls representing the various ally countries such as China, Belgium, Russia and Czechoslovakia. The three-day fair was opened by Princess Katherine of Greece on 9 December 1943.
A popular feature of this fair was a specially produced postcard for the war effort quoting Churchill, Roosevelt, Smuts, Stalin and Chiang Kai Shek. The fair even had its own Flag of Unity which was especially designed for the event. Some months later a distressed Mrs. Griffiths was still looking for her 105 bottles in which she had sold jam at the fair, since she wanted to re-use them. R184 000.00 was raised.
There were many other smaller events organised to raise money for the war effort during the years 1940 to 1943 and Pinelanders can be proud of the community spirit that residents set in those uncertain years. (NOTE : monetary values shown in today’s currency)