Significant parts of Facing the Strange are set in Preston around the time of the Guild.
The Guild is introduced in this extract from the section entitled The Making of the Front Page Story in Dan's Newspaper.
Tom, ex-boxer and ex-doctor (now struck off) and Gabe, a Preston photographer ‘documenting our disappearing world’ are taking in the Black Horse:
‘He’s called Pete Irongate. My old sparring partner...’ Tom’s voice trailed off.
‘That was the Guild of ’52,’ he said softly.
I decided an answer to his question wasn’t necessary and instead sized up the remaining beer in my barrel glass, holding it up to the light.
‘Well, I must be going,’ I announced, ‘I have a lovely lady expecting me home for my dinner.’
‘Ah, bollocks you will!’ Tom roared, and slapped my back. ‘This is the Guild, man! Once every twenty years! You’ll be middle-aged next time around, enjoy it while you’re young.’
‘Last orders was over an hour ago.’ I was groping for a reason not to.
‘And we’ve had a few rounds since, and we’ll have one more now,’ said Tom and he called Jack over from a session he was conducting with a small group at one end of the bar. They had a bottle each of Tequila and Vodka pulled from the optic rack and were swapping rounds of slammers.
In the piece that follows, Preston journalist David Rowland explains the mystique of the Guild
Preston Guild 1179
I have lived in and around the place of my birth for most of my life and as a result Preston’s famous Guild Merchant celebrations have been an integral part of my Prestonian psyche. To the ‘outsider’ the event holds little significance. However, to the sons of that fair city, the festival holds an almost spiritual implication.
In the ‘History of Preston Guild’ which can be found on the City Council website it says ‘The Preston Guild is quite unique and is an event that is held once every 20 years. In 1179, King Henry II granted Preston the right to have a Guild Merchant and awarded the town its first royal charter. Since those far off days The Guild has traditionally drawn large crowds of visitors to witness the processions and official events. In between these events there is ongoing just about every pub, street and park entertainment you could imagine. The first eye-witness account of the Guild dates from 1682. There have been 26 Guilds for which records survive, held every 20 years - apart from a wartime interruption, which led to no Guild in 1942.
‘Each Guild has been a triumph, despite the predictions of some Prestonians who have said, since the Guild began, “it can't be as good as last time“.’
However, if truth be told, it is the Preston people themselves, rather than civic officials or hired organizers, who have kept this grand old festival alive and meaningful. The event is truly a people’s event and therein is lain the true story of its longevity and rolling success. Generations of proud Prestonians have rallied to the cause, to ensure that each Guild is celebrated in the time honoured fashion. Each Preston Guild is uniquely different from the previous one. My first Guild was the 1952 Guild and I’ve not missed one since. If you’re a Prestonian, you don’t miss a Guild. Ex-pats come home for the Guild from every corner of the globe.
To get some insight into the feeling of the Guild from a Prestonian’s point of view I conclude with a ‘snatch’ from my article, written for the Leyland Morris Men’s website, which I compiled during the 2012 celebrations.
‘Despite the economic gloom, the people of Preston came out in their thousands to support and join in the many 2012 Guild events. It was reported that there were about 70,000 souls and over 70 floats participating in the showpiece torchlight procession, the fourth and last of the four great processions in Guild Week.
‘Huge crowds gathered in Preston for the much anticipated Guild Torchlight Procession. The Lancashire Evening Post reported that “Participants in Saturday’s parade were brimming with excitement right from the very off“.
‘How right they were! The pandemonium of street music intermingled with the noise of thousands of excited voices, as people gathered in great numbers at their starting points along Moor Lane at around 7.30 pm.
‘The procession started with great aplomb and moved through the city centre which was overflowing with thousands of Guild revellers. It was a moving, yet thrilling experience. The team performed with great enthusiasm; urged on by an appreciative audience which thronged the pavements and hung from buildings, taking possession of every vantage point available. The crowds warmed to young Morris Men, Alex Whittaker and Bert Tipping, who will hopefully, help to keep the tradition alive until the next Guild and beyond!’
Proud member and musician of the Leyland Morris team, proud secretary of Charnock Richard Football Club and most of all, proud Prestonian.