At some point every Dales village needs to raise funds, whether it’s for repairs to the church roof, village hall, or community group. Many different and creative activities take place, from festivals to village fetes, but there’s rarely a month without a raffle or tombola. That’s when Basil or Betty shine, quietly and without fuss.
In every village there’s someone who knows where the raffle books are, who has a spare book ready just in case. This person usually has their own special basket for putting the raffle tickets in, ready for the draw. They have a system for folding up the tickets nice and tight, lightning fast when there’s a queue to buy them. They have infinite patience when it comes to encouraging people to give prizes or helping winners pick a prize.
They’re the ones who can remember whether you put the 0s or another number into the tombola barrel. They remember how the numbers go on the prizes. When an event takes place, they’re poised and ready to deal with the queue, knowing the tombola is always one of the most popular events. They probably organised the making and purchase of the village tombola barrel years ago too.
Basil is our local King of the Raffle and Tombola. Unfailingly cheerful and fun to be with, he presides over each event. He has a sideline too as the Keeper and Teller of Many Local Stories, winding stories that cut across decades and dynasties. I often wonder how many thousands of pounds he must have raised over the years for so many different causes? How many tickets has he sold, how many chirpy conversations has he had as a result of his task?
So this is just a quick thank you to the Basil or Betty in every Dales village. The church roof, the local clubs, the children, the adults you’ve helped to support over the years appreciate you.
If you’re a visitor to the Dales and see an event with a raffle or tombola, please dig deep, buy plenty of tickets and have a chat.
As I write this, I've reflected on the prizes I’ve won. There are certain ‘gifts’ that appear at each event, that are won and then maybe re-donated to the next event, re-appearing regularly until they finally find a lucky owner who truly appreciates them. There are other prizes that can seem incredibly generous, perhaps guiltily donated by some-one who actually meant to bake a cake for the sale and ran out of time. And then there are the prizes that are just a little bizarre, maybe retrieved from the back of a cupboard somewhere and hastily added to the donation pile. I think my oddest win ever was a huge bottle of Head and Shoulders dandruff shampoo – for greasy hair…
I also wondered about the origin of the word 'tombola'. It means 'somersault 'in Italian which makes sense when you think of the tombola barrel. It was the name of board game in Southern Italy and a lotto game in Northern Italy, and was probably brought to England by Italian emigrees.