[From The Manxman, #6 1912]
" I come away built up mentally and physically and with a better conception of men and things."
If you have lived in an English manufacturing town, I daresay you know the "feel of the gasp" to get away from the belching smoke stacks, the bricks and mortar, and, out, into God's great green world, into the unconfines of some far off pasture land wherein one may live that life of breadth and freedom. begot of open spaces, flowering meadow lands, and the scent of wild hawthorn and jasmine, until you shriek because of the joy of living.
But you ask, sir, is this Utopia, or is it really to be had
It is really to be had! thanks to Mr. Cunningham's fertility in evolving and creating his great white Canvas City on the slope land of glorious old Douglas Bay.
I shall endeavour to give you some idea of this charming resort, and life there, although it must of necessity be a very imperfect idea, for like all great things it is "outside" language, and you must be "it" just to feel the pull of it all. Four Whit weeks ago, chancing to read a Magazine article, extolling the advantages of a camping holiday, I had an impulse, and quite by accident, my choice fell on the Cunningham Holiday Camp in the Island of Man. I shall ever give thanks for that impulse, and for that accident. I am fairly strong and was quite prepared to reasonably rough it, therefore I looked forward with the utmost pleasure to my holidays, for as I shall tell you later the realisation in this case at all events, was the absolute consumation of my anticipation and desires. Alas! for we poor mortals, it is not always so.
I crossed to the Island in one of those fine Manx steamers. The day was ideal - a, sun hanging high under an arching canopy of opalescent blue, and Oh! the gentle breeze over the limitless expanse of sea came into my lungs, like the breath of resurrection. On landing, I boarded one of the Camp "Char-a-bancs" and in ten minutes stood outside the entrance to the Camp. Mr. Cunningham was awaiting the "new arrivals," and his face was good to look upon, strong, virile, and kindly. He bade us welcome, with that perfect good-fellowship and bon,homie so characteristic of him, then said "take your bags into your tents and come along to tea."
On emerging from the Hall overlooking the "field," such a vision burst upon my view as I shall never, never, forget-line after line of clean, white, military bell tents, shimmering in the white sunshine, their canvas lazily rippling before the gentle breeze-hundreds of themand underneath, at the foot of the cliff, a sea of glass, and of silver, and beyond was silhouetted the Cumberland hills. With the ceaseless whirr of the loom in my memory, and the busy traffic of a large commercial centre still in my thoughts, the atmosphere mentally produced was balm to my tried nerves.
I went into Camp, quite "on my own," but ere five hours had passed I had made more good friends than I think in all my life previously. In the Camp there is a bond-an indefinable something, which makes for camaraderie and esprit de corp,~, every man gets "his feet," from the sons of M.P.'s, Doctors, and Students, down to the humble pit lad, they were all-gentlemen! My first night under canvas was the most blissful experience yet in my history-cool fresh Manx air circulatng itself in, and out, no draught; and there I lay listening to the gentle soughing of the wind among the tents, and the soft lapp, lapping of the sea on the sands beneath the brow-and so I slept! I awoke at 6 a.m. an already new man. I had forgotten the factory. I was refreshed to juvenility, and so heard the call to live.
I hastily donned an overcoat and repaired me to the large plunge bath (about 90 feet long) wherein I disported myself to my heart's content, and it was good!
Breakfast was served at 8 a.m., and such a breakfast, fit for a King-fresh oaten porridge, plenty of new Manx milk, ham and eggs, an unlimited supply.
Then commenced the day. One of the fellows called out,-Now then, "Manchester," will you join a party to Port Erin? Of course I would. We lined up outside (250 strong), purchased our tickets at the Camp office (and en passant; may I say all fares to campers are about half ordinary), one of the boys brought round Japanese parasols and just a few tin bugles, and so with these emblems of merriment and holiday making we marched in orderly procession to the train.
That first night and day will live as long as I have memory We revelled in the sunshine, we bathed in the briny, and dried ourselves beneath the rays of old King Sol just as our remote ancestors did. Oh, the pleasure of that first day! It was the first of many delightful days, and now after four seasons of living in Mr. Cunningham's Camp, I unhesitatingly say that it is better every time, except for that new fresh day, when everything to me was so surprisingly new.
My subsequent days were spent either laying in camp, or, having a sun bath outside my tent, or walking to the many sylvan nooks which abound in dear old Mainxlaud. And so the days flew by amidst perfect environment, in the company of the very best of fellows, and with no roughing it as I had thought, but rather a life bordering on the luxurious, and all of it lived in God's good fresh air.
The camp "sing song" is one of the important weekly events; there is a good little camp orchestra, and a host of camp talent, and a room (accommodating 2,000 people) full of holiday makers, the fun is fast and furious, and all of it the best possible fun, clean, healthy, and pure.
I have been in camp too, when the wind howled, and the rain poured down, as though the cisterns of the sky had broken up,-I felt nothing of it in my snug little tent.
On these wet days the indefatigable Musical Director works up impromptu smoking concerts, or games are indulged in, or boxing bouts are arranged, so that there is never a dull moment, however unpropitious and inclement the weather may be, and these all under cover of the spacious Recreation Room.
It is quite impossible to adequately furnish any real idea of the life here, for it is so kaleidoscopic, so changing, so varying as to create many new phases in one day, but the garment covering all is a composite of jollity, happiness, health, and entire good feeling!
The good things synonymous with Mr. Cunningham's Camp are abundantly testified to each year by the ever increasing applications for residence there, indeed, I have personally known fellows to say, " Ah ! well if we cannot be taken in camp, we shall not go to the Island this year," not, mark you, because of the extra expense of living in a boarding house, for that they could well afford, but because once under canvas amid such perfect conditions, house living is out of consideration.
I have gone to camp when the whole world held a smile for me, and I have gone, too, when my heart was very heavy, and life seemed to hold but little of good, but whatever my mood or my mental condition, I have always come away built up mentally and physically and with a broader and better conception of men and things, and with a longing for my next holidays and my return, to the dear old Cunningham's Camp, which means so much of joy and everything good to thousands of the Lancashire and Yorkshire boys. C. F. D.
It will be remembered that, last month, I confessed to not knowing as much about the camp as I ought to. Accordingly I asked campers themselves to instruct me by means of a little competition. It was a success, and the foregoing has won. If Mr. Denton will apply to Mr. Cunningham he will receive a ticket for Douglas to Dublin and back. Why not keep the idea up, all the season ? Yes, let campers, go ahead. Incidents of camp life written on postcards will do. Campers' camp "snap-shots" are equally eligible. Will Mr. Arthur Clarke (Sheffield) kindly send us his address?-Ed. " Manxman."
By ARTHUR CLARKE, Sheffield.
Within recent years the idea of spending a holiday, camping in the open has passed from the domain of the fresh air faddist into the sphere of accepted popular opinion of a large proportion of our population. Fresh air and constant contact with God's good blessings, nature, is now the real want of the popular holiday-maker. It is pretty obvious that many difficulties beset the path of the individual who sets out, with limited means, to undertake the cost of buying and rigging up canvas and other items necessary for a perfect fitting of a canvas holiday. The Cunningham Camp provides a person desirous of camping with all he needs in this respect without any inconvenience or trouble on his part. As is well known, holiday makers are not ready to take anything; that is given, and I, like hundreds more, am naturally reluctant to forego accustomed comfort, and when I made up my mind to. .spend my holiday camping I had a dread of hardships I should suffer. This fear might have been true, but from experience I now make a distinction between camp life' and life at Cunningham's Camp.
In the first place private camping entails a certain amount of unavoidable "roughing it" what with a lack of canvas knowledge, and a suitable diet to arrange together with the preparation of meals and the fixing of cumbersome requisites, which means increased cost and especially increased annoyance, ending more often than not with a disappointed canvas holiday. In the second place, persons who have made camping a special study are better able to furnish camping people with what they need than they themselves can do, and I have since found with great pleasure that the Cunningham Camp does this up to the hilt.
The situation of the camp has always struck me; it is ideal, situated as it is high on the slopes of Douglas, overlooking the beautiful and expansive bay, and there among hundreds of the standard size Army Bell Tents we can bask in the sunshine enjoying one of the most extensive views Douglas affords.
The social life at camp I think is one of the best features of many. There are no strangers. English, Welsh, Scotch, and Irish chaps intermingle, and are at once brought in immediate contact with one another not by formal introduction, there is none of that, but by sheer force of common instincts and our common interests. Everybody is sociable, easy and confident, and our, evening sing-songs in the large Theatre, and the popular public weekly concerts, when we are allowed to bring our " sisters " along, certainly proves this to be the case. It is simply impossible for a camper to feel lonely and alone, judging from my experience. Then we have organised drives, motoring, rambling and sailing, and one of the finest privileges we enjoy is the reduced fares on the Tram and Railway Co.'s lines, which is a very great advantage to us all.
As regards the sleeping out, I well remember my parents insisting on my having specially warm clothing on, fearing I should take cold. That was my first time camping. The fear was absolutely baseless. The tents are jolly fine and warm at nights, and should the evenings be particularly chilly, which seems to be rare, extra blankets can be had by asking. I can assure the readers of the " Manxman " that Mr. Cunningham's chief interest is the camper's comfort. In connection with the catering part, I can honestly say it is "par excellence." The tables are abundant and varied, we have three course dinners, and the supply is without limit. And the puddings to us are a sacred speciality, we do tuck into them. Being up-to-date, we have music provided during meal time, playing all the latest popular melodies of Europe and America. If your readers can imagine a hundred large London cafes rolled into one, some idea of the spacious dining room here will be gained.
One of the deepest impressions in my mind of the camp is, the remarkable order and discipline that is maintained, not only within the camp, but without the camp as well. As an honest critic, I say it is remarkable, and speaks well for the good influence Mr. Cunningham and Sons exercise over those for whom they cater. My last word is-the Cunningham Camp is the place for young men. Freedom with discretion is the motto. Fresh air, good food, a ripping time-those are its passwords. Good luck to the camp ! A. C.