Mayor of Ramsgate interviews "Donkey John"

An interview by: His Worship the Mayor of Ramsgate

'To-night we have with us Old John Todd of Ramsgate, The Veteran Donkey King of Ramsgate Sands.'

Mayor - Well, John, you've been on Ramsgate Sands with your donkeys for a very long time?
John - Yes, Sir, for over sixty years, I've had my donkeys and my boys helping me.

Mayor - Let me see, you've got five sons in the donkey business?
John - Yes, Sir, five sons.

Mayor - There's quite a big family of you altogether?
John - Five sons, two daughters, 35 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild born this week, Sir.

Mayor - And during the war all your sons were in the Army?
John - Yes, all five of them and two sons-in-law, and they all came back safe. And I had the donkeys myself for four years of the War when they were away. They help me now, Sir, all of them.

Mayor - I believe all your sons have names out of the Bible – haven’t they?
John - Yes. John, Moses, Abraham, Jacob and Aaron.

Mayor - How many donkeys have you?
John - 14 at present, Sir. One died last week. They're out in the country at Wingham. I used to have 20.

Mayor - Where do you get your donkeys from?
John - From Ireland. I buy them in London. The last time I was in London was eight years ago and I walked back all the way to Ramsgate, driving the donkeys.

Mayor - Quite a long walk. How long did it take you?
John - Two days. I set off at 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

Mayor - You've seen a lot of changes on the Sands in your time?
John - Yes, I remember the old bathing vans and Mrs. Penny, the old bathing woman, before we had any motor cars. We had good days then. When the Sons of Phoenix came to Ramsgate they rode on my donkeys and it was better than a Bank Holiday. And now we having a big new bathing pool.

Mayor - And if I remember right your sons have rescued several bathers from drowning?
John - Yes, and once they brought a dead boy back to life.

Mayor - A dead boy?
John - Well, nearly dead, Sir. The doctor said he was dead but they revived him with rubbing him with hot water.

Mayor - I suppose now, John, you re very proud you're still Donkey King of Ramsgate Sands?
John - I feel twenty years younger. Thanks to the kindness of the Council who've let me carry on. I'll be at Ramsgate Sands this summer and I hope all the ladies and gentlemen will come and ride on my donkeys.

Interview conducted by His Worship the Mayor of Ramsgate, Alderman E.E. Dye, J.P. (1933/4)

John Todd - Ramsgate Donkey King - died 2nd March 1939. R.I.P.

"Donkey" John Todd is on the left

For more on Old Ramsgate visit:

St Lawrence Caves

This picture is of St Lawrence Smugglers Caves, but the name St Lawrence has been used all over the town, including the railway station along the seafront, which was once known as St Lawrence by the Sea Station. Ramsgate is riddled with tunnels and caves, do you know where the Smugglers Caves are?

A further 30 photos have been added to the album at the Ramsgate History website plus some interesting reading in the Forum section about Ramsgate's airfields at Nethercourt, Pyson's Road and Manston. 

Memories of St George's School

My memories of my days at St: George’s School.

In 1936 some of us boys were told to attend at this school to sit an examination. Those who obtained the necessary marks were then selected to attend at either Chatham House, St George’s or Ellington to continue their schooling when the next term started the following September. I passed for St: George’s and that was at that time in School Road, it was a long building with the boys at one end and the girls the other. It extended through to School Lane at the rear with no form of entrance or exit in the high wall there. Another high wall separated the two yards at the back but there was a communal Hall between the two schools inside with a door at each end to allow each school to use the Hall, at different times of course, for morning assembly and P T classes. I think there were even curtains on the inside of each door.

The first day there, we found ourselves with other lads from other parts of the town and we were then selected to be part of either A or B streams .... 

Smugglers at Ramsgate

I'm not sure if this event is about Ramsgate of old or current activities, but it sounds interesting:

Smugglers and Spirits at Belgian Cafe

Wrap up warm for some spine-tingling tales as you join storyteller, Emily Parrish, on this spooky storytelling walk.

Saturday 10th April 7pm

Meet outside the Belgium Cafe, Harbour Parade, Ramsgate

Tickets £3 on arrival
Duration approx 45mins. Not suitable for very young children

Contact or call Emily on 07890 112 574 for further details

Your Town Needs YOU



How well do you know King Street? Alleged to have had thirteen pubs at one time, King Street was obviously one of Ramsgate's more lively areas. Take a walk up the street with us and see what you can remember.

We've only found twelve of the pubs, perhaps you can help find the missing den of iniquity.

Click HERE to take the tour

Historical Pageant in Ellington Park

Ramsgate received its Royal Charter on the 2nd of April 1884. 50 years later in 1934 the town celebrated its Jubilee of Incorporation with a Historical Pageant in Ellington Park. Many of our older residents will remember this event, and many took part in it.

From the local paper:


From Our Special Correspondent:

On a lawn in Ramsgate, within sound of the sea, 3,000 people are recapturing the spirit of England. This town has been a borough for 50 years, and its historical pageant, the full dress rehearsal of which took place today, is being performed as part of the Charter Jubilee celebrations next week.
But, with its intimate setting in Ellington Park, it might more truly be the Pageant of "All the Great Little Cities of this Country and the Sturdy Characters That made Them"
The setting is small enough for the dialogue to be audible-a great achievement on the part of the director, Mr. Edward Baring, and the producer, Mr. Nugent Monck, of the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich.
Immediately, good acting becomes possible and when Hengist, in the person of Councillor A. B. C. Kempe (but lately re¬proved by the Mayor for appearing in the Council Chamber in the full uniform of a Saxon warrior), waves his sword and cries, "We'll take thy service, Sire, and utterly destroy thine enemies!" it is the eternal Englishman who speaks and not merely a puppet in the midst of a vast field.
There is room, also, for the music to be heard clearly. English history has always marched to it, and many contemporary tunes, from the famous "Summer is icumen in" to the stately pavan "The Earl of Salisbury," and the sprightly mid-Victorian polka, "Ramsgate Sands," are included in the eight episodes.
The pageant will be formally opened next Monday by the Lord Mayor of London, and fifteen Mayors of Kent will accompany him. On the five succeeding days it will be opened by other famous personalities, including the Archbishop of Canterbury on Friday, Field-Marshal Viscount Allenby on Thursday, and by the Marquess of Reading, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, on the final day. Saturday.

Councillor (later Mayor) A.B.C. Kempe took any opportunity to publicise the event.
Here he's dressed as Hengist

From the St Georges School Centenary Booklet in 1964:

In July, 1934, the town presented a historical pageant in Ellington Park as part of its Charter Jubilee Celebrations.
St. George's took its full share in this, all the Staff being in the Victorian Episode and many girls remember helping to form the crowds in most episodes and in the Prologue procession. Mrs. Bullock also played an Ancient Briton and had to dash home (fortunately near the Park), remove all her woad and stain and be back in crinoline and poker bonnet for Episode 7.
For months beforehand the Needlework room was a hive of activity, the young performers making their own costumes under the direction of Mrs. Clamp, who was Costume Mistress for the Saxon Episode.
Miss Armstrong was on the Pageant, Lecture and Entertainment Committees and Miss Alexander arranged the Folk dancing display during the week.
The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of London and 17 Kentish Mayors came to the first performance of the pageant, of which the press notice said, "Everyone from the principals to the most remote and youngest members of the massed performers gave of their best and gave it willingly ".

Do you, your parents, or even your grandparents have any pictures or memories of this event. Do you know what the story line was? We would love to hear from you if you can help.

For more on old Ramsgate visit

Do you remember Henekeys?

Do you remember Henekeys? Positioned in the centre of town this must have been a favourite watering hole of many until it was destroyed by fire in the 1960's. Do you have any recollections of the pub or any photos? Do you know anything about Nethercourt Airfield, or the Cannon Inn at St. Lawrence? These topics and many others would benefit from your input on the new Forum at

We’ve tried to make the Forum as easy as possible to use and you don’t need to register to reply or set up new topics. Please help us to preserve your knowledge of our town by sharing your recollections, and we’ll try to help solve any mysteries you have.

There’s much more at the website including nearly 400 photos of old Ramsgate, links to over 40 videos, maps and online research aids. Please pay us a visit at

Mysterious Local Business

This Old Ramsgate photo (click on it to enlarge) is a mystery as I can't find the business listed in any of the directories published by Michael's Book Shop. Can anyone help out with the date, location and any other info?

For more of old Ramsgate visit