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

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Anonymous said...

May I suggest you put an acknowledgement as to where the information came from concerning this article and perhaps ask permission first!

Phil said...

I assume the original sources were Alderman E.E. Dye, J.P. (Mayor 1933/4) and John Todd. I was given the interview notes by a direct descendant of Donkey John's with full permission to publish them. I assumed this was sufficient for words that were spoken nearly 80 years ago. Apologies if I've missed someone out, and if you can enlighten me I will be pleased to correct the situation.

Anonymous said...


Then their original doesn't have the same names mentioned as the original in front of me and their original written in 1933 has John died on March 2nd 1939 R.I.P. does it - or was theirs written in 2007 when a mistake was made when transcribing the names?

Phil said...

Yes, really anonymous! I have no idea who transcribed it, or when it was transcribed. It came to me with a bundle of documents from the family, including the photograph published with the article.

However, your comments suggest that either you transcribed it or you know who did. If this is the case, did you or the transcriber seek permission from the family to publish the words of their ancestors as I did? There are no acknowledgements on the piece of paper in front of me.

I have not claimed any credit for the interview as I was not around in the 1930s. All I have done is place it in the public domain, with the family's permission, for the enjoyment and benefit of others. If there was any mention on the document as to its origin I would have been pleased to acknowledge whoever produced it. As I have clearly stated on this blog, I am not a historian or a researcher, but I do believe Ramsgate's history belongs to the people of Ramsgate and should be shared with them.