The "Carrusel de Mallorca", the greatest fun fair in Majorca
When it comes to Spanish words, it is said that the origin of "tiovivo" is among the most curious. The story goes back to 1834 and to Madrid. Along the Paseo de las Delicias was an attraction - it was a carousel, a merry-go-round. The local children all loved this carousel, and numbered among them - supposedly - was María Isabel Luisa de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias. By 1834 she was the queen of Spain - Isabel II - but she was only four years old. Her mother, Maria Cristina, was therefore the queen regent.
One Esteban Fernández operated this carousel. An apparently kindly soul, he was known as "tío Esteban", Uncle Stephen. In that year, 1834, there was an outbreak of cholera. Hundreds of people died. Uncle Stephen was one of them. Or was he? On the way to the cemetery, friends were startled, nay terrified. Some of them ran off, as Esteban had risen up and announced: "¡Estoy vivo (I'm alive)!" Such was the power of this tale that "tió" and "vivo" came to be combined. "Tiovivo" is a carousel or merry-go-round.
In Palma, the Easter fun fair lasts for two months. It started at the end of February. The Fira del Ram is one of Majorca's grand attractions, and you can't miss it, given its location of the Son Fusteret showground by the motorway. The fair dates back either to 1459 or around one hundred years later, and its existence owes everything to Saint Veronica of Jerusalem and the Veil of Veronica, referred to in Spanish as Santa Faz, the Holy Face (of Jesus).
A sculpture of Veronica was brought to Majorca, and this image used to be brought out on three days a year. One of them was Palm Sunday or Diumenge de Rams, and it was to prove to be the most popular of the three days among the faithful. As a result, and over time, a fair formed. Stalls appeared. They sold food and craft. By the eighteenth century, the favourite product on sale was the siurell figurine.
The popularity was such that the fair had to be moved from its original location by the monastery of Santa Margarita. Towards the end of the nineteenth century it was on La Rambla, and it was here that the tiovivo entered the equation. The first merry-go-round in Majorca was an instant success. The small children of Palma were as delighted as the young Isabel had been in the cholera-stricken Madrid of 1834. Businesspeople from the mainland, Catalonia in particular, recognised the opportunity. Merry-go-rounds were shipped over, and thus the fun fair in Majorca came into being.
The subsequent history of fun fairs on the island is decidedly patchy. Even with the Fira del Ram it is largely confined to the further relocations - by the Cathedral, on the Llevant estate and now Son Fusteret. But contained within this largely unchronicled history is the fun fair that once upon a time was in Playa de Palma.
Ses Fontanelles is a wetland area that has been at the centre of a controversy over the development of a commercial centre (shopping mall and more) for years. In 1972 the announcement was made of the opening of the "Carrusel de Mallorca". It was in Ses Fontanelles and the publicity described it as the greatest "parque de atracciones" (fun fair, if you like) in Majorca. It was open all year and had seventeen rides of one form or another, such as the Giant Eight and the Girasol, as well as a children's train, part of which was on two levels. There were eighty stalls, with candy floss widely available, and sixteen ticket kiosks.
The Fontanelles fun fair was notable for the fact that it was a venture which involved a British interest. And this came in the form of James (Jimmy) Lord Corrigan, who - it is reasonable to assume - was the same Jimmy Corrigan who had an amusement complex in Scarborough and was responsible for the Batley Variety Club.
A millionaire, Corrigan died in 2000, his fortune apparently having been lost. He has, unfortunately, been named in connection with Jimmy Savile, but that is not a story for here. For the purposes of Majorca and its fun fair history, he was part of a venture that had been driven by local hoteliers to create a permanent tiovivo and much more. It was a failure, partly perhaps because it was open all year. Winter wind and cold were not conducive to all the fun of the fair.
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