Dunmow Flitch Trials entertain crowd

Dunmow Flitch Trials. Picture: Saffron Photo

Dunmow Flitch Trials. Picture: Saffron Photo - Credit: Archant

The Dunmow Flitch Trials took place on Saturday with five couples sportingly allowing themselves to be cross-examined on the state of their marriage.

Those who impressed the jury were presented with a flitch or side of bacon. The couple that didn’t received a gammon.

The court was presided over by Judge Dave Monk, BBC Radio Essex presenter for 30 years and himself in a union which has lasted 34 years.

Three of the barristers were the real thing. The fourth was stand-up comic Steve Bugeja. They all had the couples and the audience of some 400 people laughing throughout, especially at jokes about the referendum.

Monk, dressed in grey wig and blue gown, was a perfect parody of an elderly judge, stumbling onto the stage, pretending to fall asleep and every so often putting on his black cap. When it was discovered during the afternoon that one of the jury, (six maidens and six bachelors of the town, dressed as if for a wedding) was celebrating her birthday, he made the young lady stand up.

As she looked out from under her hat, clutching her posy of flowers, he addressed her gruffly: “Are you Emilie Hood?” “And are you 19 on this day?” Then after remarking that he should have been told, he ordered the court to sing Happy Birthday.

After the jury was sworn in, barrister Jeremy James objected to the female members saying they were too attractive and would distract the judge. His objection was over-ruled.

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This was followed by barrister Daniel Pitt objecting to Mr James saying the picture in the programme was of a young man, and this bearded fellow could not be one and the same. That was over-ruled too.

As the first couple was called, there was an Alice in Wonderland moment when court usher, former Dunmow police inspector Martin Reed cried: “Call Helen and Ralph White” which was echoed about six times from inside and outside the marquee at Foakes Hall.

Each time the jury retired, they were taken away by two former officers from the Met who were made to repeat an oath that they would look after them. Much fun was made of the fact that, even by the third trial, they still couldn’t remember the words.

Three of the couples were from Dunmow, or surrounding villages. The Whites had retired to London, something Bugeja said was remarkable when most people were trying to leave it.

The audience came from as far as Newcastle, Jersey and even China (as part of a school exchange). There was also a pair of previous winners who Monk remembered as having married in Australia, the bride marching down the aisle, “nine months and 32 days pregnant” to the tune of The Archers. They were there with their four-year-old son, Frankie.

As the Judge said, it was a day to celebrate love and bacon.