Tag Archives: Funfair

Smells like Rhyl teen spirit…

 

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I had a conversation with a friend this week and we were talking about the evocative nature of smells which linger on the memory. It got me thinking about the smells associated with growing up in Rhyl…

My first is a general one which most of us shared up until August 1968 and that was the smell of sulphurous, hot oil and coal associated with steam trains stopped in the station at Rhyl. It was the smell of adventures as everyone in those maroon carriages was off somewhere, whilst I was stuck with a 1d platform ticket on the up line of the station. Luckily you can still re-live this in Rhyl by simply popping down to the Rhyl Marine Lake Railway and standing next to the engine before it sets off. Steam engines smell slightly differently today because they no longer have access to the Welsh steam coal which once powered ships across the globe. 260338_10200119901071348_901371961_n[1]

The second is a more distinctly Rhyl smell, that of donkey poo on the beach or on the journey from the beach to their overnight quarters. It was a distinctly fragrant and sweet smell, not, of itself, at all horrible. It whiffed of summer, sun, jelly sandals and ice creams.

 

My third is the smell of fresh baking at Reeds on Vale Road. I well remember popping in regularly for a 1d Hovis mini loaf which had both novelty value and a rich malty texture and smell. It was the essence of the smell of baking for me. I never minded queueing up in Reeds as you got to snort in the baking smell which quickly had you salivating like a dog in a butcher’s shop!  I later graduated to a regular habit of pineapple tarts which were sweet and tangy. I’ve never found any which came close to those from my youth.

You couldn’t think of Rhyl without smelling that concoction of caramelised onions, and candy floss that permeated the length of the west end. It smelt of summer adventures and fun. Possibly if you chose your ride badly at the fair,  the Rotor or the Mad Mouse for example, you might get a second chance to drink in this heady aroma later in the evening.

At the Foryd end of the town on a damp day, the smell of the wet seaweed and the incoming tide with a foamy head was very evocative. I’ve dreamed of that smell and woken up feeling homesick. I missed it greatly when I lived away from Rhyl.

Whenever we had relatives come to stay, which was often, we always ended up walking up the promenade and visiting the Lifeboat House. When the boat and tractor were in and the mechanic was working on them, the smell of the heavy deep blue lubricating oil was a rich smell I’ve only smelt in other Lifeboat stations.

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One of the least pleasant smells I associate with the town comes from the small beach next to the Foryd Bridge. I was drawn there one day, whilst playing along the river (and in the bushes between the river and the Marine Lake, from where my mother had warned me to stay away)  by a horrendous smell. It was the smell of rot and decay, yet I was drawn to it. I found a large tope, a type of shark, some eight foot long with the colour drained away from it so that it was almost indistinguishable from the sand and line of seaweed. It had been caught as a fishing trophy and dumped there once a photograph of the proud fisherman had been taken. What a waste of the life of an awesome fish I thought. It  was both scary and fascinating to be so close to this, by now eyeless, sea monster, the focus for millions of flies.

 

I spent an hour just looking at it and poking it with a stick to ensure it was indeed dead. The tope had probably been there for several days judging by the way the flies were entering a cavity opened up in the gut. There was little chance now that it was  simply sunbathing. Eventually the angry flies and overpowering dank odour drove me away, but I remained fascinated that such a beast had been swimming off the beach of Rhyl.

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Dank odours bring me to another distinctive Rhyl smell… the grotto that was the changing room at the open air pool on the promenade. The smell of wet mortar impregnated with almost fluorescent saturated moss was never forgotten. Those changing rooms were washed down by a firefighter grade hose pipe on a daily basis. The regular soaking the walls received only encouraged the tropical rainforest of moss and wet rot that climbed from the floor to every wall in each of the putrid cubicles. How I now miss that smell and the excitement it heralded.

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Easter Monday at Rhyl Fair!

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Easter Monday was our traditional family visit to the fairs in Rhyl.

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My dad didn’t hold with it as he reckoned the ride owners were testing their rides after the winter break and that they were looking for, and I quote, “local tatty heads to act as ballast on rides that were in the process of being serviced.” I didn’t listen to my dad on this occasion as the visit, led by my indomitable Nain was a family tradition. Nain had led the family to the fair every Easter Monday that I could remember. We went in all weathers with in-dampened enthusiasm, rain showers, high winds, even snow in the Easter of 1963, it didn’t matter.

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The tradition was that we all had half a crown from Nain, which meant we could go on five rides. I tended to be averse to anything that went up high as I had a morbid fear of heights. I always made out that I was saving my money for an extra turn on the dodgems when the others, including my younger cousins went on the Roller Coaster, Mad Mouse and the Rotor.

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Everyone went on the little train around the lake and the sulphuric smell of the well lubricated engines stays with me now as does the impression of the wooden slatted seats in the blue coaches as we wend our way around the Lake, being covered in smuts.

I remember the best Easter was probably the last. Fifty years ago today. My cousins and I gathered in the morning in the clinic field as it was a windy day and we wanted to fly our kites – the craze of 1968 as I remember it.

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Everyone gathered at Auntie Doris’ in Clwyd Ave by lunch-hour and the adults seemed keen to spoil the fun by sitting in the garden chatting endlessly. This state of affairs was only broken when my mum, managed to fall through a deck chair. My first thought was horror. Firstly  that she might be badly hurt as I knew the agony those deckchairs could inflict when I caught my hand in the scissor action of one as it collapsed on itself, as they seemed inclined to do. Secondly I was worried that she would do what she did when she fell over in Vale Road carrying the shopping home from Kwik Save in Queen Street. On that occasion, despite me carrying six bags of shopping  she jumped up and slapped me on the legs saying “Why didn’t you stop me falling!” It was the only time she had hit me and I understood that it was more about embarrassment than anger. Luckily she was unhurt and everyone burst out into a fit of the giggles as the children urged the adults towards the gate and away to the fair.

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Eventually we were there, revelling in the fresh breeze off the sea and the golden sunshine – Sunny Rhyl indeed.

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The rides and stalls transported us in all directions, spinning and whirring us at impossible angles and promising us magnificent prizes in exchange for our expertise with darts, ping pong balls, hoops and air rifles.

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It was all over too soon and we were corralled around the prams of the younger cousins and made our way down the Walk back to O’Hara’s for shared bags of chips. Along Wellington Road we ambled, past the Gas Works where my Taid had worked, past St John’s Church where we had attended the Good Friday service, past the Army Cadet base which seemed so enticing. We passed the new telephone exchange which seemed a picture of the future- all glass and clean lines, and arrived at the old stalwart… Sidolis.

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As every year, we pretended to lick the massive ice cream near the entrance and took possession of a large table  in the corner whilst Mrs Sidoli carefully went through the ritual of making the frothy coffee for the adults whilst the youngsters drooled waiting for their heavenly vanilla ice cream and a part share of two packs of Cadbury’s fingers.

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After half an hour we retraced our steps and made our way over the H bridge to our house in Gwynfryn Avenue. We children played out in the garden with water pistols and tennis balls while the aunties and Nain made the first salad of the year… and bugger the expense. Ham, tomato and cheese  sandwiches never tasted so good.

 

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A Sunday School trip to Rhyl in 1949

Rhyl was a Mecca for the day trip from clubs and works, schools and Sunday schools and the second half of this film shows a Sunday School trip by coach to Rhyl Funfair in 1949… innocent days!

Brynsiencyn (Anglesey) Trip to Rhyl Funfair in 1949

The BFI caption reads:

Members of the Women’s Institute [‘Sefydliad y Merched’] enjoy a fun-day in the village of Brynsiencyn, Anglesey, which includes a drama in fancy dress (including a striking sheep costume), a game with umbrellas and balls, a treasure hunt and refreshments. A local GP records this event – which takes place in a fellow GP’s garden at ‘Llwyn Idris’ – and also the chapel trip to Rhyl to sample the delights of the Marine Lake fairground.

‘Llwyn Idris’ was the home of The Reverend John Williams and his wife and also provided a separate home for his daughter, her husband (GP Dr Alun Griffiths) and their 3 sons. The Women’s Institute fun-day in the garden may have been an annual event. It was some years later that a Welsh-language alternative to the WI was established, after the WI decreed in 1967 that English was its official language. Welsh had traditionally been used in a number of branches in Wales so a break-away movement was formed that would operate in Welsh only as ‘Merched y Wawr’ (Women of the Dawn). Both the WI and MW are still going strong. Many members of the Brynsiencyn WI are seen on the trip to Rhyl, a popular venue for such excursions.

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Rhyl Funfairs 1959

This video encapsulates the Fairs as I remember them from family outings.

Look out for the Gaff… the walkway up between the two fairs where Les Williams had his stall and budgies – I managed to work a week there before succumbing to the flu!

The Satellite, the fast moving rocket ships, was a particular favourite. The Mad Mouse was a particularly vicious ride – see how the riders are jerked around the corners…

Thanks to Michael Theaker who produced this little gem…

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Simpler days: Rhyl Promenade and funfair in 1977…

 

A smashing video from the North Wales Nostalgia group outlining a day out in Rhyl in 1977!

 

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