This short film, by my reckoning, was made from the balcony of the Pavilion Theatre, looking east into the Pavilion Gardens, which, when I was a lad, had developed into the roller skating rink and cycle track in the background. I have happy, but cold memories, of Sunday afternoons spent in the sun shelters on the beach side of this photograph with my girlfriend! Come to think of it, the time between this film and my teenage romance and between the romance and now is roughly the same. How quickly time passes and how we fritter it away!
Everyone seems in their Sunday best – there was a tradition of Rhyl dads wearing a suit and tie when walking on the promenade, which seems very formal by today’s standards. I can remember an adult saying to me on the promenade,
“Are you American sonny?”
To which I replied, somewhat caught unawares, “No!”
The quick riposte was “Then get your bloody hands out of your pockets and smarten up!”
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!
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.
I wasn’t sure whether to use this film to highlight the 1920s Rhyl Promenade or another of the Variety Troups who were a regular feature of Rhyl’s seaside entertainment from Victorian times until the 1950s.
Some great shots of the promenade and the extent of the sand hills in the East End at this date. The BFI caption has a mention of friend of the site Colin Jones, who runs a great Rhyl blog, reads:
“After you have seen this Picture, you will want to visit this Popular Health Resort’ declares the title-frame – and the two (male) Jovial Jesters company members certainly put life and soul into playing the eponymous ‘Mr and Mrs Jones’ having a high old time of it, larking about and viewing the delights of Rhyl vertiginously from atop their charabanc as it trundles along the seafront.
According to Colin Jones’s ‘Rhyl Life’ online blog, Gilbert Rogers’s Jovial Jesters appeared in Rhyl during summer seasons from 1907 until the 1920s, occupying the minstrel pitch on the sands opposite High Street. In this film made by the Shannon Film Company for Rhyl Advertising Association, the parts of Mr and Mrs Jones are played by Hardy Palm and Harry Fife, clad in jesters’ attire and (Mrs Jones) Welsh shawl and tall hat. Other Jovial Jesters appear too – acting drunk on the charabanc and performing on a beachfront stage – the whole spectacle attracting quite a crowd of spectators.”
There was a long tradition of seaside variety troupes of entertainers who performed comedy, dance a musical numbers and sketches.
May troupes spent the whole summer season in a single resort a in Rhyl the Coliseum a Gaiety Theatre would often house them.
Probably the most famous Rhyl company was that run by Billie Manders, but amongst the earliest was the Merrie Men. This short film dates from 1899!