You can’t beat the enthusiasm and passion of local volunteers researching the history of their district.
Rhyl History Club comes into that category. They represent the combined wisdom of many years. This is a typical post of theirs…
This terrific photo was posted on Facebook by my old friend Duncan Neild-Siddall, it shows a team of Reso lads ready to play their match on the Rhydwen Close playing fields.
I reckon the picture was taken very early in the sixties, knowing some of the lads on it and the cut of their football kit and boots!
These smiling lads sums up the Reso for me. It seems the blink of an eye from then to now. Alas some of these lads are no longer with us and others will be approaching or in their seventies now.
Bonfire Night was a favourite night of the year as before large organised displays,it was always family affair i the back of our garden. Counsins, uncles and aunties all attended and if we had a visitor staying, they joined in, like the redoubtable Jock Morrison who was managing the shopfitting of Marks and Spencers and was staying from his home in Glasgow. He contributed a large box of fireworks to the proceedings like the one above.
You couldn’t beat Standard Fireworks back in the day. Their box artwork was the stuff of legends and the fireworks seldom disappointed.
It would be agony for all the family to gather, and I used to sit on the top of our brick and concrete shed to see the fireworks of other families as a prelude to our own. We also had to wait for all the dad’s to finish work, come home, wash and change from their work clothes.
There was always a surplus gabardine mackintosh for the guy and a pillow case was filled with straw from the rabbit hutch to form a face. Being a strong socialist household, the guy was always pictured as a Tory politician. I can just remember Sir Alec Douglas Home and Ted Heath crackling away.
Before the fire was started my mum and aunties would prepare the evening’s food. Potatoes were placed in the oven to bake, there was a heady smell of sausages grilling and onions frying and a massive pan of tomato soup to which my mum added some milk and pepper. The finger rolls covered both the hot dogs and the dunking bread for the soup which was served in a pair of last Christmas’ paper drinking cups. Two paper cups ensured that we didn’t burn ourselves with the steaming soup. I remember them having a blue Dresden type design which seemed unsuitable for Christmas or Bonfire night, but that didn’t matter because they were serviceable enough, and would go to waste otherwise.
The adults, usually my dad, lit the fireworks and there was a chain of command of us children along whom was passed each firework. This stretched the proceedings out to cover for the lack of fireworks but also gave each child time to contemplate the coming delights. We knew the Standard Firework range intimately and could tell what each firework would entail.
The box of Standard Fireworks illustrated was available in the early sixties. By the end of the decade, several of them had been banned as being too dangerous for public use. Examples of such fireworks included the Jumping Jack ( my brother Graham’s favourite ). This was effectively a ribbon of gunpowder filled paper pleated together with cotton such that each pleat would explode individually and propel the jumping jack in whatever direction it chose. These caused mayhem in the garden as us children tried to anticipate the next direction of travel. It was an errant jumping jack which led to the fireworks being kept in the shed and distributed to my father one at a time as in a previous year a jumping jack landed in a small box of fireworks carelessly left on the ground and managed to ignite them all simultaneously. The display was intense but short-lived.
There was a story that a Jumping Jack had landed down one of my distant auntie’s fur-lined boot and had continued to explode – doing untold burn damage to her leg. Perhaps it was a story told to keep us from buying the Jumping Jack as a loose firework in the weeks leading up to Bonfire Night.
The Aeroplane featured above, was also to be banned. This looked a fairly innocuous firework of diminutive size and with a short cardboard wing with RAF roundels on it. When lit it spun into the air and flew at random angles at tremendous speed until all the gunpowder was used up. Auntie Doreen had once hid herself in the outside toilet when this firework was announced, only to find the errant Aeroplane taking off, leaving the confines of the garden and returning in a flight of increasingly obtuse angles until it entered the outside toilet in the small gap at the bottom of the wooden door. Auntie Doreen always stayed indoors to watch the fireworks after that, waving serenely, like the queen as we oohed and aahed in the cold air of the garden.
The cone-shaped fireworks went by names like Hell’s volcano or Vesuvius and burned with an angry intensity , often producing a fierce display of lava which flowed down the sides. As quickly as they started, they fizzled out, leaving just the molten lava glowing in the night air.
The Roman Candles were sedate fireworks that occasionally changed colour from red to yellow to green, which was not unlike the similar traffic lights. However, we tended to prefer the fireworks which projected fireballs into the air with noisy abandon.
The most enigmatic firework was always the Catherine Wheel. The white circular firework was meant to be pinned securely to a wooden post allowing it to rotate freely and with increasing speed as the gunpowder expended itself. It was an unpredictable cove and one year it would stay still and simply consume itself, another it would fall from the post and convulse on the ground. Probably the best Catherine Wheel display was that provided by my mother when my dad was delayed by being on the late shift. It span freely and for an extended period before being consumed in flames. Unfortunately my mum had pinned it to the shed door and it had removed and burned a neat spiral into the paintwork. I remember thinking it was not me for once who had done something so daft!
The ground firew0rks were usually punctuated with rockets of ever greater girth. The sixpenny ones were often fired in volleys from a succession of milk bottles, half buried in the soil which had held the peas and beans in the summer. The formal part of the display always concluded with the launch of the largest five shilling rocket and we all cheered as it exploded with a resounding roar.
The fun was not over though, my dad would pass me a rake and I was told to spread out the embers of the bonfire so that it could be used to finish off the baked potatoes. As the adults made their way back into the house to open the party sevens of Watney’s Red Barrel, or to sample a Snowball or two or a Cherry B, the elder members of my cousins abandoned the rake and went fire-walking through the embers in our wellies – daring each other to see who could withstand the glutinous heat which was melting our rubber boots.
Soup, hot dogs and baked potatoes finished, there just remained the cavalcade of sparklers. We were all lined up and given a giant sparkler and processed one by one to the gas stove to light it and then our of the door and into the garden to dance and scream making neon versions of our names and rude words which were burnt into our retinas and remain there to this day. Invariably, one child would get burned by a sparkler – usually by holding it in an ungloved hand or returning to the dying sparkler to see how hot it still was rather than dunking it in the bucket of sand provided for safety.
Bonfire Night often ended on a bit of a damp squib, not least for the person burnt that year but the real agony was that it would be a year before we would gather again for such an illuminating spectacle!
These two pictures encapsulate the promenade of my youth and form a backdrop to events in the Reso…
I’m unsure how this shot was made – either a helicopter or giant crane would explain it! To the left is the 100 yard Swimming baths and between there and the Royal Floral Hall are the notorious, dank, cold mouldy changing rooms. The white area jutting into the pool opposite the diving boards were where the Miss Rhyl competitions were held in the summer. The locals tended to congregate at the far end of the pool near the fountain… which meant walking in agony over the loose tarmac along the side of the pool.
Beyond the far end of the pool was Uncle Eric’s – where you could ride clapped out bicycles and tricycles or swing on the double ended swings for a few pennies. You can see the ramp just in front of the Lifeboat House where the waterproofed tractor used to drag the lifeboat out to deeper water on a caterpillar tracked sled.
Just beyond the lifeboat house were the chalets that could be rented out in the summer to give all day access to the beach – it was in one of them that I was introduced to baked beans and sausages in the same can! All cooked on a two ring Burco electric oven by Auntie Doris!
On the distant right is the Alexandra Hospital which started life as a Children’s sanatorium… part funded by the Grosvenor family from the winnings of the Horse Flying Fox – which is why a Flying Fox appears as a weather vane over the hospital!
Near the East Parade Road were a series of “illuminations” – nothing to compare with Blackpool though. Rhyl was an early centre of capital – I doubt that our illuminations amounted to more that 500 watts of coloured lights – shining through Disney characters and illuminated animals for about 100 yards of the front!
The rest of the East Parade, the more salubrious end of the Promenade was made up of large residences and bed and breakfast establishments.
Probably taken on the same day as the previous photograph is this view of the West Parade. Nearest the camera are the greens and to the right the Clwyd Ices booth “Often Licked – Never Beaten!”
The lorry is on the sloped access to the beach which was effectively an extension of High Street, so that holidaymakers could stream in a straight line from the railway station or Vale Road Coach Park onto the beach. The dark brick building near the lorry are the toilet block and hidden in the shadows in front of them was a large sea mine, painted red which was a donation box “for those in peril on the sea!” Just out of sight was the multi-coloured booth of Professor Green, Rhyl’s Punch and Judy maestro.
Next comes the Rhyl Silver Band bandstand – the band continue to go on today, thankfully!
The oval of treacherous grey gravel is the cycle track where unwitting young holidaymakers often came to grief and ended up in the First Aid dressing station.
The red pagoda roof is one of the beachside café and beyond that is the roller skating rink. This was another generator of trade for the First Aid post!
Then the crowning glory, and most distinctive building along the North Wales Coast – Rhyl Pavilion. It was an impressive building in the day, but was magical at night when a succession of coloured lights played upon it. The white dome was over-painted in the War to avoid offering a distinctive landmark to German bombers targeting Liverpool docks. The Pavilion hosted all the big name entertainers of the day as well as regular circuses. It has been a subject of great anger in the town that the building was demolished in the early seventies. The popular story was that the dome was condemned because it had cracks in it. The dome was actually sound, as was proved when, during the demolition the dome fell to the ground in one piece. It was actually the supports for the dome which were fatigued and deemed beyond economic repair. A sad end to an iconic and much-loved building on which my Taid, as a floor-layer, had had a part in the construction, just after the turn of the century.
Beyond the Pavilion, and hidden from view, was a large paddling pool (often called the piddling pool) and a boating lake. Beyond that was the Coliseum Theatre, originally open air and latterly covered which housed the Pierrot troops of entertainers like Billie Manders (a female impersonator) who provided slightly risqué family entertainment variety shows. In its later years the Coliseum always seemed to be hosting a production”On Ice” – how they managed to refrigerate the stage there was beyond me!
The large houses to the left are the main holiday accommodation of the town – which extended into all the side streets leading away from the beach. One of these was Edward Henry Street, in which L.S. Lowry stayed and painted scenes of the town whilst on holiday from Salford. This section of the promenade was also famous for the slot palaces and Bingo – the haunt of many a Rhyl lad trying to beat the odds with a well placed nudge!
Where the beach meets the road in the far distance was the Ocean Beach funfair and beyond that the Harbour from which boat trips of the bay could be purchased. Rhyl ended at the Foryd Bridge, as did the county of Flintshire to which Rhyl belonged at this time.
The wooden and loose stone groyne marked the pathway into the harbour – the largest ships entering were timber ships from Norway and the Baltic, which fed the premises of Charles F Jones – joiners and carpenters in a large building on the harbour. A single goods line made its way to the harbour off the Clwyd Valley line and there was usually at least one 16 ton coal wagon near the small goods crane on the edge of the harbour.
This side of the groyne was also the site of the sewage outlet pipe and some very murky water tended to congregate there – I once had to rescue my brother from some dubious bathing at this point!
Tape Community Film and Music, based in Colwyn Bay, have been working on community filming projects in Rhyl for some time and have been good friends of the Reso. Neil Dunsire of Tape has led the way with the Rhyl Reflections film project.
Stuey is the son of one of the lads I grew up with on the Reso and he is a great mine of information and enthusiasm for all things Rhyl.
Here is a testimonial for the Rhyl Reflections Community Film Project which he has been involved with for some time…