Tag Archives: Wales

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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Rites of passage: Mumps

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I came across this forlorn picture of me hidden in some old family photos.

It was October 1965. I am standing in our best room at Gwynfryn Avenue with the floral curtains closed in the daytime to keep out the light. I hardly recognise myself.

I am recovering from Mumps – which explains my chubby features – I look like Fatty Arbuckle! It is a few days after my birthday on the 9th. I’d spent the whole day in bed, in a darkened room, too ill to get up. In the late afternoon of an unmemorable day, Auntie Doris had come round with a big bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate and I’d been too ill to eat it.

I can remember my mum closing the curtains to take this picture, fearful that I might suffer blindness as a side effect of the Mumps if I was exposed to bright light.

I remember the metallic scrape of the wheels of the curtain fitments on the metal curtain pole, encased in the wooden pelmets my dad had made to neatly contain the poles.

I remember the all too comfortable winceyette striped pyjamas. They matched the winceyette sheets of my bed, which made it real torment to get up some mornings as it was too comfortable. I remember the heavy itchiness of the tartan dressing gown, with it’s silky cord that made me look like a young Sherlock in a smoking jacket. I seem to remember all the lads on the estate had one similar which was only used on the coldest of mornings, or when we were ill.

I must have been feeling better as this was the day I polished off the half pound bar of Cadbury’s chocolate – it tasted fantastic after not having eaten for the best part of a week.

I remember it all as if it were yesterday.

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The last day of operation of Rhyl Signal Box, Friday March 23rd 2017.

For those of you who never had the experience of visiting Rhyl’s signal Box (and I am unfortunately in that category) Alan Roberts gives a silent walk through of the box which lies just beyond Platform 1 and before the Grange Road Bridge. It backs on to the car park.

You get some impression of how important Rhyl was as a railway site from the number of levers in the box. The red levers control signals, as does the yellow lever – which covers a distant signal (traditionally a yellow semaphore signal with a black band and a notch cut in the end. The black levers control points and blue ones control facing point locks. The white levers are signals that have been taken out of operation.

When you consider that there was a second box at the other end of platform 1 of a similar size which controlled the old engine shed and the sidings, as well what was until the late sixties a four track mainline,  you get some impression of the complexity and responsibility that the signalmen and women had to control.

Alan Roberts, a Rhyl signalman, and Adrian Schofield, took these pictures on the last day of operation at the box on Friday 23rd March 2018. Alan worked the 0600 to 1800 shift.

Over the weekend all the old semaphore arms will be taken out of use and the lines will in future be controlled by the coloured light signals shown in the final picture.

Thank you Alan, and  all your colleagues who have kept this section of track safe over the years.

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The end of the line (or at least the signals!)

Since it opened in 1848, the North Wales line has been controlled from signal boxes, spaced every few miles along the coast. The line has enjoyed a very good safety record thanks to the efforts of these signalmen and women.

On Friday 23rd March 2018, all this history comes to an end as the signal boxes will be finally switched out, to be replaced by one of the regional signal boxes. Eventually all the lines in the UK will be controlled by just 10 boxes.

I’d just like to thank all those who have provided for our safety over the years.

I’ve always been fascinated by what happened in those boxes, the pulling of levers, the ringing of bells. I remember when Rhyl had large gantries of signals by the Grange Road and H bridge . These could be seen for miles and would be in action every few minutes in summertime. Rhyl No 1 and Number 2 boxes were responsible for them and all the movements in the shed, carriage shed and the yard.

Robin Harrison has put together this video, based on some of the local signal boxes.

 

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Trains on the North Wales Coast in 1907

I’ve posted a number of items to do with railways in Rhyl – a little further west for this delight from 1907. Thanks to Gwyn Jones for sharing…

Trains on the North Wales Coast 1907

 

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