30th Anniversary of our New Pavilion Theatre (and remembering our old ones)

From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

It is 30 years since the opening night of the New Pavilion Theatre. The occasion was billed as “First Night on the Prom” and was held on Wednesday, September 25th 1991. Mr Ednyfed Williams was the compère for the evening which featured Rhyl Youth Choir, Iwan Davies (Tenor), Clwyd Singers, Glenys Roberts (Soprano), Gay Harris Dancers, Point of Ayr Colliery Band and Trelawnyd Male Voice Choir. A welcome song (D. Hughes Jones) introduced the evening and was sung by Rhyl Youth Choir, conducted by Jefferson Thomas.

The original Grand Pavilion had been opened exactly 100 years earlier in September 1891, to read more about this click here
This pavilion was lost to fire in 1901.

The Grand Pavilion

A new pavilion for Rhyl was built in 1908 and demolished in 1974.

It was described in the 1991 Programme by Gwynedd Parry (the first President of Rhyl History Club):

“It was built in 1908 in less than six months at a cost of £16,500, seating just over 1000 people. The outstanding feature of the building was the huge centre dome; nowhere in Wales had such a span of ceiling been built without supporting pillars.
My earliest memory of this New Pavilion, as a young lad, was the Boxing Day Eisteddfod held there, which attracted hordes of enthusiastic competitors to this Mecca of culture; soloists, choirs and elecutionists etc. One local elecutionist during World War 1 became famous for her patriotic rendering of a poem entitled “Stick it to the Welsh”! The man responsible for founding and producing this great event was Mr W. Parry, the School Attendance Officer, who was the kindest, mildest character you could imagine, and a prominent member of the Welsh Baptist Chapel. The outbreak of WW11 sadly ended all this effort.

The Pavilion did a great service for Rhyl in so many ways; for example; the May Day Festival, culminating in the crowning of the May Queen. Nowhere but the Pavilion could stage such a Grand Finale to accommodate the scores of children taking part in the Festival
Top International artistes graced the stage at Sunday night concerts; Paderwski, Dame Nellie Melba, Mark Hambourg, Rosina Buckman, Clara Butt, Albert Sammons and more recently Dame Myra Hess under the aegis of Rhyl Music Club, which put on many superb events. And of course we have happy memories of our own Emlyn Williams and David Lloyd.

The Pavilion was filled and thrilled to hear performances by the Rhyl and District Choir of “Messiah”, “Elijah”, and other oratories. Then there were the “Musicals!”, The Garden of Allah, No, No, Nanette, The Belle of New York, Rose Marie, The Girl Friend etc. The Manchester Rep. was billeted here in WW11 and charmed us with their excellent performances. The Operatic Society and The Liberty Players never failed to give of their best.

Many of the artistes and titles I have named will hardly be known by this generation, but in their day they were as well known as today’s Pavarotti, Cliff Richards, Tom Jones, the Beatles or Morecombe and Wise.

One never to be forgotten appearance on this, the largest stage in North Wales, was a diminutive figure, and it was simply his entrance which electrified the packed audience. It was David Lloyd George at a pre-election meeting. The memory still lingers.

When in 1974 the Pavilion was demolished everyone in the town felt bereft, it was like losing a dear friend. Today, out of the ashes there has arisen the New Theatre. Let us wish it success and prosperity as we launch into the future.”

The programme continued with a welcome message from Councillor F.P. Selby, the then Mayor of the Borough of Rhuddlan, a photograph of the Theatre Manager Giles Ballisat and pen portraits of the performers.

2021 update – Unfortunately the main water tank in the New Pavilion Theatre burst in July of this year which left the 1891 restaurant severely damaged, and the box office, lobbies and toilets also damaged. There is no current date for reopening but we all look forward to our lovely restaurant and theatre re-opening in the not too distant future.


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A request for your memories

photo credit: Simon Robinson Go Home On A Postcard • Vintage seaside photography (wordpress.com)

Can you help? Or do you know someone who could? ITV Wales television is making a social history series exploring the much loved local landmarks that have disappeared from our landscape.
They will be featuring Rhyl’s pier and the Pavilion building, both of which were dismantled in the 1970s.  If anyone would like to appear in the series, to share memories or personal connections with either the pier or the Pavilion, then please feel free to contact the series’ producer Carwyn Jones.  His email address is:  carwyn.jones@itv.com

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My Search for the Flying Fox

Readers of this blog may remember a post written a few years ago about the fascinating story of Flying Fox which is proudly displayed above the Royal Alexandra Hospital. to read this article again click here.

Mr Rodney McCully has kindly shared with us an interesting piece that he has written about this famous racehorse, its importance in the history of the hospital and his trip to France.

“The Principal tutor, Mr Ron Girling, first brought attention to this legendary horse the “Flying Fox” as we settled into start our nurse training, a group of 12 young women and men. It was 1969. The Rhyl School of Nursing had been established in 1963 and had adopted the Flying Fox as an emblem on the hospital badge that nurses would wear after successfully passing their final examination.

The history of the horse went back 70 years when the 1st Duke of Westminster, Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, whose love of racehorses led him to purchase the Flying Fox – the foal of Orme (dam) and Vampire (sire) – which reputedly became the Duke’s most successful racehorse. The Duke was a generous benefactor to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, previously known as the Children’s Convalescent Home, which had adopted the title in 1882 after Princess Alexandra, wife of Edward V11, had become patron. Prior to the horse competing in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park in 1899, the Duke made a promise to the matron; if the Flying Fox was to win he would donate £10,000 to the hospital fund. Flying Fox obliged and the money was a welcome amount towards the £40,000 building cost of the first central section of the hospital. Months after this profitable win, the Duke fell ill and died at the age of 75. Flying Fox was sold for a record 37,500 guineas, the highest price ever paid for a horse at auction. The buyer, Edmund Blanc, stabled Flying Fox at his stud farm Haras de Jardy in France, west of Paris. There he sired other classic winners such as Ajax, Flying Star, Gouvernment and Adam, with his progeny earning £203,400 in prize money. Flying Fox died in France in 1911 but his skeleton was preserved.

“Flying Fox 1896 – 1911″ photo credit wikipedia 

In the mid-1990’s I was in conversation at Glan Clwyd Hospital with a gentleman, Mr James, whom I had known for some years. I was wearing my uniform, proudly displaying as always my hospital badge, when Mr James remarked, “Isn’t that the Flying Fox”? After a positive reply and to my great surprise, Mr James told me that he and his wife had seen the Flying Fox displayed in an equine museum in the town of Saumur in the Loire Valley, France. From that moment, it was to be my goal to see this magnificent horse for myself but only on my third attempt would I accomplish this mission. Early in 2012, I made contact with Mme Nathalie Gadbin, Assistant Curator of the Chateau Musee de Saumur. Mme Gadbin was most helpful in my quest to visit and see the Flying fox and a date in September that year was agreed. Hotels and ferry crossings were pre-booked. However, one week before the journey I was informed by the ferry company that the return ferry crossing had been cancelled. No alternative plans could be made in time, so the visit was postponed.

In September 2017 my second journey was thrown into jeopardy when, following a detour to visit a friend in Switzerland, my car unfortunately broke down and the journey was finalised by a flight home from Geneva. The visit was now planned for May 2018 – which finally proved sucessful.

In 2017 I had the good fortune to have contact with, and be assisted by, Mrs Louise Benson, archivist at the Eaton Estate, Chester. Mrs Benson was of outstanding help in identifying the memorial to the Flying Fox at Eaton Hall and also gathered together other artefacts and information valuable in complementing the story. After each race had been won, a shoe would be taken from the horse and mounted on a plinth recording the event. Mrs Benson assembled together these mementoes adding spice to a rich history. One other connection could be noted between the Eaton Hall of late 19th century and the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Alfred Waterhouse being the architect responsible for the design of both buildings.

On Tuesday 15th May 2018 accompanied by my good friend Selwyn Jones, we left North Wales at lunchtime and travelled to Portsmouth for the overnight ferry to France. Our appointment with Mme Gadbin was at 11 am Thursday 17th May. Our hotel, on the banks of the Loire, was overlooked high above us by the impressive Chateau de Saumur. On a beautiful Thursday morning we walked to the Chateau to be warmly greeted by Mme Gadbin and Ms Janis Upsher, who was to act as our interpreter. Our reception overwhelmed us as we toured the Chateau and were guided to this exceptional horse. As the Chateau was approaching the end of a three year refurbishment the Flying Fox was standing gracefully in a third storey room, flanked by the displayed skeletons of a prehistoric horse and a an Arabian stallion.

Prior to actually seeing the Flying Fox, with the help of the interpreter, I gave an account of the history associated with the Royal Alexandra Hospital. There was mutual interest because the museum hadn’t realised the connection the Flying Fox had with the hospital and what an enormous part it had played in the funding of its building and of the place it had in the hearts of so many. I had amassed a dossier of information that I was able to systemically present to, and leave with them. Selwyn gave a comprehensive account of the building, history and infrastructure of the town of Rhyl.

Entering the room and seeing the Flying Fox for myself I could feel the warmth of a tear in my eye. It had been almost fifty years since my first encounter with this horse and over twenty years since I had made the promise that one day I would see for myself this legendary animal. My journey had reached a fitting finale.

Our departure was mixed with joy and sadness. On leaving, Mme Gadbin presented me with the most splendid wall chart titled “Tableau Indicatif des Maladies du Cheval et des Remedes”. It stays with me as a constant reminder of a horse forgotten, yet remembered by many whose lives were influenced by this great stallion.”

For more articles about the Royal Alexandra Hospital:

A seaside nursery for the little ones of our land.

Gertrude Ffoulkes

Edith Vizard

More on Edith Vizard


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British Science Week: Sir John Houghton 1931-2020

As we are now well into British Science Week, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to mark the work of Sir John Theodore Houghton CBE FRS FLSW. Sir Houghton was a Welsh atmospheric physicist who contributed to the development of climate science and to the creation of international collaboration based on climate research.

He was born on 30 December 1931 in Dyserth, Denbighshire. The family moved to Rhyl when John was two, and he later attended Rhyl Grammar School, which is where he discovered his interest in science. He was so capable at physics, that he got the highest marks in Wales and won a scholarship for Oxford University aged just 16 years, and embarked upon a degree in maths and physics in 1948.

Rhyl Grammar School Magazine 1949 (NEWA Hawarden Branch)

Rhyl Grammar School, Speech Day Pamphlet 1949 (NEWA Hawarden Branch)

Graduating at the top of…

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International Women’s Day

Research in old local newspapers seems to indicate that the first mention of suffragettes in Rhyl is in July 1908. A meeting of ladies was convened at the Town Hall to decide whether to start a branch of a suffrage society. They decided unanimously to start a branch in Rhyl of the “National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies” which, unlike the “Women’s Social and Political Union”, was peaceful and constitutional in its methods. They decided to start the society on a working basis early in September. The following year the local newspapers contained very many references to the suffragettes both locally and nationally.

Women over 30 in specific categories gained the vote in 1918. It wasn’t until 1928 that everyone over 21 got the vote. In 1929 women over 21 voted in their first general election.

Below are two excerpts from the papers – note that the Town Hall hosted representatives of the militant “Womens’ Social and Political Union.”

Last Friday evening a public meeting in the Rhyl Town Hall was addressed by two representatives of the National Women’s Social and Political Union (the militant section of the women’s suffrage movement – “Deeds not Words”.)

Rhyl Record and Advertiser August 7th 1909

“Why should women, just because they happened to be born women which, of course, they could not help—(laughter)—be disqualified from serving as citizens in as full a sense as the men? When women did exactly the same thing as men did to deserve the vote- contributed to the rates and taxes of the country – they ought to be permitted to enter into the same privileges as the men (applause). The N.W.S. & P.U. existed to champion the rights of those women who helped to keep the country’s exchequer going just as the men did. They asked for no more privileges than men enjoyed, but they were not going to be content with less (applause and a voice: Bosh !’) They were not seeking to make women the rulers of the country, but to make them the comrades and equals of the men in matters of citizenship (applause).”

Rhyl Record and Advertiser August 28th 1909

“On Tuesday afternoon Rhyl was again visited by a party of “suffragettes” and their meeting on the sands proved a particularly lively affair. It was advertised, as usual, by means of announcements in chalk on various footpaths in the town but instead of holding forth near the Pier as on former occasions the party proceeded to the extreme west end of the foreshore. Here for some time they had a very appreciative and sympathetic audience, and they had practically had their say when their whereabouts became generally known. As soon as it was discovered where the meeting was being held there was a general rush in that direction from the centre of the seafront (where many had congregated in anticipation of a meeting between the minstrel pitch and pier), and the aspect of the meeting was quickly changed from one of sympathy or at any rate tolerance to one of hostility. Miss Hewitt was the principal speaker, and up till that time she had thoroughly held the attention of the audience and won a fair amount of applause, her oratorical powers being of no mean order. The remainder of the meeting was, however, of a rowdy nature. Heckling and banter, all of which the speaker and her friends endured stoically, at length gave way to pelting, bags of sand and other missiles being showered upon the party. At last there was a rush for the tub which served as a platform, and it was seized and thrown into the sea. Such was the temper of a section of the crowd by this time that the “suffragettes” seemed in danger of a ducking. Thanks to the intervention of the Promenade Inspector Hayes and one or two male sympathisers, of the “suffragettes“, the rougher element of the crowd was restrained from doing the party any further violence, and they were allowed to retreat in peace. The heckling which took place in the course of the meeting was largely of a humorous character. One of the few questions asked which had any real hearing upon the “suffragettes” campaign was “Why is it that so many of those taking part in the “suffragette” movement are single women?” Before Miss Hewitt could answer someone in the crowd replied “Because they can’t get husbands,” and her own reply was lost in the roars of laughter which followed.”

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November 9, 2020 · 2:18 pm