Writing about Billie Manders and the Quaintesques in a Rhyl local history blog is akin to reinventing the wheel. Who hasn’t heard of the famous company of all male entertainers who were so synonymous with Rhyl? This then, is for for those who haven’t or for those of us who would like reminding. According to local historian J.W. Jones: “The Quaintesques, Rhyl’s own concert party, was a phenomenon of show business”
Billie Manders came to Rhyl in 1921, took a lease on the Amphitheatre and opened there on July 11th. There were seven in the original all male company, which was an immediate success, Mr Manders always appeared as a woman. The shows ran for 44 consecutive seasons until 1964.
Every Friday night a new programme was presented. This ensured regular patronage, from local people in addition to visitors, as one could go every week during the season and see a different show each time.
At the end of each Summer season in Rhyl The Quaintesques went on tour to Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield where they played a few weeks in each city before returning to their permanent home in Rhyl ready for the Summer Season. This arrangement provided employment throughout the year, something that very few theatrical employers were able to offer.
In 1934 The Sunday Despatch organised a competition and under the headline “Winning Concert Party” it announced that “the most popular holiday entertainment in the British Isles, as judged by our readers, is The Quaintesques of Rhyl”
The Manchester Guardian reported the death of Billie Manders on October 31st, 1950:
“Manders – On October 28 suddenly in hospital WILLIAM HENRY (Billie) MANDERS of “Pimperne”, East Parade, Rhyl, the devoted husband of Gladys and “Guvnor” of the “Quaintesques” at the Pier Amphitheatre, Rhyl.” His funeral was held in St. Thomas’ Church, where 1,500 people gathered. He is buried in Rhyl Town (Maes Hyfryd) Cemetery.
Billy Manders and The Quaintesques were regularly on the radio, see listings in the Radio Times here:
Thanks to Lynne Maxwell who has sent in two wonderful photographs of Willie Manders, as he was known in his early days. He changed his name from Willie to Billie at the suggestion of his father-in-law, Mr. Will Catlin.