Billie Manders and the Quaintesques.

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.

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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.

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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.

The end for The Quaintesques did not come until after the 1964 season, when Mrs Gladys Manders retired.EPSON MFP image

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.






Filed under Entertainment, People, Tourism

7 responses to “Billie Manders and the Quaintesques.

  1. ola66

    Great piece thank you……..special thanks for the Boyles Fish Shop advert, I am sending a print to my Mum Brenda Finnigan nee Boyle……..the last Boyle to work in that shop. Her grandfather the T.J. Boyle was a founding member of the ‘Jolly Boys’ a black and white minstral troupe who performed in the original open air amphitheatre. As a boy I remember the back of the shop having every instrument you could think of hanging around from banjo’s to clacking bones.
    At that time (pre first world war) T J Boyle had six shops between Rhyl and Prestatyn. How he found time for the ‘Jolly Boys’ and the Rhyl baseball team Lord knows!
    Peter Finnigan

  2. Sandra Williams

    Loved this piece, brought back happy memories. My Dad Steve Roose was Stage Manager at the Amphitheatre in the 50s and knew the Mr & Mrs Manders well. As a treat, in the school holidays my Mum would take me and my 2 brothers to meet Dad after work and we would buy fish & chips and walk along the East Parade looking at all the lights on our way home. Happy days.

  3. This is fascinating, thank you so much. Billie Manders was my great great uncle and we never knew much about him. He sounds very interesting. Do you know if he has any surviving relatives?

  4. This is fascinating, thank you so much. Billie Manders was my great great uncle but we never knew much about him. He sounds so interesting! Do you happen to know if he has any surviving relatives in the area?

  5. Deirdre O'Neill

    I have a page in my mother’s autograph book with The Quaintesques autographs dated 1922 Bridlington. How can I upload it?

    • Hello Deirdre, where would you like to upload it to? I would either scan it and attach it to an e-mail or perhaps, even easier, take a photo of it with a mobile phone and forward the photograph.

  6. Lorraine Smedley

    It was wonderful to discover this site. The photo of the Quaintesques for 1941 hangs on my wall at home. It was my father’s first professional job as a 16 year old. and he is in the extreme right hand side of the photo He would probably have the stage name “Hal Freed” at the time, or possibly “Derek Don.” He was called up during the war, went to India, was injured and then served in ENSA, I remember him being on tour when I was a child and I remember being backstage at many performances. He left the theatrre in the early 1950’s and went to Sheffield University. He died in 1962, aged 37. Thank you for the memories!

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