Advertising techniques, the responsible use of alcohol, the appropriate behaviour of those who hold public office and a wish to protect our children are all matters that concern us in the 21st Century.
Concerns were much the same in 1900. In September of that year there was uproar in the town as children were invited to take part in a sandcastle competition, for which there was a prize of 15 shillings (approx. £80 in today’s money). The aim of the competition was to advertise Glenlivet whiskey.
On Thursday evening, August 30th, 50 children took part in a competition to make “the best designed castle on the sand” in connection with which Mr J.H. Ellis was advertising whiskey. Onlookers remarked that the children’s work was attractive, clever and artistic – one creation featured a large room including a table on which was a bottle of whiskey and glasses and around it, girls enjoying themselves. Another featured the motto “Once taken, never forsaken”. All competitors were supposed to bring in the name of a certain whiskey.
The Rhyl Journal ran with the headline “The Whiskey War at Rhyl”. The Rhyl Record and Advertiser wrote about “strong indignation” and included an extract from the “Birmingham Gazette”, who also ran the story, which remarked that “anything more shoddy and more execrable we could not imagine.”
A meeting was held on the Sunday evening at the Welsh Baptist Chapel in Water Street where several people voiced their concerns. One visitor to Rhyl said that children were being used “as part of a system to get hold of young people in order to keep up the supply of customers for the brewers and publicans, who found a large number of their supporters were dying off”. He also said “the curse of the land was whiskey, and he deeply regretted that the children’s playground should be a medium for advertising it”.
There was strong disapproval that Mr Ellis was a magistrate, an ex Chair of the District Council, and “who also happened to be a wine and spirit merchant” and who was “advancing his own welfare”.
Another visitor pointed out that Mr Ellis should be given credit for the fact that during the competition a collection was made to help the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Another said “he did not know whether the churches were entirely free from the taint of taking money from brewers and distillers”.
To read more about Ellis’s click here.