Whilst researching the history of Rhyl certain names crop up time and time again. Some names are still with us in street names, Churton Road, Sisson Street and Gamlin Street for example. Unfortunately some names have become lost over time.
One name that crops up regularly is that of J.D. Polkinghorne. Local historian J.W. Jones (Joe Swan) wrote in his book “Rhyl and Round About” that Mr Polkinghorne was “the man who put Rhyl on the map”. Mr Jones went on to say “When one thinks of the men who made Rhyl one naturally thinks of the men who constructed its buildings or opened businesses here. But the making of a town involves things that are not necessarily tangible. A holiday resort thrives on publicity, and for many years one man was in charge of this department of the town’s promotion. His name was J.D. Polkinghorne.”
James David Polkinghorne arrived in Rhyl in 1893 after he was appointed journalist for the Rhyl Journal, having secured this position from a large number of applicants. Mr Polkinghorne soon acquainted himself with the area, and with the public men who lived here, forging a popularity which lasted until the end of his career.
Known to many of his readers as “The Jay”, not only was he a reporter and columnist for many local newspapers, he was also the secretary of Rhyl Advertising Association. Again from J.W. Jones: “The object of the Association was to publicise the town, and J.D. Polkinghorne made a splendid job of ‘putting Rhyl on the map’, laying the foundation for what later became the Publicity Committee with a full time publicity manager doing what Mr Polkinghorne had done in his spare time.” An active and prominent townsman, he was secretary and organiser of the Rhyl May Day for a quarter of a century. He was an official note taker of the Assize Courts and a teacher of shorthand under Flintshire Education Authority, secretary of the local Conservative Club, an ardent churchman, an active freemason and a member of the Cambrian Archaeological Society.
His obituary, written by Albert D. Stone in the Rhyl Journal states: “The welfare of Rhyl was very dear to the heart of the deceased and by his writings he gave practical evidence of his incessant interest in the town’s public affairs”.
Mr Polkinghorne died aged 62 in 1930. On Saturday, February 1st he attended Abergele Police Court “in pursuit of his journalistic duties” where he suddenly collapsed. He was taken by ambulance to his home at 7, River Street but died the same evening without regaining consciousness.
The last words are again from ‘Joe Swan’: ” J.D. Polkinghorne was the busiest man I ever knew. He did not appear to be very strong, but he had reserves of nervous energy which enabled him to cope with an enormous amount of work, and the ability to turn his mind from one job to another and give his whole attention to the work he had in hand. Few men have left their mark on Rhyl as did J.D. Polkinghorne.”