The Sea and the Skylark

Gerard Manley Hopkins Photocredit: Wikipedia

On a recent walk along the promenade, the sea on one side and the golf links and dunes on the other, a skylark rose from the ground and treated us to its song and wonderful aerial display, which is the essence of Spring. This brought to mind the poem “The Sea and the Skylark” which was written by the famous Victorian poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1877.  Hopkins spent three years at St. Beuno’s College, Tremeirchion and whilst there he was sent to Rhyl for five days for “the good of his health”.  In the book “Gerard Manley Hopkins in Wales” Norman White writes: “It was not the ideal place for Hopkins to relax in, and with nothing to do but twiddle his thumbs he – not surprisingly – produced yet another poem contrasting the permanent grandeur and fresh beauty of nature’s phenomena with the sordidness of man – ” The Sea and the Skylark”.   White goes on: “Unfortunately, walking on Rhyl sands, without means of escape from the petty architecture and shrill tourist vulgarities, Hopkins’s disgust was evoked”    ( So, Rhyl had its detractors in the 19th Century!  The poem below contains the line “How these two shame this shallow and frail town”)

The Sea and the Skylark

On ear and ear two noises too old to end
Trench – right, the tide that ramps against the shore;
With a flood or a fall, low lull-off or all roar,
Frequenting there while moon shall wear and wend.

Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend,
His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeined score
In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour
And pelt music, till none’s to spill nor spend.

How these two shame this shallow and frail town!
How ring right out our sordid turbid time,
Being pure! We, life’s pride and cared-for crown,

Have lost that cheer and charm of earth’s past prime:
Our make and making break, are breaking, down
To man’s last dust, drain fast towards man’s first slime.

To read more about the poem see the Guardian’s Poem of the Week

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under General

Rhyl’s Carnival 1929

Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

In 1929 Rhyl held a Carnival which turned out to be one of the biggest events ever to be held in the town.  Ten of thousands of people flocked into Rhyl by road and rail for the three day Carnival which began on Thursday, June 27th.  The advertisement on the left is typical and was from the Yorkshire Evening Post.
In his book “Rhyl, the town and its people” J.W. Jones wrote that it was the idea of Arnold Heckle, the popular Publicity Manager at the time.  A Carnival King and Queen were appointed.  The “King” was Bertram Jones, proprietor and editor of the Rhyl Leader and the “Queen” was Billie Manders.  To get a flavour of the wonderful carnival of 1929, watch the British Pathé footage

 

The sun shone on the Carnival’s opening day, the highlight of which was the arrival of the famous aviator Sir Alan Cobham, but more of that later.  Also on the Thursday was a Gilbert and Sullivan garden fete in the Vicarage Grounds and a torchlight procession and tattoo in the Marine Gardens (beside the pavilion).
Friday and Saturday saw a speed boat rally, motor cycle reliability trials, sports, a Children’s Beauty competition, roller skating races, dances, a Grand Procession, community singing and fireworks

Prize winners at the 1929 Rhyl Carnival

But back to the opening day and the hugely anticipated arrival of Sir Alan Cobham in his de Havilland Giant Moth which he christened “Youth of Britain”.  The Rhyl Journal reported that he was expected to arrive at Aberkinsey Farm (between Rhyl and Dyserth) at 11a.m and a big crowd had gathered to welcome him.  Unfortunately he experienced mechanical problems as he left Crewe which meant it was after 12 noon that he was first sighted over the farm.  He made a “beautiful” landing amidst great cheering and was immediately “mobbed” by the crowd.  Sir Alan then proceeded to take members and officials of Rhyl council for a flight over the town.  Then a second party boarded the plane but as it took off the propeller caught a tree and sustained damage which caused abandonment of the flight.  Fortunately no-one suffered any injuries.  A photograph of the “crash” can be seen below.


photograph reproduced with kind permission of Pete Robinson at dyserth.com

The Rhyl Journal published a list of children chosen to take a flight that day, representing various schools in Rhyl.  It added that their flight would be postponed until the following day because of the accident.  It was not clear in the paper as to whether the children ever took their flight – risk assessment was probably quite different in 1929!

In the Rhyl Journal the following week, under the headline “Aerodrome for Rhyl” Sir Alan assured those gathered at a reception that there would have been no such trouble if there had been a proper aerodrome.  Sir Alan said “they had to make use of improvised fields as they proceded from town to town and the field selected at Aberkinsey Farm was the only one suitable for the purpose of such a demonstration from Anglesey to Rhyl.  There was a great opportunity before Rhyl, so far as aviation in North Wales was concerned, and he hoped they were that day seeing the beginning of the laying of the foundations of a local aerodrome.”

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Community, Entertainment, Tourism

The Military College of Science, Rhyl.

Norman Copeland O.B.E. photograph by kind permission of the Museum of Army Chaplaincy

What is so fulfilling about running this blog is not so much the information we “export” but the information we “import”, through enquiries to this website and also to our facebook page.  Items of history about our town and people, of which most of us were unaware, have been shared with us from as far afield as South Africa, Italy, France, Australia, and Canada.
Our most recent correspondence has come from the Ukraine and has revealed what to many readers will be forgotten history.  Taras Hrytsevych, a military psychologist and senior teacher in the Army Academy in Lviv, Ukraine, has written to us enquiring about the Military College of Science* which was located in Rhyl during the Second World War.  At the outbreak of the war the College was based in Woolwich, but after a brief move to Lydd in Kent it became necessary to split the college into three parts.  “A Fire Control Instruments School was established in Bury in Lancashire and an Artillery Equipments School at Stoke on Trent.  The M.T. section -and who can blame them – chose Rhyl as their home.”  (A Short History of the Royal Military College of Science, 1864-1964 by C.B. Daish) M.T. here stands for Mechanical Traction.

A Rhyl resident we have spoken to can remember the Military College in Rhyl, he has told us that they occupied garages in town – the Westcliffe Garage which stood on the corner of Butterton Road and Wellington Road, the Grosvenor Garage which stood on the corner of Westbourne Avenue and Wood Road and a garage on Vale Road (approx. opposite A.T.S.)

Taras is researching Norman Copeland O.B.E. who, whilst in Rhyl with the Military College of Science, wrote the respected book “Psychology and the Soldier : the Art of Leadership”.  Taras says “I am keen in military psychology and one of my favorite books in the field is “Psychology and the Soldier” written by British military chaplain Norman Copeland. norman-copeland-2The book was initially published in 1942 in the US and then in 1944 in the UK. Afterwards it was several times reissued, among them twice – in former Soviet Union, in 1958 and 1991″

Norman Copeland received correspondence whilst he was here in Rhyl to 55, West Parade.  Was this part of the College itself, perhaps the administrative HQ?  Or was it the accommodation for those at the College?  During WW2 many of the buildings on West Parade were requisitioned by the Army.  norman-copelland55, West Parade is no longer there, it is part of a block that has recently been demolished. If anyone has any information about 55, West Parade or even better, any photographs, could you please comment below or contact us via e-mail? (rhylhistoryclub@gmail.com)  Also, if  anyone has any other memories or information about the Military College of Science in Rhyl, could they please contact us.  Thank you.

* Towards the end 0f 1941 the branch of the Military College of Science in Rhyl was renamed (reorganised) the Royal Artillery Mechanical Traction School (commonly abbreviated to R.A.M.T. School). Early in 1945 the R.A.M.T.S. was moved from Rhyl to Bordon in Hampshire, thus the time frame of the M.C.of S./R.A.M.T.S. being located in Rhyl is 1940-1945.  After D-Day (June 6th, 1944) the School abandoned requisitioned buildings in Rhyl and moved to “a neighbouring hutted camp”.

6 Comments

Filed under Buildings/Location, Military

The “Infamous” Rhyl Station Bracket Box

Spotted by a Rhylite recently in an article in the Saturday Guardian was a reference to “The Infamous Rhyl Station Bracket Box”.  Obviously this required further investigation!  Rhyl Station’s bracket box, which stood on the main platform behind the main entrance buildings, is in The Isle of Wight Postal Museum along with over 200 others.  The owner, collector Arthur Reeder, is also a member of the Letter Box Study Group and it was via this group that a fellow member, Elaine Warner, told him about the Rhyl box.  rhyl-station-bracket-post-box006Here’s what Arthur had to say:

“She had reported it’s poor state and so whilst on a holiday in Porthmadog I made the trip to see what was becoming an increasingly rare form of postbox. The only one left of this type now still in use can be found at Llandrindod Wells Station.

The ‘infamous’ Rhyl bracket box was actually a locally made version in pine of what was a standard issue oak wooden box supplied by The Ministry of Works carpenters.
The physical construction of these boxes is quite a work of art and the round tops are made with strips of wood joined together to form the arch. Unlike the ‘standard oak’ versions, this box had additional wooden beads around the front and sides‎ and a smaller aperture which is somewhat at odds with the standard boxes. I would describe the Rhyl box as slightly more ornate!
Also, unlike the standard boxes, this one was not fitted with a nickel plate surrounding the posting aperture engraved with a crown and VR, but it had been hand painted instead.
Getting this part reproduced is probably what gave me the greatest satisfaction as although I had copied what I found under all the layers of paint, I was sceptical that it could ever have been hand painted due to the intricate works?
But a local guy in Harrow Middlesex, where I lived at the time, showed me just how good some of these signwriters actually are at their trade.
Wishing to reproduce the original enamel plate, I contacted another local company called Messers. Garnier of NW London, and they not only said making a plate wasn’t a problem, but that they had actually had the Royal Mail contract for such things since 1904! So due to this little wooden box, I had also bumped into yet another contact that stood me in good stead with replacement vitreous enamel signs for those damaged and missing on subsequent postboxes.
At the time of my visit, the station was being prepared for closure of most of the station buildings…I think to convert it to a supermarket?
All I saw was the painted outline of where it had been for 100 years on the wall behind some barriers. Having travelled all that way to see it, I wasn’t very pleased! I asked around and no-one could remember it going but it was a now a building site. I was eventually directed to where the station master could be found and he told me that it had been there up to a week or so before. He also told me it had been out of use for ages and had been boarded over for a good year due to a fire and heavy vandalism. He had asked for it to be removed by Royal Mail but hadn’t heard anything more. He presumed Royal Mail had come to collect it? So that would have been that apart from a cleaner disagreeing and saying she had seen it outside in the skip!!!
A trip round the hoardings to the skip in front of the station buildings revealed the box dumped inside. I dragged it back out to take a couple of photos and had to push the front back into place where it had been kicked in. The top circular beads were also in the skip so we knocked them back on but there was no sign of the door. I asked what was to become of it and the obvious answer was..it was going to be dumped.

So the next question was…can I have it then? I spent the remainder of my holiday in North Wales and the following week in Chester with this lump of old burnt smelly timber‎ in the back of my vehicle. But as it had survived all that time I thought it would be quite possible to give it back some semblance of self respect.

The “infamous Rhyl Bracket Box” (right). They are termed ‘bracket boxes’ as they resembled the old style of bracket clocks

This postbox is what gave me the bug to start collecting and here we are in 2017 with a museum and 235 postboxes on the Isle of Wight.
There will always be a special place and affection for postbox number 1 in my collection.”
Click here to see the bracket box in various stages of restoration.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Buildings/Location, General

Major Penn

gorffwysfaTry to imagine how grand this property must have looked in the nineteenth Century. Now the Rhyl Naval Sports and Social Club, it was originally “Gorphwysfa” (sic)- the home of Major Penn.  It stands on the corner of River Street and Wellington Road.  Local historian J.W. Jones said of Major Penn “It was his efforts which converted River Street from an almost impassable cart track to one of our finest streets”.  The Major loved entertaining and would hold banquets for his friends and fellow commissioners at Gorphwysfa.  The Rhyl Record and Advertiser described how “those privileged of attending those gatherings will often recall to their memories the geniality and urbanity which the Major infused into his functions as host”.  However the Major also hosted an annual dinner at Christmas for the poor of the town.  The local paper described how Major Penn entertained “the aged paupers and poor to a sumptuous repast laid out at Gorphwysfa”.  Roast beef and vegetables were served and a barrel of good beer was tapped.  In his obituary the paper referred to the considerate kindness of Major Penn to the poor of the town – “he dispensed his charity ungrudgingly and unostentatiously”.

Major Penn retired to Rhyl in the latter part of the 1870’s from Montreal, Canada, and took an active part in public life in Rhyl. He was a Rhyl Improvement Commissioner and chaired the Board between 1879-81. He was also director of Rhyl Gas Company.  He was a manager of the National School.

major-penn

Major Penn, Montreal, 1862. Photo Credit: McCord Museum (see below)

Frederic Penn was born in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, in 1810.  When he was 14 Frederic emigrated to Montreal, Canada, where he lived for the next fifty years. He was one of the foremost athletes in Canada (he held the Canadian high jump record for sixty years).  He founded the first militia regiment in Canada.  He rose rapidly through the ranks to become a Major.  He was a Justice of the Peace for Montreal for many years and was appointed “Acting Mayor” of Montreal, the then capital of Canada, in 1858.

He died of a heart attack at Gorphwysfa on March 2nd, 1891.  The Rhyl Record and Advertiser reported that “the news cast a gloom over the town” and “judging from his erect and handsome figure, his easy carriage and generally robust constitution, but few would have thought that the Major has passed four score years.”
His body was taken from Rhyl on the 7.20am train on Thursday, March 5th, for Liverpool en route for internment in Montreal.

 

 

Photograph
Major Penn, Montreal, QC, 1862
William Notman (1826-1891)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under People

The Figure of Eight

In true “Antiques Roadshow” style we have been given a bag of cine films that was bought in a car boot sale.  Many of them have uninspiring titles such as “Christmas 1967”, but one was entitled “Marine Lake”.  When we had this film digitised we saw  a film that seems to have been taken from the Ocean Beach, looking towards the Pleasure Beach.  It appears to show the demolition and burning of the roller coaster “The Figure of Eight”.  Please comment if you can name the year, remember the Figure of Eight or have any other information.

If anyone knows the provenance of the films, who we should credit etc., please contact Rhyl History Club.

1 Comment

Filed under Buildings/Location, Tourism