Sunday, 8 October 2017


Marcus Laurence Elwin "Mark" Oliphant

If I had asked, What is the connection between Rhyl and Hiroshima? you might have sent a sarcastic reply – but a link has been established by journalist/author Andrew Ramsay of Adelaide, South Australia. This morning I received an email from Andrew saying:

“I am currently in the UK . . . conducting research into an historic biography I have been commissioned to write on Sir Mark Oliphant, an eminent Australian nuclear physicist who was integrally involved in the development of the atomic bomb while he was working at Cambridge and Birmingham Universities from 1928-1950.

“My interest in Rhyl stems from the discovery that Sir Mark (then Professor Oliphant) was on holiday in Rhyl with his wife and two young children on the day that he learned the bomb he had helped to develop was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

“. . . I am very keen to gain an historical snapshot of what daily life in Rhyl might have looked like at that time (August 6, 1945)."

My reply was as follows:

Rhyl is generally busy in August, and in 1945 the Queens entertainment complex in West Parade was fully operational with dancing nightly at the Queens Ballroom on the ground floor and variety shows at the Queens Theatre on the first floor.
At Rhyl Pavilion (a big domed building on the promenade) the Manchester Repertory Company, which had been resident there during most of the war years, presented a play every week. The Pavilion had Sunday concerts by visiting orchestras (dance bands).
At the open air Coliseum theatre on the prom there was a show titled Stars In The Air by the resident Will Parkin troupe featuring Frank Formby (George's brother). At the Pier Amphitheatre there was a regular concert party, Billie Manders - a female impersonator - and his Quaintesques.
On the prom near the pier the Open Air Bathing Pool ('The Baths') presented swimming displays by Miss Sunny Lowry the English Channel swimmer.

Wartime canteens were still open and there would have been plenty of 'squaddies' around because the Army's base at nearby Kinmel Park Camp was still training young soldiers. Among the public there must have been a certain amount of euphoria at the end of the war in Europe and a huge sense of relief.
Here in Rhyl we had the usual victory parties and 'Welcome Home' parties for military personnel returning from overseas. The local business community continued to hold fundraising events to help alleviate severe cases of hardship but - generally speaking - Rhyl had a good war. The Army and/or Civil Service had requisitioned lots of hotels and boarding houses and many businesses such as garages and workshops, and the Government had paid all the bills.
The future for businesses looked considerably less certain. So underneath the veneer of celebration and fun there was an undercurrent of unease and a creeping awareness that the war had changed everything.

While Andrew Ramsay carries on researching for his book, you would find some basic information about Mark Oliphant in Wikipedia: