Memories, by Peter Kelly

report by John Slater

It was good to be back in our usual venue, the Peel Centenary Centre theatre. This now sports a splendid new ceiling and enhanced house lighting thanks to the invaluable help of the national Lottery and lots of enthusiastic support from directors and members.

Our new chairman, our very own MHK, Ray Harmer received a warm welcome from the large audience of over ninety. His predecessor, Tim Crookall, now MLC, is on our committee as well as the Chair of Peel Town Commissioners. This should give us a bit of political clout!

Before we got launched into the main show, I reminded the audience that this was the year for another Peel’s Secret Gardens. The date for your diaries is the weekend of the 16th, 17th July. This is a non-competitive, immensely popular event for not only the Island but, increasingly, for garden lovers from away, as well. If you would like to find out more and would consider sharing your garden, old or new, just ring John Kerruish on 843523. It’s always such a pleasure being part of this event.

Our guest speaker was Peter Kelly, so no great surprise at the size of the audience, a mixture of members and his groupies! After a brief introduction, Peter was launched into “Memories”. This was a splendid power point presentation of Manx photographs of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Many of these had been rescued from a fire in the Examiner offices, many years ago and were now in Peter’s safe hands for him to share.

I still find it curious seeing Peter in front of a computer rather than his trusty, Victorian Magic Lantern or carousels and boxes of slides. No doubt, computers will follow suit with images beamed straight into our minds. Until then, we thoroughly enjoyed this seamless presentation truncating so many years and memories.

We went from the Crescent Cinema, Montague Burton’s men’s tailoring, Lyon’s Ladies’ Wear, and a succession of lovely old shops, long demolished. The clearance of the Lord Street area and the erection of the flats, now worthy of architectural note in themselves attracted attention.. The start of Pulrose, the construction of the water reservoir in the 1930’s at Greenfield Road, Noble’s Baths with steam heating pipes under the diving boards in the deep end all flashed by, accompanied by Peter’s humorous anecdotes.

The much-missed bus station featured along with the first double deck buses on the Island. A picture of a popular ‘Living Whist’, game played with schoolgirls adorned with playing cards was, apparently, a very popular tourist attraction. How you held them in your hands to shuffle and deal was not disclosed! Some members of the audience remembered these events and I thought I heard at least one person say that they had taken part and what fun it was.

Internal photographs of a typical 1930’s boarding house were familiar to many as was the wooden TT grandstand. This picture was followed by one of the last boats to be built on the Tongue in Douglas harbour.

Preparations for defence in anticipation of World War 2 were all too familiar to many of us. Defence systems such as the highly secret radar installations were of great interest as were the military parades. Such a tragedy that all too many men and women finished as names on memorials! The devastating grief of families losing loved ones still continues, of course. What evil madness is this!

The mood lightened with Royal Visits, racing, Ivy Benson’s Girls Band, bathing beauty competitions and pageants. At least many of these social events still pop up from time to time even if we no longer have the thousands of visitors to cheer them on.

If you weren’t with us you also missed the Rolling Stones on stage, the birth of Manx Radio and Radio Caroline. All I can say, as did so many postcards – “Wish you were here!”

Sam Knight delivered a very warm vote of thanks to Peter, followed by rousing applause.

Our next meeting is at 7.30pm in the Centenary Centre on Wednesday the 16th March. with the welcome return of one of our earlier, popular events – “Meet the Commissioners.” This is a marvellous opportunity to question and express your views and even your appreciation and thanks! Does central government strangle local government? If so, how can we help? Not long till election time! Bring written questions with you or take a chance on catching the chairman’s eye on the night.