A Ride on a Tram
In 1938, Nana and Grandad and my Mother (a child at the time) had one last holiday in Ireland. While they were there, some kind of argument developed. It prompted my Grandfather – never a man to go back on his word – to decide that they were not going there again.
On the way back on the boat, he asked my Mother where she would like to go on holiday the next time. “There” she said, pointing. “There where those lights are”. As the boat was sailing to Liverpool, Grandad decided that the lights were at Rhyl.
Rhyl was at that time a fashionable holiday place on the Northern Coast of North Wales. “Alright” he told her. “We’ll go there next time”. And they did. August 1939.
The story became one of Nana’s. Often told; sometimes just to keep us quiet; other times by request. It was a nice holiday. They saw the lights on the Promenade just as had been seen from the boat the previous year. They saw the boats on the water going in and out of Liverpool.
During the holiday and going back to their guest house from a seaside show at night, the lights of the town were suddenly and completely extinguished. Nowadays we know that this was one of many practice “Black Outs”. These had taken place all over the country from about 1938 onwards. It was preparation for warfare and particularly aerial warfare as practised against civilians. It isn’t much written about now. But it does show that the government knew what was coming a long time before Neville Chamberlain’s piece of paper and that fateful Sunday morning radio broadcast.
In the practice black out, a woman screamed. It was a blood-curdling scream. “Stay there” Grandad told Nana. “Hold “Her” (meaning my mother) and don’t let her go. I’ll go and see what’s going on and I’ll come back to you here”.
And so he did. It was somebody fooling about. It was ill-advised fun. They were told. Grandad was not one to let that pass. He was brave and hard working. He had served all through the first lot anyway.
After a long and difficult war, Nana and Grandad were in need of a holiday and in 1950, decided that they would like to try a holiday in Llandudno. They got a recommendation of a place – “Arosva – 14 Chapel Street”. Mr and Mrs Crewe.
The proprietors were kindly and the food was nice; Llandudno was a lovely place for a holiday. A promenade on which you could walk from end to end and sit down and snooze with the sun on your back; a pier with a charming seaside orchestra playing daily; a seaside show at the Arcadia Theatre; and there was the West Shore for quiet strolls and reflective solitude.
You could have a flask filled at Fortes cafe and with your sandwiches, you could have a day out on a Royal Red; or a bus ride to Conway (Conwy as it was then spelled); or a train tour all around the North Wales area; a bus up to the top of the Great Orme and a walk down again on the Marine Drive after a visit to the Church of St. Tudno; or just a walk around the town. It was just what was needed.
Grandad was a railway man; he was Clerk of Works at the Manchester Ship Canal Railway Company and was in charge of the Permanent Way. When in Llandudno, the last night of their holiday was special. It was to take the tram from Llandudno to Colwyn Bay. Nana was particularly fond of the run. Especially coming back in the evening from Colwyn Bay.
It was important to sit in the right place in the tram. Nana never sat outside on the tram or on top on the bus (upstairs as we might say these days). With Nana, it was inside all the way! She remembered for us the beautiful sunsets that you would see over Llandudno Bay from the inside of the tram. That was what they went for; that was what they got. It was the perfect end to a delightful holiday for them. Something to remember and talk about. The picture was in their heads. And who could begrudge them that?
1953 had been a busy year and a good year but August 1953 in Llandudno, the weather had been somewhat changeable. There was heat and there was thunder. Accordingly, on a warm night and after dinner, Nana and Grandad toddled down to West Shore and got on the tram for Colwyn Bay.
The journey was smooth. The tram sang out its mournful notes and chunnery sounds; it was like being back in the secure days. The wheels and rails resounded their clicks and little noises and at the front, the motorman worked the ticking and spinning handles. Tickets were bought from the conductor (who was very young) “and his machine sounded a bell as it punched a hole in the ticket” told Nana.
At Colwyn Bay, they got off the tram and went a little walk on Abergele Road taking in the shops and were just chatting about this and that, when Grandad said “I think we’d better get the next one back. I don’t like the look of those clouds and it’s already spitting rain”. So they went back, got on the next tram and settled inside, seated on the nearside of the tram, the better to see the sunset.
But sunset came there none. The storm came.
With it came such flashes of lightning and horrendous thunder. They just managed to reach the front at Rhos-on-Sea when the tram ground to a halt. There was silence. The conductor came into the lower saloon, asking “Could you all move up a bit please and let some of the people from upstairs sit in here”; so they all moved up and some soaking wet folks turned up from the open top…this happened a few more times until the tram was really crowded; completely in the dark; in a thunderstorm and with torrential and unrelenting rain (and anybody who has seen a storm at sea from North Wales knows what I mean here) descending in torrents.
Finally, at about 11.30pm, the lights came back on and the tram moved off – and slowly – once again. Nana and Grandad finally got back to Arosva after midnight. Everybody had stayed up, to wait for them. Guests and the Proprietors. They even thought to call the Police. They had had the storm in Llandudno too but not the power cut but all were worried because Nana and Grandad were out so late.
They all stayed up and Mrs Crewe made tea and then the tale was told.
Just like I’m telling you now.
About a tram ride.
And an eventful one at that.