[From Manx Quarterly #13 1913]
The procession along the Promenade to the Kursaal was witnessed by
thousands of holiday makers from Scotland and North of England
Lord Raglan struck the right note on Saturday, July 19th, when he so tersely alluded to Villa Marina Gardens and Kursaal as providing for a class of holiday-maker whom we in Douglas have hitherto been neglectful of. Large numbers of our visitors care little or nothing for dancing and variety turns, nor do exhibitions of cinematography appeal to them with any great amount of force. Nevertheless they appreciate entertainment more staid and perchance more elevating of character, and this is just the sort of entertainment which it is intended to provide in connection with the beautiful gardens and hall which are owned by the Corporation of Douglas. To employ a much hackneyed phrase, Villa Marina Gardens and Kursaal will fill a long felt want, and in this respect should prove an amenity of great value to Douglas. In last week's number of the " Examiner" a full description of the Kursaal was given, while as to the history of the events which led up to the acquisition by the Corporation of Villa Marina estate and the erection of the fine hall, readers are referred to the speech which the Mayor of Douglas (Alderman Corlett, J.P.) delivered upon the occasion of the opening ceremony last Saturday. The function was a memorable one for Douglas people, and to again make use of words which have for many years been in constant use by descriptive journalists, the day should remain a red-letter day in the history of the town. The importance of the occasion justified the introduction of a certain amount of pageantry; indeed many people averred that the Promenades Committee of the Douglas Town Council, with whom the arrangements lay, were too niggardly in this respect. However, everything went off very well-even the weather which in early morning was anything but promising took a favourable turn ere noon came, and became brilliant during the afternoon. At the outset there was a civic procession from the Town Hall, the Lieut.-Governor and Lady Raglan (who were accompanied by the Earl and Countess of Bessborough), the Mayor and members of the Town Council, the Town Hall officials, and others driving in carriages from the Town Hall by way of Victoria-street, the Loch and Harris Promenades to the west entrance of the Kursaal. There was in connection with this procession a little incident entirely unrehearsed, which for the moment caused some excitement. The horse attached to the landau in which Lord and Lady Raglan were seated was a fine and very high-spirited animal. Evidently he was rendered nervous by the noise and movements of the great crowd which had gathered along the route of the procession, and restiveness eventually developed into an exhibition of rearing and plunging which induced his Excellency and his lady to leave the carriage and complete the journey in a. vehicle less showily but more safely horsed. On arrival at the west entrance to the Kursaal, the Lieut.-Governor was presented by Mr Percy Robinson, F.R.I.B.A., of the firm of Robinson and Jones, architects, Leeds (the designers of the building), with a gold medallion, suitably inscribed, as a memento of the opening ceremony, and with a like object in view
Lady Raglan was presented on behalf of the Corporation with a, beautiful silver bell. By the time the procession reached the Kursaal the splendid hall was well-filled, though there were some vacant seats in the pit. About 400 invitations had been issued in connection with the opening, and these included the members of the Legislature and the principal people of the Island. Also among the guests were some sixty English journalists, representative of all the great daily, Sunday, and illustrated newspapers, who had crossed to the Island on the previous day with the object of describing or illustrating the proceedings. Shortly after three o'clock, Lady Raglan came before the curtain which veiled the platform, and sounding her silver bell " rang up the curtain," disclosing an august party seated in rows. The Mayor of Douglas (Mr Alderman Corlett) was supported by the Lieut.-Governor, Lady Raglan, the Mayoress (Mrs Corlett), the Earl and Countess of Bessborough, the trustees under the will of the late Mr H. B. Noble, the members of the Town Council, the Town Clerk, and numerous other gentlemen. Mis. Katie Cowin, the youthful daughter of the Deputy-Mayor (Councillor R. D. Cowin), came forward and presented in pretty fashion a fine bouquet of flowers to Lady Raglan, and then was sung in hearty fashion the National Anthem, Miss Carrie Tubb, the eminent vocalist who had been engaged for the Kursaal opening concert, taking the solo, while the audience joined with a will in the refrain. At the conclusion of the National Anthem, Miss Gladys Quayle presented Miss Tubb with a bouquet, and Miss Roma Moore performed a like office in regard to the Mayoress. Then came the speeches.
The Mayor, who had a warm reception, said : Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, This is an important day in the municipal history of Douglas. We are met here to ask Lord and Lady Raglan to declare this magnificent hall open. This event has been looked forward to and wished for by the inhabitants of Douglas for more than a generation. The undertaking is a great one, and only such as the municipality of a progressive town would undertake. Local government has been a. great success in Douglas for more than fifty years, but the visitor discovered Douglas and the Isle of Man long before the people of this town had its local board. To visit the Island in those days was a much more difficult matter than it is today. There was no daily steamer; now we see as many as twenty steamers come to the Victoria Pier, crowded with visitors, in one day. At that time, frequently, visitors had to land in small boats, there being no low-water landing pier. As visitors increased in numbers, accommodation had to be provided, not only for landing, but in street improvements, sewerage, and water-works. Visitors still coming to the Island can bear testimony to the great works carried out in these directions. The Victoria Pier, the magnificent Promenades, the unlimited water supply, and the perfect sewerage of the town are striking evidences of our progress in these directions; but not only had we to increase our accommodation in these matters, and in hotels and boarding-houses, but also for the amusement of our visitors. Private enterprise had done great things in that direction by providing places where visitors were amused and entertained, but for more than thirty years the people of Douglas have desired to possess Villa. Marina as a resort for visitors. Many people had hopes that the late Mr Noble would leave Villa Marina to the town, but this was not to be, as on his death in 1903 it was disclosed that he had left the whole of his large estate to trustees, to be used for charitable purposes. About the end of 1905, the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the Council appointed a sub-committee of five, of whom I was one, to watch the matter. Negotiations were subsequently opened Tip, and the trustees were interviewed. On ascertaining that the trustees could not under the terms of the trust consider the gift of Villa Marina to the public, further negotiations took place as to the terms upon which the estate could be acquired. In 1908, the negotiations began to take definite shape, and the trustees intimated that they would be pleased to receive suggestions as to the acquisition of the property, and as to the purposes for which the same should be used. Outlines of the committee's ideas were forwarded to the trustees, and on the 21st April, 1909, provisional proposals and terms upon which the trustees would offer the property to the town were submitted to the Finance Committee. The acceptance of these terms was unanimously recommended by the committee and adopted by the Council in committee on the 23rd day of April, and subsequently confirmed on the 12th day of May, 1909. The agreement in detail was ultimately agreed upon and completed on the 11th February, 1910. The necessary Act of Tynwald was prepared, approved by the Council, and went through both branches of the Legislature, being duly promulgated on the 27th September, 1910. The trustees offered prizes for a competition for the design of the buildings and laying out of the grounds, and this offer was accepted. The competition was advertised, and Professor Adshead, of the School of Architecture, Liverpool University, was nominated by the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects as assessor. He made his award in January, 1911, the successful competitors being Messrs Robinson and Jones, of Leeds. The conditions of the award being complied with, tenders were advertised for, and the tender of Mr Paul Rhodes, for the sum of £15,985, was accepted. The work was commenced in December, 1911, and has been completed without an accident of any kind (applause). In terms of the agreement with the trustees, £21,750 was provided to carry out the whole of the work, including the furnishing and equipment and the provision of an organ. In October last, it was decided that before giving definite instructions as to the details of decoration and furnishing, the committee should inspect other resorts. The. committee visited Harrogate, Margate, Eastbourne, Bournemouth, and Torquay, along with their architect, and the result of this tour was that the architects were instructed to embody the suggestions received in a report to the Council, together with an estimate of the additional cost which would be incurred if the same were carried out. On receipt of the report, the committee communicated with the trustees, and although a number of valuable suggestions had to be deferred on account of increased cost, the trustees most generously agreed to a further grant of £3,500 to enable the Council to carry out the work as completed today (applause). It was also decided to instal electric light, and this work has been carried out at a cost of over £3,000. In conjunction with the Villa Marina scheme, several other valuable improvements have been carried out. Notably, the removal of the Shelter, and the improvement of the junction of the Harris and Loch Promenades. The Council has not yet decided as to the ultimate extent of this improvement, but will be called upon at an early date to decide as to the widening of the Harris Promenade, and the further improvement of the Colonel's Road. Another street improvement carried out is the widening of Broadway, a work which for many years has been desirable. Seven hundred and fifty square yards of land have been taken from Villa Marina and used for this improvement. The Villa Marina scheme so far is complete in itself, but there are yet developments and extensions with splendid possibilities for increasing the attractiveness of Douglas as a high-class holiday resort. I have already referred to the further improvement of the Harris Promenade and Colonel's Road. A glance at the brows and upper portion of Villa Marina grounds will only be necessary to suggest the possibilities of this part of the estate The adjoining property between Villa Marina and the Gaiety Theatre belongs to the Corporation, and has yet to be dealt with, and in this connection we believe we have the sympathy and interest of your Excellency and the trustees, and we sincerely trust that this property will be used in such a practical manner as to prove of great public advantage to the people of this Island and our visitors (applause). The progress of the Villa Marina scheme has not been all plain sailing, difficulties and differences of opinion have arisen but have been settled, and I believe that the unanimous opinion today is that the best has been done. We have been fortunate in our architects and contractor. That Messrs Robinson and Jones have displayed very great ability and taste in their work needs no other evidence than the evidence of our eyesight. Mr Paul Rhodes has been a competent and obliging contractor. In the clerk of the works and the foreman we have had competent and faithful men (applause). The Council has been united, and the committee in charge of the work, and our manager, Mr Page, have been enthusiastic in bringing the undertaking to a successful completion. I will not weary you with a description of the undertaking, as the architects have given a full description, which appears in the programme. We believe we have today added another charming attraction to this comprehensive list. We believe that the public and visitors will do their part and show their appreciation of the efforts of the Council and the management by patronising Villa Marina, and thus make it a success, not only financially, but as an additional attraction to Douglas and the Isle of Man. We appreciate the unfailing interest taken by your Excellency and Lady Raglan in everything that tends to the improvement and development of the Island, the assistance you have both given to Villa Marina, and your sympathy with the objects associated with its inception make it most appropriate that you should do us the honour of being closely associated with the opening and completion of the undertaking, and I have the greatest pleasure in asking your Excellencies to declare this building open (loud applause).
Lady Raglan, who had a very cordial reception, said there is no way in which character is more prominent than in those who wish to beautify and improve the place in which they live, and also the minds and happiness and welfare of those who live in the place or visit the place; and, as we all meet here today, I am sure it is with the heartiest congratulations that we wish the Mayor and Corporation every success in the undertaking which they have achieved in having now arrived at the opening day of this beautiful and delightful Kursaal. It is of great interest to me to be here, as I know well what the future of this building will be to all those who partake in its advantages, and I am quite sure that the advancement and improvement will be very great alsothat the artistic charms must have a very refining and elevating influence over all those who come here to enjoy all the advantages they will have. I wish to express great gratitude for the beautiful bell which I have received, and with which I have opened this Kursaal, and I hope the sound of it will fill the atmosphere with joy, and peace, and harmony, and that they will ever be the chief characteristics connected with the Kursaal. I have now the very greatest pleasure in declaring the Villa Marina Kursaal open (applause).
The Mayor: I will now ask the Chairrnan of the Committee, Mr Alderman Craine, to propose a vote of thanks.
Alderman Craine: As Chairman of this Committee, it falls to my lot to do some thing in the opening of this hall. As you will see, we have the hall finished and ready for carrying out our business. I need not go into details, as the Mayor has done, further than to tell you that the committee who sit on my left, and myself, have worked enthusiastically. We have been joined by the Town Clerk, who has been undoubtedly a great help towards carrying it out. I am not going to repeat, either, what our Mayor has said about his Excellency and Lady Raglan. They have at all times come forward to give their assistance, when it has been asked, for all purposes that will be of benefit to Douglas and the Island generally. It is my duty a very pleasing duty to move that a hearty vote of thanks be given to Lord and Lady Raglan for the gracious way they have come here. They have broken up their holiday and come away from London doubtless at very great inconvenience to themselves to open this hall in the gracious manner which they have done (applause).
The Mayor: I will now ask the Deputy-Mayor, Mr Councillor Cowin, to second the vote.
Councillor R. D. Cowin : I have very great pleasure in rising to second the resolution which has been proposed by the Chairman of the Committee who have had this great work in hand. On the completion of the work, it is only fitting that there should be a function of this sort to let everyone who has any interest whatever in the Island know what the people of this place are willing to do, to gratify their patrons. We are trying to the utmost of our ability to please you, to make accommodation for your pleasure, and we are exceedingly thankful to you for your patronage. I have very great pleasure indeed in rising to second this vote of thanks to his Excellency and Lady Raglan for coming forward in the gracious manner they have done to declare this hall open. It is hardly necessary on any occasion to ask the assistance of the noble pair for anything that is of advantage to the Isle of Man. They seem to see the necessity even before we can ask, and one gracious act on their part after another seems to follow to our advantage, and from the encouragement given by them in many instances, perhaps a great deal of useful influence has been brought even to the construction of the present building in which we are assembled. I have very great pleasure indeed in seconding the resolution (applause).
The motion was put by the Mayor, and was carried with hearty acclamation. The Governor, who on rising was greeted in enthusiastic fashion, said: Mr Mayor, my kind ladies and gentlemen; I rise to thank you all, on behalf of Lady Raglan and myself, for the extremely kind way in which you have passed this resolution about our coming here today. Now, I would like to say a few words with regard to this building in which we are sitting. It is usual on these occasions to speak about " this magnificent and beautiful building," and it is usual for the building not to be magnificent, and it is seldom beautiful (laughter). But on this occasion you really have a magnificent and beautiful building (applause). Before I go further, permit me to congratulate everyone who has been connected with this building the original committee of the Corporation, the architect, the contractor, and, I may add, Noble's Trustees let me congratulate them on the success which their joint efforts have attained. Now anybody who knows Douglas and a great many of us have known it a good many years anybody who sees the Island and this bay, as you come into it, would have felt, I am sure, that it would have been the greatest pity in the world it would have been a misfortune to the Isle of Man if this piece of ground on which this building now stands, if Villa Marina Park had by any untoward chance been built over (applause). I am sure that those of us who can remember a. few years back will regret the disappearance of even the few little villas and gardens which were situated further on, towards the bottom of Little Switzerland. If the whole of the sea-front of Douglas had been covered with boarding-houses, it would have been a matter for real and deep regret. Boarding-houses are extremely useful things, but I do not think any of us can consider them ornamental; and it would have been a matter for regret if these beautiful woods, which are a charming and characteristic feature of Douglas Bay, would have been lost for ever; and we have to congratulate everyone connected with this scheme the Corporation and the trustees on the fact that for ever these beautiful grounds have been saved for the public (applause). Now, the Mayor has said a great many kind things about Lady Raglan and about myself, and those kind words have been repeated by Alderman Craine and the Deputy-Mayor. But you will allow me to remark that Lady Raglan and I would have been greatly disappointed from the bottom of our hearts if we had not something to do with the opening of this Kursaal (applause). As the Mayor has told you in. his admirable summary of the history of this scheme, this is an epoch in the history of Douglas. I believe that this hall and these beautiful grounds are going to provide for a class of visitor, and for the amusement of certain people, whom, I think, we Manxmen have been a. little forgetful of in the past years (hear, hear). After all, we are not all of us five and twenty; we do not all want to dance all night or even to go to a cinematograph show; and I think a place where a middle-aged person like myself can sit in a comfortable chair and listen to a good band is a perfect godsend to any town (applause). As the advertisements say, this is " a long-felt want" ; and I am sure the Corporation and Noble's Trustees, and all connected with the undertaking have filled that want in a most admirable manner. We have had a good deal of speechifying, and I do not want to take up your time unnecessarily. On behalf of Lady Raglan, I want to thank you for your vote of thanks, and also, on her behalf, to thank the architect and contractor for the gift of this beautiful bell. She will greatly value it, and she will always keep it ; and, as far as one is allowed to keep anything belonging to one now-a-days (laughter and applause) it is never safe to prophesy it will remain, I hope, for a very considerable period an heirloom in my family. I have also to thank the architects for this very beautiful medallion, which has on its back the arms of Douglas, and on the front the account of the reason for which it is given. Also, on behalf of Lady Raglan, I must thank you for the beautiful bouquets; I thank Miss Cowin very much for the bouquet she has most kindly giver.. I thank very much, for their kind words, both those who proposed and seconded this resolution; and I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, very much for the extremely kind way in which you have carried it (applause).
The curtain at this juncture was lowered to permit of the arrangements for the concert being made, and the Lieut.-Governor, Lady Raglan, and the others of the party on the platform proceeded to the seats in the grand circle which had been reserved for them.
The concert was short, but of admirable quality. Instrumental selections were rendered by the Blue Viennese Band (Herr Wurm conductor) as follows: Overture, " Tanahauser" (Wagner) ; Entracte, " Traum Bild" (Blou), " Dans la Lune" (arranged by Herr Wurm) ; " 2nd Hungarian Rhapsodie" (Liszt) ; and Two Step, " Ragtime Soldier Man" (Hirsch). The vocalists were Miss Carrie Tubb (soprano) and Mr Joseph O'Mara (tenor). Miss Tubb, an accomplished artiste, rendered in admirable fashion the Jewel Song from Gounod's "Faust," and "Ferryman Love" (Bossdont), while in response to an encore she gave a delightful interpretation of chansonette " Down Vauxhall Way." Mr O'Mara's contributions, which were also most acceptable, were the flower song from Bizit's " Carmen," " The Silver Ring" (Chaminade), and " The song of the blue bird" (Thompson). That benignant-looking and very accomplished instrumentalist, Herr Josef Bene, lent variety and interest to the programme by a cyzmbalom solo, which was cordially and deservedly appreciated. At the conclusion of the concert the National Anthem was again sung, and the official party proceeded to perform two minor functions in connect on with the opening. The Mayoress, at the request of Alderman Craine. chairman of the Promenades Committee, unveiled on the main foyer staircase a tablet commemorative of the building of the Kursaal.
The following was the inscription on the tablet:
Villa Marina Estate was purchased by the Corporation of Douglas for the sum of £60,000, and this building was erected and furnished at a cost of £25,000 out of funds provided by the Trustees of the late Henry Bloom Noble, and opened by his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, Lord Raglan, and Lady Raglan, on the 19th July, 1913.
The architect, at the conclusion of the ceremony, presented the Mayoress with a replica of the tablet.
After the unveiling of the tablet, the party moved to the grounds just in front of the Kursaal, where Mrs W. J. Corlett, who was Mayoress during Alderman Proctor's mayoralty in 1902, requested Lady Raglan to turn on the water in connection with the marble fountain erected on the south promenade of the Kursaal to commemorate the visit of King Edward VII. and Queen Alexandra to Douglas in 1902.
Mrs Corlett said: Lady Raglan, this fountain has been erected in commemoration of the visit of his late Majesty King Edward and Queen Alexandra. That visit was greatly appreciated by the Manx people, and we all look forward with hope to a visit next year of their gracious Majesties King George and Queen Mary. I invite your ladyship now to perform the inaugural ceremony by turning on the water.
Lady Raglan signified the pleasure it gave her to assent to the request, and then turned on the water, cheers greeting the consequent playing of the jets in the bright sunshine.
Thus concluded the opening proceedings, but large numbers remained to partake of afternoon tea in the spacious and convenient cafe attached to the circle. On all hands the praises of the Kursaal were warmly sung, and the opinion was expressed that the fine building would be of immense advantage to Douglas.
The following was the list of persons invited to be present at the opening ceremony on Saturday
The Lieut.-Governor, Lady Raglan, and party.
The Mayor and Mayoress.
The Earl and Countess of Bessborough.
The members of the Legislative Council.
The High-Bailiff of Douglas.
The Aldermen of the borough.
The Councillors of the borough.
The Town Clerk.
The Trustees of the late H. B. Noble.
The Speaker and members of the House of Keys.
The Government Secretary.
The Secretary of the Tynwald Court.
The Mayor's Chaplain.
The Crown Receiver.
The Chaplain of the House of Keys.
The Chief Constable.
The Collector of Customs.
The representatives of the London, Provincial, Scotch. Irish, and Manx Press.
The Council's Legal Advisers.
The Justices of the Peace for the district.
The Clerk to the Justices.
The Public. Analyst.
The Government Auditors.
The Architects of Villa Marina.
The Contractor of Villa Marina.
The Sub-contractors of Villa Marina.
The official staff of the Corporation.
The Clerk of the Works, Villa Marina.
The Officers of the Isle of Man Volunteers.
The Chairman and Secretary of the Advertising Board.
Representatives of the Harbour Board.
Representatives of the Highway Board.
Representatives of the Local Government Board.
Representatives of the Assessment Board.
Chairman and Clerk to the School Board.
Chairman and Clerk to Poor Law Guardians.
Chairman and Clerk to Onchan Commissioners.
Chairman and Clerk of Ramsey Commissioners.
Chairman and Clerk of Peel Commissioners.
Chairman and Clerk of Castletewn Commissioners.
Chairman and Clerk of the Port Erin Commissioners.
Chairman and Clerk of the Port St Mary Commissioners.
Chairman and Clerk of the Laxey Village Commissioners.
Chairman and Clerk of the Kirk Michael Commissioners.
Chairman, Isle of Man Municipal Association.
The Managers of the Insular Banks.
The President of the Free Church Council.
Representatives of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.
Representatives of the Isle of Man Railway Company.
Representatives of the Manx Electric Railway Company.
Representatives of the Midland Railway Co.
Representatives of the Douglas Gas Light Co.
Representatives of the Palace Company.
Representatives of the Southern Electric Railway Company.
Chairman and Secretary of the Manx Automobile Club.
Mr Payne. Grand Theatre.
Mr Moie, Grand Theatre.
Mr F. J. Buxton, Glen Lyon.
Mr F. J. Connor, Circus.
Mr Cottier Cubbin, Onchan Head.
Mr H. B. Mylchreest, Pier Pavilion.
The Band Master of the Isle of Man Volunteers.
The Band Master of the Douglas Town Band.
The First Officer Rocket Corps.
Representatives of the Isle o£ Man Scouts.
Representatives of the Church Lads' Brigade.
Representatives of the Boys' Brigade.
Representatives of the Trade and Labour Council.
Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce.
Representatives of the Boarding-house Keepers Association.
Representatives of the Postmen's Federation.
Representatives of the Insular Freemasons.
Representatives of the Oddfellows.
Representatives of the Forresters.
Representatives of the Rechabites.
Representatives of e Orange Lodges.
Representatives of he Car Owners' Association.
The Mayors and Town Clerks of Southport, Blackpool, Harrogate, Margate, Eastbourne. Bournemouth, and Torquay.
The Managers of the Corporation entertainments at the above places.
The Borough Surveyor, Torquay.
The Borough Surveyor, Eastbourne.
The Norwegian Consul.
Representatives of the Isle of Man Musical Guild.
Ex-Members of the Town Council.
Ladies and gentlemen entertaining the Press.
Mr Tarling and party. Mr and Mrs De Moutins.