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.: Derby Castle Ballroom
Derby Castle BallroomThe Derby Castle Ballroom in Douglas was the Isle of Man’s largest hall for gatherings until its closure in 1955.

It was a huge, grand and elegant hall, built in the early 1800s as a party room for guests of the Duke of Derby who held lavish banquets there.

As the aristocracy of the Isle of Man faded, so their property fell into the hands of private businesses, and the ballroom became a popular dinner and dance venue.

But on August 6, 1955, the ballroom’s owners made a dreadful mistake. It wasn’t unusual for more than one party to be held in the room at the same time (given its size).

That night, the room had been booked for functions by two historic Manx organisations… the Isle of Man Society for the Wives of Wall Builders and the Manx Institution of the Wives of Isle of Man Doormakers.

Both were deadly and bitter rivals after a disagreement in 1843 between the wife of John Quilliam, a wall builder, and the spouse of Derek Quine, a doormaker. Both were in trades that considered the other a waste of time, and their wives took similar views of each other.

Jennifer Quilliam and Edna Quine detested each other with a ferocity that ensured each time they met a reporter from the Mona’s Gazette would come away with a fine story for the gossip or social column.

That night in August was to be no different, although nobody knows exactly how the altercation began. Some say Jennifer trod on Edna’s dress whilst dancing, others say Edna tripped Jennifer during a foxtrot.

Either way, both ladies were soon yanking at each other’s hair and ripping each other’s clothing – locked into a mortal battle royale on the sprung wooden dance floor. Within minutes, their fellow wives had joined the fray, leading to the worst rioting in the Isle of Man since the Duke of Athol introduced the infamous Speaking Tax three hundred years earlier.

The police were called, and eventually separated the ladies using dogs, batons and the butts of their service revolvers. Nobody faced any criminal charges over the incident as it was unclear who had done what to whom… but the ballroom was closed down a few days later by a special sitting of Douglas magistrates. It remained empty and unused until its demolition in the 1980s.

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Written at 15:20 by G
3 comments | links to this post

3 Comments:
Blogger allie said:
"i am so happy that you commented on my "Van Gogh" photo because it enabled me to find your fabulous blog. what a great read!"

Blogger babooshka said:
"Sounds like a night in fightlife. Society ladies fighting, no maybe not. well yes at the masonic lodge when allowed in.

You might want to check out your technorati. I linked your blog and namechecked in a post, but don't think the authority has been added to yours."

Blogger Chrismannion said:
"Are your years correct ? However it is a marvelous story."

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