Yule always be DJ Gran!
Shanklin Pier’s DJ gran, Joan Yule was never particularly concerned when remarks were aimed at her like: “Look at that old girl up there playing records. What’s she all about?”
Within a few minutes the bikers, mods and head bangers were in their element. She soon sussed her audience and suddenly it was Status Quo, T Rex, the Small Faces and AC/DC. I recently caught up with 91-year-old Joan, who still listens to records.
In 1987 her sad story went all around the world. At the time Shanklin Pier was blown away by the hurricane, Joan was still their resident DJ. Her daughter Lynda phoned at 6.00amto tell her the news and Joan was distraught. Not only had she lost the pier she loved but also her speakers, deck, lighting equipment and 2,000 records.
“Albert, the pier ghost, got all those records that had taken me 30 years to collect. He must have had some rave-up. Divers did go down but they only found one record,” said Joan.
It was back in the mid 1940s when Joan, who’d been a nurse in London and Portsmouth, arrived on the Island. For over 20 years she worked at the Towers Holiday Camp at Thorness Bay. It was classic Hi-de-Hi. In the early days there were just a few caravans in a field, with no running water or electricity.
Gradually things improved and they progressed to a ballroom, bar and indoor swimming pool. Their resident drummer, Don White lived on site, and his son used to practice playing his guitar at the Towers. Later, as Snowy White, he had a Top 10 record with Bird of Paradise, and played with Pink Floyd and Thin Lizzy.
“We had a three piece band and when they had their break things went awfully flat, so our owner, Fred Sage, suggested we played a few records. I had many jobs and that became one of them. Initially it was Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald, but when the Beatles came along I borrowed my daughter’s records to keep the youngsters happy.”
When the centre was taken over by a national holiday company Joan moved on and arrived at Shanklin Pier. Due to her age she was quickly named the DJ Gran. On one occasion she went into the local record store, Acorn Records, to add to her collection and asked for the receipt be made out to Shanklin Pier. The young assistant said: “They tell me an old gal plays all the records down there.” Joan never said a word.
She still remembers the Island’s Unity Stompers being one of the last bands to play there. At every gig she made a point of playing a record by the American movie legend Paul Robeson, most famous for Old Man River. Back in the 1930s he did a concert on Shanklin Pier.
A few months after Joan lost all her records I put out a plea in my Stage Talk column in the old Weekly Post newspaper for any unwanted records to help rebuild her collection. There was a great response and she even got her favourite, Acker Bilk’s Stranger on the Shore. It was not the end of her life as a DJ, as she did a few seasons at the Sandown Bay Holiday Centre.