Search records

Leslie Kelly

Epithet: Town clerk of Peel (1915-1994)

Record type: Biographies

Biography: From ‘New Manx Worthies’ (2006):

On leaving the Douglas High School for Boys, where he was one of the first pupils when it opened at St Ninian's in 1927, Leslie Kelly began his working life in 1932 as the first pupil in the health department of the Douglas Corporation. After three years he went away to the School of Hygiene, Liverpool, where he completed a one-year course and qualified as a public health officer and food and meat inspector.

On returning to the Island he was appointed sanitary inspector for the Peel town commissioners in August 1936, having been deemed to be the best qualified candidate of the several who applied after the post was advertised in two English papers, as well as the local journals. A short time later, in February 1937, he was offered the post of Peel Town clerk on the early retirement of Alan Quilliam and agreed to give it a try for six months. At the age of 21 he became the youngest town clerk in Britain according to a report in the 'Daily Mirror' of 2nd March 1937. He was to remain in the joint posts of town clerk and public health inspector for 42 years.

During his years in office Leslie Kelly was involved with many of the changes and developments that occurred in Peel. The Marine Parade scheme, tennis courts and bowling green went ahead in 1936-37 despite some local opposition, followed by the Marine Hall, which was purchased from Collinson's in Port Erin, dismantled and re-erected alongside the tennis courts in 1948. Ten years later the swimming pool was built next to the Marine Hall. The Town Hall in Derby Road was opened on 13th February 1958 and replaced the commissioners' offices at 26 Castle Street. There were many local authority housing schemes over the years, there having been only ten houses in 1939; at the time of his retirement there were 221, plus 82 for elderly residents at Westlands. The new Clothworkers' School was built in 1952-53 and this enabled the old Infants School behind the Town Hall to be later developed as a community centre.

Leslie stayed in Peel during World War II as his was a reserved occupation, but he served as Civil Defence Officer for the area and had additional duties in respect of the internment camps which were established at that time.

After the war Peel once again became a thriving tourist resort and the commissioners provided many entertainments for the visitors which Leslie organised. These included sandcastle competitions, swimming galas, sports in the castle, concerts, personality contests and dances in the Marine Hall, tennis tournaments, sheepdog trials and many others. The sports in the castle continued into the '80s in conjunction with the Peel Beach Mission.

Beyond his duties as town clerk Leslie Kelly took an interest in many aspects both of Peel and Island life. He was a keen sportsman who played football for Old Boys and badminton before going to Peel, and went on to play bowls, tennis and golf. He was still playing badminton, bowls and golf at the sprightly old age of 77 years. He not only played, but also took an active part in the organisation of these sports. He was on the committee of Peel AFC for many years, and president in 1958. He was a member of Peel Golf Club from 1937, serving as captain, secretary, treasurer and president at various times, and he was made an Honorary Life Member of the club on his retirement as president. He was also vice-president of the Isle of Man Golk Union for 25 years. He played badminton for Peel Methodist Badminton Club and was president and a member of the executive committee of the Isle of Man Badminton Association. He was chairman, captain and secretary of Peel Sunset Bowling Club and in 1978 the Isle of Man Lawn Tennis Association made a presentation to him in appreciation of his many years of work for tennis. In recognition of all this he was one of the original members of the Isle of Man Sports Council in the early 1970s.

A lifelong Methodist, Leslie worshipped first at Salisbury Street Church in Douglas and then at the Athol' Street Chapel in Peel, which later became the Peel Methodist Church. He was a Sunday School teacher from the age of sixteen and a chapel steward and circuit steward at Peel. He served on so many committees that he sometimes had more than two or three meetings in one evening.

Throughout most of his working life in Peel he was supported by his wife, Olive, whom he met through their shared interest in badminton. They were married on 10th October 1938 at St Ninian's Church in Douglas. Olive Evelyn Orton was born in Coventry on 14th June 1907, the eldest daughter of Reginald Orton and his wife Mabel (née Plevins). She came to the Island when she was two years old when her father was appointed general manager of the Douglas Southern Electric Tramway on Marine Drive. After their marriage the Kellys lived first at 25 West View, Peel, and then for a number of years at 1 Peveril Terrace before returning to West View in 1977. They had four children. As well as supporting her husband, Olive Kelly played an active part in many organisations in Peel, including the Red Cross, Mothers' Union, British Legion, the Sunday School, Junior Guild and Women's Fellowship of the Methodist Church and Manx Folk Dancing Society and she held office in many of these organisations. As a member and official of the Peel Methodist Badminton Club she took a special interest in the younger players and ran the junior section of the club for many years. She was also a vice-president of the Isle of Man Badminton Association. When she died on 9th October 1977 a large congregation attended the funeral service at Peel Parish Church, and it was reported in the Isle of Man Examiner that she 'will be sadly missed in Peel'.

Following his retirement in March 1979 Leslie Kelly was as busy as ever. He was chairman of the Road Traffic Commissioners, chairman of Peel Endowments Committee, first president of the Probus Club of Western Mann, a counsellor with Peel Citizens' Advice Bureau, a driver for Meals on Wheels. He continued his active involvement with the Peel Methodist Church and his many sporting interests. Only the onset of the crippling motor neurone disease in 1992 meant that he had gradually to give up many of his activities, but he continued to attend functions in Peel as long as he could. His last nine months were spent first at the Corrin Memorial Home in Peel, and later at the Belvedere Nursing Home in Port St Mary where he died on 3rd December 1994. The very large congregation at his funeral service in Peel Methodist Church was indicative of the esteem in which he was held both in Peel and the rest of the Island. There were many glowing tributes in the local newspapers in the following days. He was laid to rest in Peel Cemetery beside his wife. He was survived by his four children and seven grandchildren.

Biography written by Merle Jones (daughter).

(With thanks to Culture Vannin as publishers of the book: Kelly, Dollin (general editor), ‘New Manx Worthies’, Manx Heritage Foundation/Culture Vannin, 2006, pp.238-40.)

Culture Vannin


Nationality: Manx

Gender: Male

Date of birth: 23 March 1915

Date of death: 3 December 1994

Name Variant: Mr Kelly


Optional, not displayed

Manx National Heritage (MNH) will always put you in control of the information we send you. Read our privacy policy