How We Once Lived #23: The Charity Ball
Images of the now infamous fancy dress party in which prominent members of the Great Heaving Community assembled in the Ballroom of Mrs Edna Whisky-McNightly's magnificent Dorset home on the night of 4th September 1959 are rare. Rarer still are those depicting the four prize winners "assemblés in situ" in the mansion's spacious yet surprisingly intimate Egyptian Room. Happily such an image has now emerged some 60 years after it was taken.
It was uncovered by a team of crack investigative reporters from the Sydling St Nicholas Sun in the soon to be archived collection of photographs by French society photographer René Papé-Razzé [1926-2019] Somewhat damaged due to the photographer's habit of casually parking "sa tasse de cafés" on anything near to hand, the negative image has, thanks to the patient efforts of the marvellous team at the Threadbone Digilabs, been restored to something close to recognisable. In it can be seen all four of the night's winners in their award winning costumes. They lean with varying degrees of confidence on a reproduction Tutank'piece sarcophagus case purchased by Mrs Whisky-McNightly in 2004.
The Whisky-McNightly Charity Ball - held in aid of good causes - was to become an annual and much anticipated event over the following five decades, moving in 1996 to The Tower Ballroom of the Magna Spa Hotel, Bloxworth. But few who attended regularly believe that the 1959 event was ever surpassed. "For its hedonistic mix of celebrity guests, mixed cocktail nuts, mini-pork pies and gin and its, it just couldn't be topped. When you've danced to the Latin-American rhythms of Fernandoo Mediantepiezza under the light of the Dorset moon you know just what paradise is. You also know that you probably won't find it again this side of the A3052", says veteran attendee Valerie Veter-Anne At'Ndee. "Agua Agua", she reminisces a little sadly; perhaps remembering the event in 1964 when - following a knickerbocker glory and particularly vigorous rumba - her husband - Free-Quent At'Ndee - left the ballroom with his secretary who needed "a little air" and was never seen again.