DANCING at the Palais in Bolton was something of a rite of passage for most local youngsters.

They would dance the evening away — dancing had to end before the last bus left Bolton bus station — to the big band sound with a cup of coffee in hand.

It was a gentle time of music and laughter and a far cry from today’s nightclubs it would seem.

Many Bolton couples met at the Palais and here we have a story of Donald Dougill who met his wife there.

Donald, who is aged 94, has a fascinating story to tell of his life and the Palais De Danse in Bolton.

He was conscripted to the RAF as a lad and after several postings was posted to Ballyhalbert in Ireland.

“I arrived on Christmas Eve, wet through and feeling a bit browned off.

“After checking in at the guard room I was told to go to a Nissan hut on the outskirts of the airfield where I met a bloke sitting round a stove, reading a comic. There was no one else around,” he explains.

He started talking to the serviceman and discovered he was a local lad. Donald, who lives in Smithills, explained that he was from Moses Gate in Farnworth and the other man told Donald he was from Morris Green “Bowton”.

The pair became great pals. They remained together until the end of the North Africa campaign when the squadron was disbanded.

“His name was Jim Flannery. He got posted to Italy. I went to Egypt and then on to Bahrain which was a six-month station.

“Then I was off again and finished in Karachi.”

Donald was, eventually, posted back to England via a holding camp in Palestine on the River Nile where thousands of servicemen had gathered.

Amazingly the pals were able to find each other among the huge crowd thanks to a mutual colleague who had spotted Jim and was able to direct Donald to him.

Donald was, once again, reunited with Jim, who, as a youngster, lived in a pub at the bottom of Deane Road. “We came home together via Alexandria, then to France and then back to Blighty,” he says.

Donald was demobbed in 1946 and the pair got in touch again when they were both back in Bolton.

Jimmy would go to the Aspin, says Donald but Donald was a “Palais boy”.

“One night we went to the Aspin as we wanted to hear the singer called Marie Smedley. Then off to the Palais we went.

“We went on the balcony to meet some of Jimmy’s mates, including Nat Lofthouse’s brother. Then Nat came along with his, then, girlfriend Alma the hairdresser,” says Donald.

That night would be a very special one for Donald as he had spotted two girls on the dance floor, one tall and blonde and one small and dark, he says.

He told his pal “I have just seen the girl I am going to marry”.

It was the young girl with the dark hair. The pair married on June 5, 1948 on Derby Day.

“A horse called “My Love” won at 25 to one on that day,” says Donald.

Donald says he started dancing at the Palais when he was 16 and his sister would take him on a Saturday afternoon.

He learned to dance at All Saints Church School in Farnworth.

Donald’s wife Nora died in January and he says he always called her “My Love”.