Ron’s famous Diggola goes on display

One of the world’s first mobile discos, invented by a Boston man, has gone on display at the town’s Guildhall museum.

The Diggola, created by the late Ron Diggins, was mobile equipment for playing popular music at public functions, and is said to have launched an entirely new industry.

Mr Diggins is credited with being the inventor of the disco.

During an interview with The Standard, Lesley Wright, the editor of DJ Magazine, who ran a two-page spread about Ron a number of years ago entitled ‘The First DJ’, said: “Ron started it all.”

Ron built seven Diggolas, and the one on display will be the fifth of those.

Ron, a radio engineer providing public address systems, spoke to the Standard during his 90th birthday celebrations shortly before he died in 2007.

He told the paper: “When I started out, the ordinary village halls danced to live piano and drums – that’s all,” he said. “If it was something extra special, they’d have a violin as well.”

He was inspired to build the Diggola after playing music for dancing by Land Army Girls at Swineshead and Italian prisoners of war in 1947. “They were passing the office, saw the van, and came in to ask if it could be used for dancing,” Ron said.

“They were having a harvest supper with some of the Italian POWs. Well, I’d never thought of it before, but I didn’t want to lose the booking – so I said I’d give it a go.”

“It took me about six weeks to build the first Diggola,” he said.

“We couldn’t get plywood in those days, so soon after the war. So I had to make it out of coffin boards.”

The Diggolas featured two record decks mounted behind a light box and speakers on a base which supported a fanned curtain and a suspended glitter ball.

Each Diggola was made individually due to the decoration of the central unit.

Ron retired from playing the Diggola in 1995 after around 20,000 bookings.

However, he remained modest to the end. Telling The Standard in 2007: “I’ve invented nothing,” he was still insisting. “I put the same things to a different use, that’s all.”

Music accompanying the Guildhall Diggola, which was built in 1964 and was originally donated by Ron to the Assembly Rooms when it was in council ownership, includes Max Bygraves’ 100 greatest hits, Laurie Leigh on the ‘Famous Hammond organ’, James Last and His Orchestra and the greatest hits of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass – all sounds of the times.

Ron played his last Diggola at a New Year’s Eve dance in Boston in 1994 when he was aged 77.

The Guildhall is open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10.30am-3.30pm, last admission 3pm and is free to visit, although donations are welcome.

The Guildhall will be closed for Christmas from 3.30pm, Saturday, December 23, to 10.30am on Wednesday, January 3.

www.bostonguildhall.co.uk 01205 365954