Scottish Historical Pageant
Place: Craigmillar Castle (Craigmillar) (Craigmillar, Midlothian, Scotland)
Number of performances: 4
14–16 July 1927
Thursday 14 July, 3.30pm; Friday 15 July, 7.30pm; Sat 16 July, 3pm and 7pm
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Pageant Master: Benson, F.R.
- Stage Director: R. Halford Forster
- Stage Manager: Hebden Foster
- Art Secretary: Miss Carleton Smyth
- Assistant Art Secretary: Miss Hannah
- Designer: Miss Caird
- Property Marshal: Wm. Henry
- Property Makers: A.M. Tod, J. McNeil, G. Walker, B. Bramah, J. Gilchrist
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- Honorary Organiser: Walter G. Montgomery
- Deputy Honorary Organisers:
- James Wallace Bell
- Oswald Barclay, D.L.
- Captain Campbell of Succoth
- F.D. Caverhill
- Earle D. Douglas
- Captain C. Hetherwick, M.C.
- T.P. MacDonald, M.A., LL.B.
- Miss Margaret Rose
- R. Rudolph
- H.D. Wyllie
- The Lady Clementine Waring, C.B.E.
- FD. Wellwood, M.I. Mun. & Cy.E.
- Assistant Honorary Organisers:
- Captain W. Briggs Constable, M.C., of Benarty
- J. Dewar
- Lieut.-Col. H. Howden
- J.C. Moonie
- James Nicholson
- R.F. Stark
- Col. Bruce Turnbull
- P. Stewart Watt
- Honorary Historical Adviser: Professor R.K. Hannay, M.A., LL.D.
- Honorary Surveyors: Messrs Murray & Baird, F.F.S.
- Honorary Architect: J. Wilson Paterson, M.V.O., M.B.E., A.R.I.B.A.
- Honorary Veterinary Surgeon : A.K. Cameron, B. Sc., M.R.C.V.S.
- Official Publicity Agent: R. McKean Cant, F.C.I. (Northern Advertising Agency)
- Official Photographer: Ian Smith
- Office Staff:
- Secretary: James C. Lumsden
- Voluntary Assistants (12 listed)
- Clerks (5 listed)
- Typists (6 listed)
- Chairman: The Right Honourable The Countess of Mar and Kellie
- Honorary Organiser: Walter G. Montgomery, Esq., O.B.E.
- Hon. Treasurer: James Allen Cook, Esq.
- Secretary: Jas. C. Lumsden
- Convener of Executive Committee: Major A.F. Cadell, W.S.
- W.M. Baird
- Miss M.R. Caird
- Geo. Campbell
- Captain G.S. Campbell-Swinton
- J. Allan Cook
- A.S. Cruickshank
- Lady Findlay, M.B.E.
- Brig.-General Sir Robert Gilmour, C.B., C.V.O., D.S.O.
- The Lady Susan Gilmour
- Professor R.K. Hannay, M.A., LL.D.
- The Rt. Hon. The Countess of Mar and Kellie
- Colonel C.R. Newman, C.M.G., D.S.O.
- J. Wilson Paterson, M.V.O., M.B.E., A.R.I.B.A.
- Chief Constable R. Ross, C.B.E., M.V.O.
- The Lady Clementine Waring, C.B.E.
- Bankers: The National Bank of Scotland Ltd.
- Auditors: William Home Cook & Co., C.A.
- Printers: McLagan & Cumming
- Chairman: The Right Honourable The Countess of Mar and Kellie
- Vice-Chairman: The Lady Susan Gilmour
- Convener: J. Allan Cook, J.P.
- Convener: Geo. Campbell
- Convener: W.M. Baird, F.F.S.
- Convener: Chief Constable Ross, C.B.E., M.V.O.
- Convener: Capt. W. Briggs Constable, M.C., of Benarty
- Convener: L. Crosnier
- Convener: F.D. Wellwood, M.I., Mun. & Cy.E.
- Convener: Mrs Hamilton-Jamieson
- Convener: H.D. Wyllie
- Convener: Lieut.-Col. H. Howden
- Convener: Geo. Campbell
- Convener: Arthur Nelson
- Convener: Walter G. Montgomery, O.B.E.
- Convener: Oswald Barclay, D.L.
- Convener: Miss Jean Pagan
115 on General Committee in total, made up of 93 men and 22 women.
Ex-Officio Members of all Committees and Sub-Committees:
- Major H.F. Cadell, W.S.
- J. Allan Cook
- The Lady Susan Gilmour
- The Right Hon. The Countess of Mar and Kellie
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
There was no named scriptwriter.
Story of the pageant in souvenir programme told by James Wallace Bell
Names of composers
- Moonie, W.B.
- Dunbar, William
- MacLeod, Robert
- Hamilton of Bangour, William
Numbers of performers3000
3000 (1000 principal performers). Choir/chorus = 1000 singers and 800 dancers. Reference was also made to 200 performers being mounted on horseback.
Total expenditure: £5678
[items do not sum to the total
Tickets: £13192 [NB unsold tickets to value £1450 on first day]
Firework display: £740
Dance (ball): £117
Total receipts: £15000
Profit: £6400[Figures published in Glasgow Herald, 3 December 1927, 11. Report of final meeting of General Committee held at Synod Hall, Edinburgh, 2 December 1927.]
Object of any funds raised
The Scottish Branch of the Queen Victoria Jubilee Institute for Nurses: to extend its sphere of action, but also to ‘meet its urgent, clamant calls’.
- Grandstand: Yes
- Grandstand capacity: 10000
- Total audience: 45000
The total audience capacity, including the grandstand, across the four performances was 50000. All seats in the grandstand were taken for all the performances.
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Range of prices available. 10 different stands (lettered A-K) plus Royal Box marked on plan.
Most expensive: £2. 2s.
Least expensive: 2s.
The pageant was a sell out, the official programme noting that every seat had been reserved.
Associated eventsGigantic Pageant Ball and Carnival (Thursday 14 July 1927, 8pm-1.30am) in Marine Gardens Ballroom, Portobello. Tickets 2s. 6d. each (all proceeds to Queen Victoria Jubilee Institute for Nurses). Special orchestra to be engaged, attractions ‘of a unique nature’ have been arranged, and pageant performers requested to wear their costumes. Buses and trams to run to all parts of Edinburgh and District after the Ball. Ball arranged ‘under the auspices of the Scottish Historical Pageant Committee’.
Colossal Fireworks Display at Inverleith, Edinburgh (Stewart’s College Sports Field) by kind permission of the Merchant Company (Friday 8 and Saturday 9 July at 10.30pm). Held under the auspices of the Scottish Historical Pageant Committee. Latest devices and set pieces, huge rockets, star shells, ‘see the great zeppelin attack’. Many attractions listed, including Kohinoor shells, giant plumes, devils’ mines and rainbow clouds; cock fight, acrobats, scooter race, mammoth fire wheel (30 feet by 30 feet), aerial firework jugglery, and portraits of their majesties the King and Queen and HRH the Prince of Wales. Staged by Messrs C. T. Brock & Co of Crystal Palace Firework Fame. Admission 1 s., seats in covered stand 1 s. extra (6d. to enter ground only).
Set in the green area to the south of Craigmillar Castle, scene of a holiday as King James IV of Scotland is to meet his English bride, Princess of the Royal House of England, Margaret Tudor, for the first time. Scenes of football and shinty, country dance. The Princess arrives and the marriage ceremony takes place. Fight then takes place between two Knights, after conclusion of which, the Royal Lovers and their party ride towards Holyrood.
‘Hardy Scots’ fitting armour in case the need arises; also jumping, wrestling, weight putting and hammer throwing, showing swordmanship and then doing a Sword Dance.
Set in August 1513, after James IV has ruled Scotland for 10 ‘prosperous years’. Henry VIII waging war in France with which Scotland has an alliance—call to war goes out after Scottish ship attacked by two ships of English navy. Army assembles with King at head and the newly completed Red Lion of Scotland is unfolded. King warned repeatedly as he departs for war but leaves anyway. Queen and her Ladies ride to Linlithgow.
Victories for Scottish army throughout August 1513 until Battle of Flodden on 9 September. News relayed that King James and 10000 Scottish men are dead. Call to arms to Edinburgh made by George Touris, the President of the Council. Episode ends with monks praying, people marching to Edinburgh, the lament of the pipes, and ‘the voices of a stricken people’ singing ‘The Flow’rs o’ the Forest’.
Dance to welcome Mary Queen of Scots by 600 maidens dressed in bright colours, dancing along to band of pipers
Mary Queen of Scots has been on the throne for three years and has decided to choose herself a husband. Scene with lots of different characters including John Knox, David Rizzio (the Queens’ Secretary for France), and various nobility—designed to introduce Lord Darnley, son of the Earl of Lennox and great-grandson of Henry VIII of England, as Queen’s chosen lover as well as divisive and disliked character (‘King of Scotland he may be, but never King of Scots!’) Various references to plotting and jealousy. Ends by conveying flavour of difficulties Mary Queen of Scots setting herself up for.
Merry shouts of children singing and playing games, with adults joining in singing and country dancing—everyone joyous at news of birth of Queen Mary’s child, heir to two crowns.
Rizzio killed in early 1566 and murderers driven from Scotland, but Darnley—who both protested innocence and betrayed his accomplices, made himself the ‘scorn of friend and foe alike’. Baby son born to Mary in June. Discussions about divorce from Darnley, with Queen concerned about how this might prejudice her son’s right to succeed the thrones. Given opportunity to do this by William Maitland of Lethington. Makes reference to execution of Mary Queen of Scots twenty years later. Ends with the following:
‘And now the Thistle and the Rose grow side by side. Each have their sweetness; but back yet ruthless ones! Touch not! For sharp are the thorns they bear in their defence. As their sweetness grows so grows their strength.
The clarion call peals loud, “St George for Merrie England!” and from every utmost corner of the world comes a sterner answer, as befits so stern a race, “Scotland, aye! Scotland!”
Key historical figures mentioned
- James IV (1473–1513) king of Scots
- Margaret [Margaret Tudor] (1489–1541) queen of Scots, consort of James IV
- Henry VIII (1491–1547) king of England and Ireland
- Howard, Thomas, second duke of Norfolk (1443–1524) magnate and soldier
- Howard [née Tilney], Agnes, duchess of Norfolk (b. in or before 1477, d. 1545) noblewoman
- Savage, Thomas (d. 1507) administrator and archbishop of York
- Mary [Mary Stewart] (1542–1587) queen of Scots
- Knox, John (c.1514–1572) religious reformer
- Stewart, Henry, duke of Albany [known as Lord Darnley] (1545/6–1567) second consort of Mary, queen of Scots
- James VI and I (1566–1625) king of Scotland, England, and Ireland
There is little mention of instruments in the surviving source material, although there is one reference to trumpets (Episode I, ‘The Song of the Populace’) and to piano (for practice only, Episode II, ‘Busk ye, Busk ye’). Music included:
- ‘The Song of the Populace’. (Episode I). Written by William Dunbar, air adapted and arranged from ‘Ladie Cassilles’ Lilt by Robert MacLeod. Songs of the Pageant.
- ‘Busk ye, Busk ye’. Scottish Part-Song (Episode I, to be sung in the King James IV scene prior to his marriage with Margaret Tudor). Tune from Leyden M.S. Words based on a ballad by William Hamilton of Bangour (d. 1754), first printed in Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany. Arranged by W.B. Moonie. Songs of the Pageant.
- ‘A Wet Sheet and a Flowing Sea’. 4-part song for Male Voices (Episode II, to be sung in the James IV scene). Words by Allan Cunningham (1784-1842). Music based on an old Highland Boating Melody by W.B. Moonie. Specially prepared for the Scottish Historical Pageant. Songs of the Pageant.
- ‘Baloo, my boy’. Scottish part-song (Episode V, to be sung in the Queen Mary Scene. The infant in this case is Darnley’s son who became James VI of Scotland and I of England).
- Lady Anne Bothwell’s Lament—Orpheus Caledonius, 1725. Words based on an old ballad (AD 1558) by an anonymous writer. Arranged by W.B. Moonie. Songs of the Pageant.
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Book of words
- None found.
Other primary published materials
- McKenzie, F.A. Wonderful Britain. Its Highways, Byways and Historic Places (Vol 2). In chapter ‘The Past re-created in Pageantry’. See http://oreald.com/picture1000.html
- Moonie, W.B. and MacLeod, Robert. Scottish Historical Pageant—Songs of the Pageant: Souvenir Edition. Edinburgh, 1927. Edinburgh Central Library (Music Library) Annexe WC(T8) M1746 Acc. C77086. Also available in National Library of Scotland, Weir. 11(34).
- Scottish Historical Pageant, Craigmillar Castle, Edinburgh, 14th, 15th, 16th July 1927: Souvenir Programme. Price One Shilling. Edinburgh, 1927. Mitchell Library Glasgow Ref. 941.1 SCO.
References in secondary literature
- Gilmour, Kathleen. ‘Sarah (Sadie) Ross Aitken, M.B.E.: A Study of a Career in Theatre’, International Journal of Scottish Theatre, 1 (2000).
- Pentland, G. and Stevenson, K. 2012, 'The Battle of Flodden and its Commemoration, 1513-2013'. In England and Scotland at War, c.1296-c.1513, edited by A. King and D. Simpkin, 355-80. Brill, Leiden, 2012.
- Wallis, Mick. ‘Delving the levels of memory and dressing up in the past’. In C. Barker & M.B. Gale, British Theatre Between the Wars, 1918-1939, 190-214. Cambridge, 2007.
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Banners used to mark beginning of each Episode and the beginning of each interlude (pictures shown in souvenir programme).
- Number of organisations represented in cast:
- Dancers: The Edinburgh Girl Guides Association, St George’s School, George Square School, St Hilary’s School, George Heriot’s School.
- Pageant Choir (conductor: Herbert A. Carruthers): Many individuals named plus Newhaven Fishwives’ Choir.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
In July 1927, the Scottish Historical Pageant was held in the grounds of Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh. With nearly 4000 performers, 200 horses and a grandstand capacity of 10,000— and a total audience capacity, across the four performances, of 50,000—this was a major historical pageant, which was attended by King George V and Queen Mary. ‘The Cause Behind the Pageant’ was to raise money for the Scottish Branch of the Queen Victoria Jubilee Institute for Nurses, to both extend its sphere of action, but also to ‘meet its urgent, clamant calls’. The Scottish Historical Pageant was hugely successful, both in terms of the audience response and the money that it made for its cause, from both the pageant and a number of associated events that took place around it. During the weekend preceding the pageant, a Colossal Fireworks Display was put on at Inverleith, Edinburgh (in Stewart’s College Sports Field). Advertisements promised the latest devices and set pieces: huge rockets, star shells, Kohinoor shells, giant plumes, devils’ mines and rainbow clouds and invited the audience to ‘see the great zeppelin attack’. Many other attractions were also listed, including cock fighting, acrobats, scooter racing, a mammoth fire wheel (30 feet by 30 feet), aerial firework jugglery, and portraits of their majesties the King and Queen and HRH the Prince of Wales. Staged by Messrs C.T. Brock & Co of Crystal Palace Firework fame, the two firework displays resulted in £740 profit for the pageant committee. On the evening of the first pageant, a Gigantic Pageant Ball and Carnival was held in Marine Gardens Ballroom, in the seaside resort of Portobello, Edinburgh. A special orchestra was engaged, attractions ‘of a unique nature’ arranged, and pageant performers were requested to wear their costumes.
The Pageant Master, Sir Frank Benson (1858-1939), was no stranger to theatre or to pageantry. A famous actor and theatre manager, he was well-known in British theatre circles, including being responsible for a total of twenty-six of the annual Shakespeare Festivals at Stratford. He had also been involved in a number of pageants, including the Winchester Pageant (1908) and, with Frank Lascelles, the Pageant of Empire (1924), which was organised to accompany the British Empire Exhibition. An enormous team of organisers, writers, and committee members covering a broad range of roles and responsibilities ably assisted him. These included an Honorary Organiser, Walter G. Montgomery, and an Honorary Historical Adviser, Professor Robert K. Hannay. Hannay became the Fraser Professor of Scottish History and Palaeography at Edinburgh University in 1919 and, from 1930, was appointed the Historiographer Royal of Scotland. Like many historical pageants, attention was paid to historical accuracy, and historians were often drafted in to write, assist or advise on the writing and staging of pageants.
In the Scottish Historical Pageant, attention was focused on a fairly narrow (for pageants) chronological period, with its five episodes covering the years 1503 to 1566. This is a period in which Scotland’s fortunes rose and fell, and broader events had major impacts on Scotland, as well as on the relationship between the crowns. The first episode began with King James IV of Scotland meeting his English bride, Princess of the Royal House of England, Margaret Tudor, for the first time. This was set against background scenes of performers playing football and shinty, and performing country dances, before the marriage ceremony took place and the newlyweds rode off to Holyrood. To prepare the audience for the clouds that were gathering in the ten years between episodes one and two, an interlude showed ‘Hardy Scots’ fitting armour ‘in case’ the need arose; there were also displays of jumping, wrestling, weight putting, hammer throwing, swordmanship, and finishing with a Sword Dance. War is the focus of episode two, which is set in August 1513, after James IV has ruled Scotland for 10 ‘prosperous years’. King Henry VIII is waging war in France, with which Scotland has an alliance – a call to war goes out after two English navy ships attack a Scottish ship. The army assembles with King James IV at its head and the newly completed Red Lion of Scotland is unfolded. The King is warned repeatedly as he departs for war, but leaves anyway (the Queen and her Ladies ride to Linlithgow Palace). In the following episode, the audience hears of the victories won by the Scottish army throughout August 1513 – until disaster strikes at the Battle of Flodden on 9 September. The news that King James IV and 10,000 Scottish men are dead is relayed and a call to arms to Edinburgh is made by George Touris, the President of the Council. This episode ends with monks praying, people marching to Edinburgh to take up arms, the lament of the pipes, and ‘the voices of a stricken people’ singing ‘The Flow’rs o’ the Forest’. In episode four, fifty-two years have passed, Mary Queen of Scots has been on the throne for three years, and she has decided to choose herself a husband: Lord Darnley, son of the Earl of Lennox and great-grandson of Henry VIII of England. He is portrayed as a divisive and disliked character – ‘King of Scotland he may be, but never King of Scots!’ – and the episode makes various references to plotting and jealousy. This episode ends by conveying to the audience a flavour of the difficulties Mary Queen of Scots is setting herself up for in her choice of husband. The centrepiece of the final episode was the birth of Mary’s son in June. This was set against discussions about her divorce from Lord Darnley, with the Queen expressing concern about how this might prejudice her son’s right to succeed the thrones (it was resolved that he possessed this right). The pageant ended with the resounding words:
And now the Thistle and the Rose grow side by side. Each have their sweetness; but back yet ruthless ones! Touch not! For sharp are the thorns they bear in their defence. As their sweetness grows so grows their strength.
The clarion call peals loud, ‘St George for Merrie England!’ and from every utmost corner of the world comes a sterner answer, as befits so stern a race, ‘Scotland, aye! Scotland!’
During the final meeting of the General Committee in December 1927, it was announced to great applause that the pageant had made a profit of £6400, all of which was donated to the Queen Victoria Jubilee Institute for Nurses. The organisers noted that they had started out with the idea of having 800 performers and had ended up with 3700, in a pageant that had sold out all but the first performance. There had been unsold tickets to value of £1450 during the first day of the pageant, which the organisers put down to a combination of bad weather in run up and the idea circulating that they were doing something that was ‘far too big for them’ – as they triumphantly noted, the fact that there were no tickets to be got after the first performance sorted this out! It was also noted during this meeting that the Honorary Organiser, Walter G. Montgomery, had been appointed to a similar position for the Glasgow Pageant to take place in summer 1928.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Scottish Historical Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1183/