The [Arbroath] 1950 Pageant
- Arbroath Abbey Pageant 1950
<p>In 1947, the first Arbroath pageant had been a civic initiative but in the months following a pageant society had been formed with a view to making the pageant an annual event; this organisation was called the Arbroath Abbey Pageant Society. In 1948 and subsequent years, the pageant was run under the auspices of this society. However, it should be noted that although the organisation was formally independent of the council, as part of its statute, some members of the town council were elected to membership of the Society's committee so organisational lines were blurred.</p>
Place: Arbroath Abbey (Arbroath) (Arbroath, Angus, Scotland)
Number of performances: 4
10–12 August 1950
Thursday 10 August 1950 at 6.30pm; Friday 11 August 1950 at 6.30pm; Saturday 12 August 1950 at 2.30pm and 6.30pm. There was a dress rehearsal on the evening of Wednesday 9 August to which schoolchildren were admitted. The pageant took place within the ruins of the medieval Arbroath Abbey, which has long been roofless and open to the elements.
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Producer [Pageant Master]: Thornton, F.W.A.
- Producer [Pageant Master]: Shepherd, George S.
- Art Director: William Reid
- Wardrobe Mistress: Mrs Jean Shaw
- Assistant Sound Engineer: D. Whitson
- Abbot's and Bishops' Costumes: Miss C.J. Hendry
- Choirmaster: Andrew Morrison2
Both 1949 and 1950, F. W. A. Thornton and George S. Shepherd shared the role of pageant producer.
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Arbroath Abbey Pageant Society
- Chairman: A. Linton Robertson
- Vice-Chairman: Mr T. Matheson
- Hon. Secretary: G.W. Dunn
- Hon. Treasurer: Mr A. Cargill
- Auditor: Mr E.B. Mackintosh
Conveners of Committee
- Mr F.W.A. Thornton (Production)
- Mr T.M. Paterson (Finance)
- Miss Brodie (Publicity)
- Mr A. Sanderson (Procession)
- Plus further Conveners made up of: Messrs D.L. Gardiner, George Shepherd, D.D. Wilson, A. Morrison and 6 members of the Town Council
The Pageant Society committee continued to have an excess of men: there was only one woman member in 1950.
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Milne, J. Crawford
- Thornton, F.W.A.
The local poet J. Crawford Milne wrote the pageant prologue and the pageant producer, F. W. A. Thornton wrote the script of The Laurel Crown.
Names of composers
- Irvine, Jessie Seymour
The tune 'Crimond' is attributed to Jessie Seymour Irvine; the 23rd Psalm was sung to this tune during the pageant introduction.
Numbers of performers200
There was a large number of horses.
£1065. 13s. 7d., including:
Printing and advertising: £227. 8s.10d.
Hire of horses: £147
Costume hire: £183
Purchase of amplification equipment: £177
Ticket sales: £781. 2s. 6d.
From ancillary events: £3. 5s. 7d. (sports' meeting); £37. 3s. 3d. (Country Dance); £13. 7s. 9d. (Pageant of Youth); and £82. 7s. 5d. (collection at street procession)
Contribution from 'Fit o the Toon' community: £120
Gift from Town Improvement Trust: £150
Transfer of funds from the 'Friends of Aberbrothnock Society': £363. 13s. 7d.
A profit of £71. 11s. 2d. was made.4
Object of any funds raised
The Arbroath Abbey Pageant Society.
The Pageant Society reported a balance of £426 in their account, plus, costumes and properties to the value of £800.5
In previous years, any surplus made in pageant week was shared with the YMCA. By mutual agreement this charitable association was severed in 1950 and all of the profit from the pageant and associated activities was returned to the Pageant Society.
- Grandstand: Not Known
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
There was seating accommodation for 1200 but this may not all have been in the grandstand.6 In the previous year, the grandstand accommodated 500 persons.
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
A small grandstand was introduced in 1950. Following this, there was a different arrangement made for tickets in unreserved seating and for standing only tickets. Specific prices and the number of spectators that could be accommodated at the performance have not yet been recovered.
There was a week-long programme of events as follows:
Monday 7 August: Scottish Country Dance, in the Drill Hall, Marketgate, 'sponsored by the Arbroath Branch of the S.C.D.S.' (Scottish Country Dance Association). Admission 2s. 6d.
Saturday 12 August: Fisher Wedding and Social Evening in the Drill Hall, Marketgate. 'The Abbey will be floodlit and the Beacon lighted... at 11pm (approx.)'.
Saturday 12 August: There was a pageant parade through the streets of Arbroath following the afternoon performance of the pageant on Saturday 12 August. This included the cast of the pageant and various historical tableaux performed by representatives of civic organisations and local industries; the tableaux were presented atop moving vehicles. The procession was ordered as follows:
- The British Legion Highland Pipe Band
- Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland
- The Barons of the Realm of Scotland
- Foot Soldiers
- Cross Bearer
- Bernard de Linton, Lord Abbot of Aberbrothock
- Bishops of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Aberdeen, followed by the bearers of their standards
- Bearer of the Banner of St. Columba
- The Founding of Arbroath Abbey [presented by Innes, Henderson & Co.] including William the Lion and Queen Ermingarde, Pages, Ladies in Waiting, Noblemen, Abbot John of Aberbrothock, Bishops of Aberdeen and Brechin, A Prior, Monks
- King Edward I of England
- The English Court
- Sir William Wallace
- Mary Queen of Scots at Arbroath Abbey [presented by British Red Cross Society]
- The Wigton Martyrs [presented by the Arbroath Housewives Association]
- Coronation of James II, 1437–1460 [Arbroath Merchants' Association]
- Aberbrothock Pipe Band
- Jenny Geddes [presented by Arbroath Branch British Legion Women's League]
- Rob Roy [Boys’ Brigade, No. 3 Company]
- The Inchcape Bell [Robb Brothers]
- Queen Elizabeth Signs Queen Mary's Death Warrant [Arbroath Business and Professional Women's Club]
- The Press Gang [Arbroath Unit Sea Cadets]
- Arbroath Instrumental Band
- Fishermen at Work [Arbroath Fishermen's Association]
- Arbroath Smokie Industry [Arbroath Fish Merchants' Association]
- Fisherwomen at Work [Arbroath Fisherwomen's Association]
- Neptune's Daughter [The Palace Cinema]
- Boys' Brigade Pipe Band
Sunday 13 August: Pageant Thanksgiving Service. Officiating Ministers: Rev. R.H. Beattie, MA, HCF, Moderator of the Presbytery, and the Rev. W.E. Gladstone-Millar, MC, BD, St Margaret's.
The National Anthem.
The pageant was formally introduced and chaired by a different dignitary at each performance as follows:Thursday 10 August in the evening: Chair: Brigadier J.A. Oliver, CBE, DSO, TD
Friday 11 August in the evening: Chair: The Honourable Mrs Lindsay Carnegie, Kinblethmont
Saturday 12 August in the afternoon:
Chair: Provost John F. Webster, Esq., Provost of Arbroath
Saturday 12 August in the evening: it is unclear what the format for this was; it is probable that the introductory ceremony was not part of this performance.
The address was given by a different invited speaker at each performance as follows:Thursday 10 August in the evening: Address given by Lord Cooper, Lord Justice General of the Court of Session
Friday 11 August in the evening: Address given by Lord Strathmore (replaced Lady Elphistone who was ill)11
Saturday 12 August in the afternoon: Address given by Lord Provost J. Ure Primrose, Perth (replaced Sir Andrew Murray, Provost of Edinburgh)12
Saturday 12 August in the evening: it is unclear what the format for this was; it is probable that the introductory ceremony was not part of this performance.
Prayer of Dedication.
This was conducted by local Ministers as follows:Thursday 10 August in the evening: Rev. F.W. Shaw
Friday 11 August in the evening: Rev. John Henry Dutch
Saturday12 August in the afternoon: Rev. Colin T. Day
Saturday 12 August in the evening: it is unclear what the format for this was; it is possible the introductory ceremony was not part of this performance, although it is equally likely that a prayer of dedication was given. However, the name of the conducting minister has not been recovered.
At each performance, following the Prayer of Dedication, the 'assembly' were asked to sing 'Verses 1 and 5 of the 23rd Psalm to the tune of Crimond'.13
This was a verse written by local poet, J. Crawford Milne, and delivered by F.W.A. Thornton. This had previously been read in the pageant of 1948 when there was no note of who delivered it but it is presumed to have been Frank Thornton; it was performed again in1949, when it was delivered by J.B. Crockett. In 1950, Frank Thornton delivered it. The verse describes the beauty of Scotland and praises the Scots of long ago and their fortitude. The verse then moves on to describe the start of the wars of independence and the emergence of Wallace as a heroic figure.
The Laurel Crown A Historical Interlude in One Scene .
Written by a local town councillor and pageant organiser, F.W.A. Thornton, this was the second staging of this one-act play as a prelude to the main Declaration episode; it had been performed before in 1948. The play was concerned with the trial of Sir William Wallace at Westminster. Thornton later described it as 'a reasonably convincing impression of what led up to the noble declaration'.14 A disclaimer in the pageant programme states that no 'claim to historical accuracy is made'. Also included in this year was a quotation from a speech made by Lord Rosebery in 1897 where he claimed that Wallace was a man of destiny.15 The same players as in 1948 performed the play; the cast was again as follows:King Edward of England (played by E.J. Joss);
Earl of Pembroke (John Eddie);
Earl of Sussex (John Chisholm);
Sir Peter Mallory, Lord Chief Justice of England (R.B. Brown);
Constable of the Tower (A.H.W. Sheddon);
Sir William Wallace (Ian Spalding).16
There was also a cast of supporting players who are not named.
Main scene. The Signing of the Declaration of Scottish Independence .
This continued largely unchanged from previous years (there may have been small adjustments that have not been detailed in news reports). Briefly, the action was as follows:
1. Entrance of the Lord High Abbot, Bernard de Linton, in Ceremonial Procession with Bishops, Canons and Monks.
2. Arrival of King Robert the Bruce, accompanied by Cavalcade of Barons and Squires, with retinue of Foot Soldiers.
3. The Signing of the Declaration.
4. Departure of King and retinue.
5. The Lord High Abbot, Bishops and Monks seen in Ceremonial Procession.
It had a cast of around 50 main and supporting players, plus the Arbroath Male Voice Choir who played the parts of a choir of monks (around 18 choir members) and many others playing the roles of foot soldiers (number not known). There may have been some women in the King's entourage although this is not specified in listings; overall, however, the greatest majority of the players were male and all of the main players were men. The cast of main characters was as follows:Abbot of Aberbrothock (played by George S. Shepherd);
King Robert the Bruce (A. Linton Robertson);
Bishop of Dunkeld (David Goodwillie);
Bishop of Aberdeen (D.L. Gardiner);
Bishop of St Andrews (Thomas Matheson);
Lord Douglas (S.E.S. Burnett):
Lord Randolph (Walter Burnett):
Crossbearer (Ian Spalding),
Bearer of the Banner of St Columba (Douglas B. Lowe).17
This was delivered by the Rev. George Adam Edzell on Saturday afternoon at the close of the performance.18 In the pageant programme for 1950, an extract from the epilogue delivered in 1949 by Agnes Mure Mackenzie is included.19 However, it is assumed that the Rev. Edzell delivered his own words. It is not wholly clear, but an a epilogue does not seems to have been a feature at other performances of the pageant in 1950.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Wallace, Sir William (d. 1305) patriot and guardian of Scotland
- Robert I [Robert Bruce] (1274–1329) king of Scots
- Bernard (d. 1330/31) administrator and bishop of Sodor
- Douglas, Sir James [called the Black Douglas] (d. 1330) soldier
- Randolph, Thomas, first earl of Moray (d. 1332) soldier and guardian of Scotland Edward I (1239–1307) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
- Valence, Aymer de, eleventh earl of Pembroke (d. 1324) magnate
- Warenne, John de, seventh earl of Surrey [earl of Surrey and Sussex, Earl Warenne] (1286–1347) magnate
- There was a male voice choir, which performed during the signing of the Declaration scene.
- There was organ music for the religious service relayed from the nearby Hopemount Church.
- There were fanfares played but this may have been recorded music.
- The tune 'Crimond' is reputed to be the work of Jessie Seymour Irvine (1836–1887). Composed in 1872, this is commonly used for singing Psalm 23, 'The Lord Is My Shepherd' in Scotland and elsewhere.
- Ave Verum was sung during the main scene depicting the signing of the Declaration but the specific arrangement used is unknown. The male voice choir who took the parts of monks sang it.
Newspaper coverage of pageantArbroath Herald
(Dundee) Evening Telegraph
Book of words
A book of words was not produced
Other primary published materials
- The 1950 Pageant on August 10th, 11th, 12th within the Abbey of Arbroath Souvenir Programme 1/- (Arbroath, 1950).
References in secondary literature
- Gladstone-Millar, Rev. W.E. 'The Abbey Pageant'. In The Third Statistical Account of Scotland: The County of Angus, edited by William Allen Illsley. Arbroath, 1977. At 525.
- Ritchie, J. N. Graham. 'Images of the Declaration: The Arbroath Pageant.' In The Declaration of Arbroath: History, Significance, Setting, edited by Geoffrey Barrow. Edinburgh, 2003. At 86–107.
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Arbroath Public Library holds two copies of the souvenir programme. Shelfmark: 394.5.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
- Agnes Mure Mackenzie (The translation of the Declaration).21
Translation from Latin of the Declaration of Arbroath by Agnes Mure Mackenzie, was likely commissioned for the pageant and is included within the pageant programme from 1949 onwards. The Saltire Society also later published the translation with commentary as On the Declaration of Arbroath (Galashiels, 1951).
'Arbroath has definitely put itself on the map of national pageantry', declared the Aberdeen Press and Journal.22 This being the fourth annual enactment of the Pageant of the Declaration of Scottish Independence, it was clear from press reports that some refinement of the presentation had been accomplished. Special attention had been paid to the costuming, although most of this was still made locally: for example, a sheet metal worker in Arbroath made helmets for Robert the Bruce and his Barons.23 Improvements in the acoustics were achieved with 'the introduction of new apparatus and skilful placing of loudspeakers'.24 The pageant organisers were said to have 'boundless energy': they certainly had a huge commitment to making the pageant more successful with every year. 25 By the close of the 1950 presentation, The Abbey Pageant Society had amassed properties and costumes to the value of £800, so there was no doubt that they expected the event to run and run.26
Yet the pageant's producer, Frank Thornton was conscious that if Arbroath was to develop as an annual event, it could not remain entirely static; thus, technical improvements were made as necessary. Thornton had also indicated in 1949 that new scenes would be required to keep the pageant fresh each year. In the event though, the extra demands that a larger cast and enlarged scenario had presented in 1949 proved to inhibit this ambition. The format tried in 1949, where three short historical episodes preceded the main declaration scene, was not repeated in 1950, and indeed this was never used again in the pageant. 27 Instead, the main elements of the 1948 production were resurrected and the one-act play, The Laurel Crown, written by the pageant director, Frank Thornton, was again performed. The title of the play referred to the crown allegedly placed on William Wallace's head during his trial in London that led to the Scottish hero's infamous and grisly execution. However, it was not presented entirely unchanged. previous 'acoustical difficulties', which doubtless affected a play where the dialogue was a principal element, were said to have been successfully overcome and allowed dialogue between players rather than voiceover commentary.28 This improvement in amplification probably persuaded the organisers that the one-act play could be done again with greater effect: the subject of William Wallace was, in any case, ever a Scottish pageant favourite, and the actor playing the hero was described as experienced and effective.29 A further change to the programme in 1950 was the addition of a performance on Saturday evening indicating that the organisers hoped to be able to attract even more visitors.
What remained largely unaltered and unquestioned were the ancillary elements of pageant week. The grandstand introduced in 1949 that had allowed better views for members of the audience prepared to pay higher ticket prices also meant that a Sunday religious service in the Abbey could now close the week of festivities. This duly went ahead again in 1950 and included singing by the massed voices of several local church choirs.30 The entertainment provided by the fisher folk also stayed; and the pageant procession went on into its fourth year. These events had proved popular and so remained part of the whole range of activities. What is more, these involved a variety of organisations in the town and promoted the idea that there was an enduring pageant spirit in Arbroath. This wider involvement was also a useful counterweight to the fact that the composition of the executive committee office holders did not change much. A small band of, mostly male, stalwarts continued as performers and writers. Since many committee members were also sitting Town Councillors, we can assume that civic authorities continued to see benefits for Arbroath in staging the pageant year after year.
Introductory elements to the performance stayed put as well, with one exception; in 1950, it was decided that the Arbroath pageant was a sufficiently important attraction to have a 'civic' show at the Saturday afternoon performance to which Provosts and dignitaries from other Scottish towns and cities were invited.31 This was a common pattern in pageants but was new to Arbroath. Presumably, this innovation involved expense for the local taxpayers in providing the funds for the hospitality, and it is perhaps a further measure of the increased confidence generally in the pageant as an annual institution. Yet there was a mounting suspicion that the wider populace in Arbroath were growing bored with the pageant and reluctant to attend it: this was a problem that needed to be taken seriously if public funds were to be lavished upon it. Perhaps to address this perceived apathy and shore up the event's local popularity, for the second time the finale of the pageant was celebrated with the illumination of the Abbey and a beacon being lit at the Round O at midnight on Saturday.32 This impressive structure had once been a round window high up on the Abbey's south transept; remarkably, this part of the building's structure had survived and was a much-loved landmark for townspeople in Arbroath. It was said that in the days of the monastery, the monks would light the window as a beacon for local boats heading for Arbroath harbour.
The nod to tradition in a free spectacle, held in both 1949 and 1950, did prove popular in the short term. However, its success, and the increased revenue from an extra evening performance, seems to have inspired the pageant organisers and set them to thinking: in 1951, the Saturday evening performance would be dropped in favour of a late-night, ticketed presentation of the pageant within a fully illuminated Abbey. Visitor numbers in 1950 were said to have been the highest ever for the pageant and included many from abroad and other parts of the UK, and the pageant was stated to have 'given Arbroath a place in Scotland which no other event could have done'.33 Indeed, the committee maintained that Arbroath had had more publicity than any other town in Scotland because of the pageant. The fact that the annual enactment had been used as the backdrop to an episode of the hugely popular radio series, The McFlannels, had served to boost this even further.34 As always, the pageant organisers had an eye to the future of the pageant as an annual spectacle for visitors, and the growing lack of local enthusiasm possibly was not given the attention it merited. Indeed, the move to commercialise the illumination initiative again appeared to sideline local interests in favour of providing visitor entertainment. The notion that the Pageant organisers may have taken local support for granted is seen in a letter sent to the press. In this, the President of the Arbroath Instrumental Band objected to the treatment meted out to them by the Pageant Society. The band complained that each year they had been placed at the tail end of the pageant procession, and, as the town's oldest musical group, they felt slighted by this. Although the band had politely requested a move to the front of the parade in 1950, their appeal had allegedly been ignored.35 Instances such as this, which demonstrated a lack of attention to local sensibilities, raised suspicions that the Pageant Society saw themselves as separate from the town's interests, something that Thornton had been keen to avoid when the society was set up. This scenario undoubtedly contributed to problems in recruiting new pageant society members and new pageant performers that would be continuous in years to come.
- 'Arbroath Goes Back to the Days of Bruce’, Dundee Courier, 19 August 1950, 2.
- The 1950 Pageant on August 10th, 11th 12th, Souvenir Programme, Price 1/- (Arbroath, 1950), 9.
- 'Arbroath Pageant Affairs', Dundee Courier, 27 October 1950, 4.
- 'Abbey Pageant Society', Arbroath Guide, 28 October 1950, 4; see also Dundee Courier, 27 October 1950, 4.
- Dundee Courier, 27 October 1950, 4.
- 'Thanksgiving Service in Arbroath Abbey', Evening Telegraph [Dundee], 12 August 1950, 6.
- Full details of events during pageant week advertised in the Arbroath Guide 5 August 1950, 1.
- The 1950 Pageant on August 10th, 11th 12th, Souvenir Programme, Price 1/- (Arbroath, 1950), 16;
- The 1950 Pageant on August 10th, 11th 12th, Souvenir Programme, Price 1/- (Arbroath, 1950), 16.
- The 1950 Pageant on August 10th, 11th 12th, Souvenir Programme, Price 1/-(Arbroath, 1950), 9.
- 'Two Arbroath Pageant Speakers Call Off', Aberdeen Journal, 9 August 1950, 6.
- Aberdeen Journal, 9 August 1950, 6.
- Unless otherwise specified, information about introductory programme is from The 1950 Pageant on August 10th, 11th 12th, Souvenir Programme, Price 1/- (Arbroath, 1950), 9.
- 'Programme for 1951 Pageant', Arbroath Herald, 17 August 1951, 8.
- The 1950 Pageant on August 10th, 11th 12th, Souvenir Programme, Price 1/-(Arbroath, 1950), 11.
- The 1950 Pageant on August 10th, 11th 12th, Souvenir Programme, Price 1/- (Arbroath, 1950), 11.
- Main cast members listed in 'Back to Days of Bruce', Dundee Courier, 10 August 1950, 4; see also The 1950 Pageant on August 10th, 11th 12th, Souvenir Programme, Price 1/-(Arbroath, 1950), 12–13.
- 'Scotland's Civic Splendour Alive', Arbroath Herald, 14 August 1950, 2.
- The 1950 Pageant on August 10th, 11th 12th, Souvenir Programme, Price 1/-(Arbroath, 1950), 16–17.
- See entry by Richard Watson, in The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, ed. Elizabeth Ewan et al. (Edinburgh, 2006), 180.
- For further information about Mackenzie, see entry by Joan Morrison Noble in Elizabeth Ewan et al., The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women (Edinburgh, 2006), 229; and William Donaldson, ‘Mackenzie, Agnes Mure (1891–1955)’, October 2006, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004), online edn, accessed 22 October 2014, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/57342.
- 'Arbroath Looks Back to 1320', Aberdeen Journal, 10 August 1950, 6.
- 'Pageant Back Stage', Dundee Courier, 5 August 1950, 4.
- 'Pageant is a Class Apart', Dundee Courier, 11 August 1950, 4.
- 'Arbroath to Stage Trial of Wallace', Evening Telegraph [Dundee], 9 August 1950, 3.
- 'Arbroath Pageant Affairs', Dundee Courier, 27 October 1950, 4.
- Three pageant scenes had been tried as preliminaries to the main Declaration scene in 1949. In fact, original plans were to have four scenes and this clearly did require a much larger cast estimated at the time as between '50 and 60 players'. Evidently, this could not be achieved and the first proposed scene, which would have depicted Galgach making his speech before the battle of Mons Graupius, was dropped. See 'Arbroath Abbey Pageant Preparations', Arbroath Herald, 15 April 1949, 4.
- Dundee Courier, 11 August 1950, 4.
- Evening Telegraph, 9 August 1950, 3
- 'Thanksgiving Service in Arbroath Abbey', Dundee Evening Telegraph, 12 August 1950, 6.
- 'Civic Heads to See Arbroath Pageant', Dundee Courier, 25 July 1950, 6.
- 'Scotland's Civic Splendour', Dundee Courier, 14 August 1950, 2.
- Editorial comment, 'Pageant Success', Arbroath Guide, 19 August 1950, 4.
- Arbroath Guide, 28 October 1950, 4. The McFlannels was a series about a Glasgow family which ran on BBC radio from 1939 to 1953.
- Letter to the editor, Arbroath Guide, 19 August 1950, 2.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The [Arbroath] 1950 Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/958/