Perth Historical Pageant

Other names

  • Perth Pageant Week

Pageant type

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Place: Muirton Park (Perth) (Perth, Perth And Kinross, Scotland)

Year: 1949

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 3


23–25 June 1949

Thursday 23 and Friday 24 June 1949, 7.15pm and Saturday 25 June 1949, 2.15pm

There is no note of a rehearsal taking place; however, some of the pageant performers, dressed in costume, took part within a publicity event when they were driven around the city in a horse drawn carriage in order to promote the pageant and the sale of the pageant programme.1

The local football stadium, home of St Johnstone FC, was used for the pageant.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Producer and Pageant Master: Band, David
  • Assistant Producers: Donald Paton and Maurice Winton
  • Incident Directors: W. Chalmers, S. McDonald, P. James and S. Walker
  • Presenter: Robin Richardson (assisted by Miss Margaret Watson)
  • Narrator: Moultrie Kelsall (assisted by Miss Margaret Watson)
  • Scenery and Settings Designer: Mr D. Brown, Burgh Surveyor's Department
  • Assistant Scenery and Settings: Mr P. Barclay, Art Master, Perth Academy
  • Staging and Erections: Messrs David Beat, Builders, Perth
  • Public Address System: Messrs James Scott & Company Ltd., Perth2


Pageant Master David Band had been heavily involved with the Arbroath Pageant of 1947 and is described in the pageant programme as 'a pioneer' of this particular event.3 He represented the Scottish Council of YMCAs at the Perth pageant.

Names of executive committee or equivalent

  • Patron: Lord Kinnaird, LLD, KBE, Lord Lieutenant of the County of Perth
  • Chairman: Lord Provost J. Ure Primrose, DL, JP, Perth
  • Treasurer: A. Philip, Esq., MBE, City Chamberlain, Perth
  • Organising Secretary: David Band, Esq., Scottish National Council of YMCAs
  • Minute Secretary: G.S.M. Rhodes, Esq., City Factor, Perth
  • Other Committee Members:
  • Robert Adam, Esq., OBE, JP, Town Clerk
  • Bailie William Rumgay
  • Mr. D. Paton, Perth Scottish Players
  • Mr. A. Masson, MBE, Firemaster, Perth
  • Councillor Mrs. Tyndall, National Council of Women
  • Mr Ian C. Thompson, Chamber of Commerce
  • Mr D.T. Yacamini, Perth Madrigal Male Voice Choir
  • Councillor George Robertson
  • Mr. R.C. Dougan, City Librarian, Saltire Society
  • Mr. M. Winton, Perth Drama Club
  • Mrs G. Murray, Standing Conference of Women's Organisations
  • Mr. T.R.T. Dickson, Parks Superintendent
  • Col. D.M.W. Smith (HQ 51st Highland Division and Highland District)
  • Councillor R. Sawers, Parks Convenor

Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

  • Cross, John Keir


Commentary and Script: John Keir Cross, Perth Author and Radio Writer5

The writer of the pageant, John Keir Cross, was a prolific author of fiction for young adults as well as radio and, later, TV programmes. The latter included episodes of well-known dramas such as Dr Finlay's Casebook and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He died in 1969.6

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Men, women and children, and a large number of horses.

Financial information

The Pageant made a loss of about £500

Object of any funds raised

The YMCA War and National Service Fund.


In the immediate aftermath, it was projected that the pageant would lose around £500.8

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 7500


Thursday 23 June 1949: c1500
Friday 24 June 1949: c20009
Saturday 25 June 1949: 400010

The stadium capacity at each performance was 6000; it is not known how many seats the grandstand accommodated as some of this capacity included the standing only enclosure.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Centre Stand Seats: 5s. reserved
North and South Stands Seats: 3s. unreserved
Limited number of reserved seats on Saturday only: 3s.
Enclosure (standing): 2s.11

Attendance was poor for the evening performances on Thursday and Friday; information about the distribution of seats sold has not been recovered.

Associated events

River Tay Regatta (Monday 20 June 1949, 7.30–9.30pm). This involved Tay Canoe Club and was organised by Capt. H.W. Smith, Harbourmaster. There was live music at the event provided by 'The New Cavendish Old Time Orchestra'.
Highland Concert (Tuesday 21 June 1949, 7.15pm), the City Hall, Perth. This involved numerous artistes and was compered by Sandy Munro.
Scottish Country Dance (Wednesday 22 June 1949), the City Hall, Perth. Dancers from Perth performed and music was provided by Jimmy Shand and his Band.
Historical Tableaux and Vehicle Parade (Saturday 25 June 1949, 6.30pm), commencing at North Inch, Perth. Marshalled by G.S.M. Rhodes and A. Masson.
Pageant Ball (Saturday 25 June 1949), the City Hall, Perth. Music by the New Cavendish Dance Orchestra (commenced after conclusion of the Vehicle Parade).
Open Air Service (Sunday 26 June 1949, 2.30pm), on the North Inch.

Pageant outline

Introductory Music

This included massed pipe bands.

Entry of the Fair Maid of Perth (1949) Attended by her Ladies in Waiting

The Fair Maid in this year was Miss May Webster; her understudy was Miss C.A. Carol.

Ladies in Waiting were: Misses Agnes Beaton, Margaret Craigie, Norma Lornie, Catherine McFarlane, Mary McNab, Ann Milne and Mary Powell.13

Opening Ceremony

Thursday 23rd June
Chairman: Lord Provost J. Ure Primrose
Opening ceremony: The Rt. Hon. Lord Kinnaird, L.L.D, K.B.E. Lord Lieutenant of Perthshire
Vote of thanks: James Adair Esq., O.B.E. Chairman of the National Council of Y.M.C.A.'s

Friday 24th June
Chairman: Lord Provost J. Ure Primrose
Opening Ceremony: The Rt. Hon. the Countess of Mansfield
Vote of thanks: The Rt. Hon. the Countess of Errol, Lord High Constable of Scotland

Saturday 25th June
Chairman: Lord Provost J. Ure Primrose
Opening ceremony: The Rt. Hon. Thomas Johnstone P.C., L.L.D., F.E.I.S
Vote of thanks: The Rt. Hon. the Earl of Mansfield, D.L., J.P.

Display of Highland Dancing

Undertaken by the pupils of Miss Helen Farquahar; accompanied by Pipe-Major and Assistant Pipe-Major, British Legion Band (Perth Branch).

The dancers were: Aileen Anderson, Jeanette McKay, Ruby Macfarlane and Doris Edwards.

Exhibition of Scottish Country Dancing

Dancers: Misses M. Sharp, E. Oswald, J. Menzies, I. Dickson; Messrs W. Innes Russell, D. M. Robertson, J. Williamson and E. Callaghan

Music by the British Legion Pipe Band.

Dances performed:

I. The St Johnstoun Reel: a reel 'composed in a British Prisoner of War Camp in Germany in 1944 by W. Innes Russell and John Williamson. The name given to this dance comes from the name by which Perth was previously known.'

II. The Inch of Perth (a Strathspey). 'Danced to the tune of "Brig of Perth."'

First Incident. William the Lion's Charter, 1210

The granting of a Burgh Charter was enacted in this episode. The main characters included:

William the Lion and the Provost of Perth; the episode included 24 players (19 men and 5 women). No surviving evidence of the narration provided has been recovered.

Second Incident. Coronation of Robert the Bruce, 1306

This episode enacted the crowning of Robert the Bruce as King of Scotland at the Abbey of Scone. In addition to Bruce, the scene included his second wife Elizabeth, Sir James Douglas, the Countess of Buchan as well as an Archbishop and Bishops. Other parts were those of monks, male attendants and ladies-in-waiting. 21 players were involved, five of these were women.

Third Incident. The Battle of the Clans, 1396

This was the largest and most active of the episodes. The battle enacted was said to have taken place during the reign of Robert III of Scotland and involved 60 combatants (30 from each of the two clans, Chattan and Quehele). Walter Scott famously portrayed this episode from history in his novel The Fair Maid of Perth. This scene had a cast that included the following real and fictional characters: King Robert III, Queen Annabella, the Duke of Albany, Earl of Douglas, Earl of Errol, Earl of Crawford, Sir Patrick Charteris, Hal o' the Wynd, Catherine Glover (Fair Maid of Perth), her father, Simon Glover and Bailie Craigdallie; as well as nobles, attendants, clansmen, citizens, heralds, friars and monks. In all, 250 performers took part in the episode.14 A local plumber called Arthur Nicoll played the starring role of Hal o' the Wynd; members of the Kings' Own Scottish Borderers played other combatants.15

Fourth Incident: Proclamation of Bonnie Prince Charlie, 1745

This scene depicted the entry of the Prince into Perth, accompanied by many nobles loyal to the Jacobite cause. There followed his proclamation at the city's Mercat Cross in which he declared his father as King and himself as Regent. The Prince was described as being 'magnificently attired in a dress of tartan, trimmed with gold.' The episode contained more women and children than men; it is assumed that these were playing townspeople. In addition to Prince Charles, other characters included well-known Jacobites including the Duke of Perth, Lord Nairne, the Marquis of Tullibardine, Oliphant of Gask and the Prince's army commander, Lord George Murray.

Fifth Incident. State Visit of Queen Victoria, 1842

The visit of Queen Victoria to the city on 6 September 1842 was commemorated in this episode. Her husband, Prince Albert, accompanied her. A 'magnificent Triumphal Arch', which the city architect 'had improvised in the course of the preceding ten days', was erected specially for this visit during which Victoria and Albert received the freedom of the city. Victoria arrived through the archway and also left by this route, having been welcomed by the Lord Provost and having ridden through the city streets. Over 100 performers, including men, women and children, took part in this episode. The Perth Silver Band accompanied part of the performance.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • William I [known as William the Lion] (c.1142–1214) king of Scots
  • Robert I [Robert Bruce] (1274–1329) king of Scots
  • Elizabeth [née Elizabeth de Burgh] (d. 1327) queen of Scots
  • Robert III (d. 1406) king of Scots
  • Annabella [née Annabella Drummond] (d. 1401) queen of Scots
  • Stewart, Robert, first duke of Albany (c.1340–1420) prince and governor of Scotland
  • Douglas, Archibald [called Archibald the Grim, Archibald the Terrible], lord of Galloway and third earl of Douglas (c.1320–1400) magnate
  • Charles Edward [Charles Edward Stuart; styled Charles III; known as the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie] (1720–1788) Jacobite claimant to the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones
  • Murray, Lord George (1694–1760) Jacobite army officer
  • Murray, William, styled second duke of Atholl and marquess of Tullibardine (1689–1746) Jacobite leader and army officer
  • Drummond, James, styled sixth earl of Perth and Jacobite third duke of Perth (1713–1746) Jacobite army officer
  • Nairne, John, styled third Lord Nairne and Jacobite second earl of Nairne (1690/91–1770) Jacobite army officer
  • Oliphant, Laurence, of Gask, styled ninth Lord Oliphant (1691–1767) Jacobite army officer
  • Victoria (1819–1901) queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and empress of India
  • Albert [Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha] (1819–1861) prince consort, consort of Queen Victoria

Musical production

  • Choral Effects: Chorus of Male Voices
  • Bands: Perth Silver Band; Perth and District Pipe Band; British Legion Pipe Band (Perth Branch).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Perth Constitutional and Journal
Perth Advertiser
People's Journal for Perth
Dundee Courier
[Dundee] Evening Telegraph
Sunday Post
Glasgow Herald

Book of words


A book of words was not produced.

Other primary published materials

  • Perth Historical Pageant June 23, 24 & 25 1949: Official Souvenir Programme, Price 1/-, (Perth, 1949).

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • A copy of the Souvenir Programme is held by the A.K. Bell Library, Perth. Shelfmark: L.941.32. Perth Museum also holds a copy in its collections.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Cook, Elsie Thornton. Their Majesties of Scotland (London, 1928).
  • Cowan, Samuel. The Ancient Capital of Scotland, Vol. 1 (London, 1904).
  • Hume Brown, Peter. A History of Scotland, Vol. 1 (Cambridge, 1899).
  • Marshall, William. Historic Scenes in Perthshire (Edinburgh, 1880).
  • Scott, Walter. Tales of a Grandfather (first published 1828).

Sources used are detailed in the pageant programme as follows:

Incident 1:
Peter Hume Brown, A History of Scotland, Vol. 1.
Samuel Cowan, The Ancient Capital of Scotland, Vol. 1.

Incident 2:
Elsie Thornton Cook, Their Majesties of Scotland.
Walter Scott, Tales of a Grandfather.
William Marshall, Historic Scenes in Perthshire.

Incident 3:
William Marshall, Historic Scenes in Perthshire.
Walter Scott, The Fair Maid of Perth.

Incident 5:
William Marshall, Historic Scenes in Perthshire.


On the surface of things, all augured well for the success of the 1949 Perth Pageant; in the event, however, it was not that well attended and lost money. Given that it was a fundraising event, this failure must have caused some consternation for the organisers. Scotland was experiencing a heatwave at the time, so bad weather cannot be blamed. Nor indeed did it have inexperienced organisers: the pageant master, David Band, had already made a success of the Arbroath Abbey Pageant of 1947. In fact, everyone involved with this pageant, both from Perth City Council and a variety of local and national organisations, was so confident in the worth of the pageant that it was early on intended to become an annual event.17 Celebrities, in the shape of British film and stage actor Anna Neagle and Hollywood star Danny Kaye, also gave it support in publicity. All, it seemed, to no avail.

The pageant week, which included a host of other concerts and entertainments, was meant to raise money for a cause that likely would have been well thought of in the context of Perthshire in 1949. There was a strong military tradition in this region, and, with the Second World War in very recent memory, the aim to assist YMCA provisions for service personnel clubs was of contemporary relevance. Moreover, peacetime conscription (National Service) meant that many young men were travelling away from home, both within the UK and overseas. Having been involved with the highly successful Arbroath Pageant, which also raised money for this cause, the Pageant Master, who was also a senior representative of the YMCA, almost certainly took the idea of a pageant to Perth City Council in an effort to increase the scope of this charitable activity. Lord Kinnaird, who was patron of the pageant, commented in respect of Band's involvement that the event had been 'conceived in his brain and born by his energy'.18 Given the historical context of Perthshire, its principal town may have seemed like an obvious place to hold a pageant; moreover, in tourist terms Perth was the gateway to the Highlands and so attracted visitors who might boost the audience.

What exactly went awry with this pageant can only be guessed at. Despite the glamour of famous actors coming to endorse the show, or perhaps because of this, few details have survived about the nature of the performance and the particulars of each episode's narrative. This in itself may give a clue. The pageant programme seemed keener to educate than to invite attendance. Descriptions provided in this booklet gave a lot of information about the historical context for each episode, as well as lists of performers taking part, but little information about the parts played by individuals and the action that would take place. In addition, as the Chairman of the Scottish Tourist Board, Tom Johnston, pointed out, there were to be no fewer than 38 pageants over the summer months in Scotland in 1949; perhaps some pageant fatigue set in before the arrival of Perth's event at the end of June. Johnston made his point when he opened the Saturday afternoon performance of the pageant, and his words suggest that he wanted to highlight this aspect of Scottish culture not only as a tourist attraction but also as a civic boon:

We should cherish the memory of the great things that have gone before, and in cherishing that memory we ourselves will live more worthily and will be better citizens. The great conception of our time surely—the great need of our generation, is to build up cohorts of good citizens, people who give service to their fellows and in giving that service find freedom for themselves...19

This was not a big pageant in terms of the numbers of performers; but other attractions were on show that did involve many sections of Perth society. Local bands were playing, there was dancing and, in view of the fact that Perth hoped to make this an annual event, there was a crowning ceremony for the year's 'Fair Maid of Perth'; the gala-day aspect was clearly meant to engage the local public and was a nod, of course, to Walter Scott's influence in the city. This and the concert elements were followed by five episodes, all of which had a very local focus and do not seem likely to have been lengthy performances. There was no dialogue: professionals provided voiceover narration. Those performing this task did not take on a role in the drama; there was no 'Spirit of Perth', instead the pageant was presented and narrated by then well-known figures from the BBC, Moultrie Kelsall and Robin Richardson. A local teacher of music and drama, Margaret Watson, assisted them, presumably when female persons were enacted.20

Overall, there were few leading female roles. The pageant organisers admitted that finding sufficient men to take part had been difficult, although there was no shortage of women for supporting roles.21 One exception was the lead role of Queen Victoria in Episode V. This scene celebrated part of Perth's civic history. Also following this theme, episode I highlighted the municipal past through depicting the granting of a burgh charter by William the Lion. However, martial figures were more to the fore in the remaining episodes, which had the crowning of Robert the Bruce at Scone in Episode II, the famous Battle of the Clans on Perth's North Inch in Episode III, and Charles Edward Stuart and his Jacobite supporters from the north of Scotland during the 1745 rebellion in Episode IV. The writer of the pageant, John Keir Cross, was an experienced author of radio drama, and his work on the pageant was hailed in a local paper as 'a triumph'.22 But it is difficult to know if he managed to inject quite enough excitement into the script of the pageant scenario. In terms of spectacle, although there was certainly potential for this, the relatively small cast, in the environment of a large open space of a football pitch, may have compromised the effect that was aimed for. Certainly, none of the newspaper coverage commented very fulsomely on the drama itself.

It is clear as well that other aspects of pageant week were much more successful and did sell out; and the vehicle parade that took place following the final pageant performance was extremely well attended. As well as attending the matinee performance of the pageant, Anna Neagle also went along to see the parade and it was reported that huge crowds mobbed the star. The pageant performers joined this fancy dress parade and in the sunshine that day, as one report described it, Perth 'might well have been the setting for a pre-Lenten carnival in the Italy of Casanova.'23 Of course, the parade was a free attraction and the nub of the pageant's poor attendance and subsequent losses may well have been that it took place in austerity Britain. Many of the costumes worn had been hired, all adding to the cost; doubtless to recoup this expenditure and ensure that a profit for YMCA funds was raised, the cheapest seats at the pageant were 3 shillings, with a standing-only place costing a relatively expensive 2 shillings. It seems likely that the Pageant of Perth was simply unaffordable for many. At any rate, and contrasting with the progress of pageantry in Arbroath, the ambition to make this an annual event was abandoned.


  1. ^ 'First Peep at Pageant Today', Dundee Courier, 18 June 1949, 3; 'Perth Pageant: Programme Selling Parade', The Scotsman, 18 June 1949, 5.
  2. ^ Perth Historical Pageant June 23, 24 & 25 1949: Official Souvenir Programme, Price 1/- , (Perth, 1949) 13.
  3. ^ Perth Historical Pageant June 23, 24 & 25 1949: Official Souvenir Programme, Price 1/-, (Perth, 1949)23.
  4. ^ Perth Historical Pageant June 23, 24 & 25 1949: Official Souvenir Programme, Price 1/-, (Perth, 1949) 1.
  5. ^ Perth Historical Pageant June 23, 24 & 25 1949: Official Souvenir Programme, Price 1/-, (Perth, 1949)13.
  6. ^ See Internet Movie Database entry for John Keir Cross, accessed 14 August 2015,
  7. ^ 'Perth Pageant: Programme Selling Parade Today', The Scotsman, 18 June 1949, 5.
  8. ^ 'Loss Likely on Pageant', Glasgow Herald, 29 June 1949, 6.
  9. ^ '£500 Loss Expected on Pageant', Perth Advertiser, 29 June 1949, 7.
  10. ^ 'Carnival Climax to Historical Pageant', Perth Advertiser, 29 June 1949, 7.
  11. ^ Advertisement, Perth Constitutional and Journal, 14 June 1949, 1.
  12. ^ Perth Historical Pageant June 23, 24 & 25 1949: Official Souvenir Programme, Price 1/-, (Perth, 1949) 17.
  13. ^ All information and quotations in the synopsis are taken from Perth Historical Pageant June 23, 24 & 25 1949: Official Souvenir Programme, Price 1/- (Perth, 1949), unless otherwise stated.
  14. ^ 'First Peep at Pageant Today', Dundee Courier, 18 June 1949, 3.
  15. ^ 'First Peep at Pageant Today', Dundee Courier, 18 June 1949, 3
  16. ^ Perth Historical Pageant June 23, 24 & 25 1949: Official Souvenir Programme, Price 1/-, 13.
  17. ^ Mentioned in an article written by David Band for the programme. See Perth Historical Pageant June 23, 24 & 25 1949: Official Souvenir Programme, Price 1/-, 21; and '£500 Loss Expected on Pageant', Perth Advertiser, 29 June 1949, 7.
  18. ^ 'Pageant Opens in Brilliant Sunshine', Perthshire Constitutional and Journal, 24 June 1949, 5.
  19. ^ 'Carnival Climax to Historical Pageant', Perth Advertiser, 29 June 1949, 7.
  20. ^ 'Voice of History', Evening Telegraph, 25 June 1949, 2.
  21. ^ 'Men Needed for Pageant Roles', Dundee Courier, 31 May 1949, 3.
  22. ^ 'Perth's Never Known a Week like This', People's Journal for Perth, 24 June 1949, 8.
  23. ^ 'Film Star Mobbed at Parade', Perth Advertiser, 29 June 1949, 7.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Perth Historical Pageant’, The Redress of the Past,