Alloa Burgh Centenary Pageant

Pageant type


With grateful thanks to professor Ian Brown for correcting some errors (and casting doubt on whether one scene was actually performed—see synopsis).

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Place: Alloa Football and Athletic Club, Recreation Park (Alloa) (Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Scotland)

Year: 1954

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 3


8–10 July 1954, 7.45pm

There was an additional dress rehearsal performance on Wednesday 7 July 1954, time unknown.1

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Producer [Pageant Master]: Forbes, Thomas
  • Stage Manager: Mr A Kelso, Tillicoultry
  • Sets & props: Mr A W. Abercromby, Burgh Architect, Alloa; Mr Jack Allan, Alloa
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Mrs Alan Porteous, Menstrie


The pageant master was not local to the area; his place of residence was stated to be Aberdeen.

Names of executive committee or equivalent


The Executive Committee were probably members of Alloa Burgh Council.

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

  • Gordon, Rev. T. Crouther


The Rev. Crouther Gordon also wrote the pageant of Clackmannan and published articles in the local press about Clackmannanshire history.2

Names of composers


Numbers of performers

Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

100th anniversary of the town of Alloa achieving burgh status; the pageant was part of a centenary celebration week.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 4500


The pageant was held in the local sports ground, the Recreation Park (or 'Recs' to the locals). This was thenand still ishome to the town's football club, Alloa Athletic.

The total audience of 4500 was made up as follows:

Thursday 8 July: 1330
Friday 9 July: 1670
Saturday 10 July: 15003

It is likely that a great many of the tickets sold were standing only.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Admission to Recreation Park: Adults 1s., children 6d.

Centre Stand: 3s.6d. End Stands: 2s.6d. (included admission to the park).4

Associated events

Open-air centenary celebration church service (Sunday 4 July, 3pm) in 'Greenfield grounds' [i.e. Greenfield Recreation Park], Alloa.

As part of the centenary week, an exhibition of 'relics' from the Earl of Mar's home was held at Alloa House; this was organised by the Saltire Society. The proceeds amounted to approximately £56 and this sum was given to local charities. A Crafts and Hobbies Exhibition organised by the local Round Table Club displaying local activities raised £85, and an Alloa Industries Exhibition organised by the Business and Professional Women's Club held in the 'Gas Showroom, Bank Street' brought in a sum of £22. 10s. In addition, an exhibition of drawings and paintings by the locally born but internationally famous eighteenth century artist, David Allan, was held in the town's Townhead Institute. There was also a fancy dress parade through the town for children (Tuesday 6 July), after which Lady Erskine gave out prizes.

Pageant outline


Five heralds dressed in green-and-white and standing on the northern battlements sound a fanfare, and a commentator introduces the pageant stating: 'this is your tale, the tale of your people. Hear now. Look now.'8

Episode I. The Romans at Marshill, 209 AD

In this episode, 'the signing of a truce between Lollius, the Commander of the Roman legion who had thrown a pontoon bridge across the Forth and had established a bridge-head at Marshill, and Brude, King of the Picts, who dwelt on the banks of the Bruthie Burn' is enacted. The Romans march in from one side of the arena and the Picts from another. The Romans carry an eagle. The Romans invite the Picts to 'rest from war-like labours and spread the arts of peace and plenty.' They make a truce and march off together.9

Episode II. The Coming of St Mungo, 518 AD

A choir sings and the figure of St Mungo who is wearing a white robe and blue vesture enters the arena and mounts the rostrum. He is met by the Chieftain of the Picts who makes the following plea: 'We need your message, bring safety to our homes'. The chieftain hands over a wounded dove which has never flown to Mungo, who blesses the bird. To the accompaniment of 'a swelling note from the choir', Mungo then 'opens his hand and the dove circles off into the heavens.' The assembly 'kneels in praise and adoration'. St Mungo then 'dedicates a piece of ground for the building of a church and leaves Finnian, his spiritual son, to teach the people the new faith.'10

Episode III. Hammer of the Scots, 14 June 1303

This records the arrival of Edward I as the conqueror of Scotland to the Sheriffdom of Clackmannan. To a fanfare of trumpets, Edward, 'superbly mounted on a brown charger and preceded by his standard bearer on a white horse, rides into the arena...' He has an escort of men in chain mail and addresses an assembly of Scots who deliver angry shouts back at him. Edward gives a hundred gold crowns to the church of St Mungo and the priest accepts the gift. But just at this, a messenger arrives on horseback, bringing news of insurgents arriving at Annandale. Edward then gives the order to quell the rising and gallops off angrily accompanied by his entourage.11

It is just possible that this scene, though planned, was not the one that was performed. One local who remembers the pageant recalls a scene involving Robert the Bruce and his famous injunction to 'Look aboot ye'. It may be that the Bruce scene at the earlier Clackmannan pageant was performed here, in place of the planned one featuring Edward I.

Episode IV. Mary Queen of Scots Visits Alloa, July 1566

Mary and her infant son are the guests of the Earl of Mar at Alloa Tower. In this episode, there is dancing by Mary and the ladies of court who accompany her. Then, 'the charm and serenity of the scene is broken when Lord Darnley—who has followed his wife from Edinburgh—arrives on the scene and, galloping through the company to the central group, bitterly upbraids Mary for her desertion of him.' The scene ends with Mary saying, 'Lead me now to the peace of your ancient tower.' At the finale, Darnley gallops off in the other direction from the tower.12

Episode V. On the Eve of the Battle of Sheriffmuir, November 1715

This scene depicts the clansmen of the district assembling before the battle. The Laird of Alloa, John Erskine Sixth Earl of Mar, said to be 'fresh from his triumphant march from Braemar',then addresses his followers before leading them off to join the remainder of his army. The commentator then narrates the events 'of the doubtful Battle of Sheriffmuir...', after which Mar will be forced into exile.13

Episode VI. Coal Mining, No date

In this episode, there is 'an impression of coal mining in which the children with alarming realism and much private enjoyment depicted the horrors of coal mining in the sweated-labour days'.15 The children are seen 'wearily dragging their way home' after a day down the mines. There is no mention of any dialogue taking place.

Episode VII. Birth of a Burgh, 1854

Here 'a motley company of Alloa householders' are seen 'trooping onto the green sward' of the town. They have met to hear their benefactor, Dr William McGowan, 'state the case before Sheriff Bennet Clark' for the founding of a burgh. After this speech, a vote is taken and Alloa is granted burgh status.16

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Kentigern [St Kentigern, Mungo] (d. 612x14) patron of the diocese (later archdiocese) of Glasgow)
  • Edward I (1239–1307) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Mary [Mary Stewart] (1542–1587) queen of Scots
  • Stewart, Henry, duke of Albany [known as Lord Darnley] (1545/6–1567) second consort of Mary, queen of Scots
  • Erskine, John, styled twenty-second or sixth earl of Mar and Jacobite duke of Mar (bap. 1675, d. 1732) Jacobite army officer, politician, and architect John Erskine, Sixth Earl of Mar

Musical production

The Alloa Instrumental Band played at the pageant and at the open-air church service; no details available about the size of this group. There was also a choir.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Alloa Advertiser
Glasgow Herald
Aberdeen Evening Express

Book of words


Other primary published materials


A souvenir programme, price 6d., was issued but no surviving copy has been recovered.17

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • A film of the pageant was made and a surviving copy is held by Clackmannanshire Council Archives; it is available for loan to Clackmannanshire residents only.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



Alloa expanded during the late eighteenth century due to its river port through which coal from mines in the area as well as other goods manufactured in the town and from other parts of lowland Scotland were shipped to continental Europe. By the mid-nineteenth century it had grown substantially and in this context was granted burgh status; by the time of the centenary of this event in 1954, however, the heyday of the town as a port was over. This centenary celebration perhaps served to shore up remembrance of Alloa's more vibrant economic past. Although it is essentially a town of the industrial revolution, the organisers of its centenary made sure to point out that area could trace its history back to the Romans,18 Roman remains having been discovered at the Marshill area of the town during the nineteenth century.19 The pageant was the finale of a week of different events, including various exhibitions and a fancy dress parade that were planned many months in advance and organised by different local community groups.

Between January and July of 1954, however, some changes to the pageant programme took place. In the original schedule of six episodes printed in a centenary commemorative book that was published early in 1954, the opening episode featured the coming of Christianity through the legend of St Mungo's visit to Alloa, this to be followed by an episode about the Vikings.20 It is clear, however, that the plans to include a dramatisation of the Vikings were dropped in favour of an opening showing the Roman past, with St Mungo then being moved into chronological place in Episode II. There is no note in any press record of why this last minute change happened, but it may have been that scenery and props for a maritime scene proved too much of a challenge. Moreover, the producer of the pageant managed to persuade the Aberdeen City Council to lend Alloa costumes that had been used at their coronation historical pageant, which also serendipitously opened with a Roman episode.21 It seems likely, therefore, that utility dictated the pageant narrative in Alloa. In addition, a further episode was added to the original schedule of six scenes, with the second last episode featuring a tableau piece that depicted child labour in coal mining. In the description of this given in the local press, it is said to have been set in the fourteenth century, but this was certainly a mistake, since it is clear that the scene was intended to depict the oppression of the poor under the Victorian industrial system. The addition of this sombre scene may have been at the instigation of the producer in order to reflect an essential part of the social and economic history of the region, and inject something more of the history of the common people: mining continued to be a major employer in the region in the post-war years. It may also have been a means of including more young people in the pageant, as it is likely that most of the drama was enacted by adult members of local amateur dramatic societies, which, as the earlier Pageant of Clackmannan shows, were very much a feature of the county. That said, we have recently learned courtesy of professor Ian Brown that at least one professional actor was brought in: this was Effie Morrison, who played Mary, Queen of Scots (she later found some fame as the midwife Mistress Niven in the first series of Dr Finlay's Casebook, among other TV roles). 

The remaining scenes in the pageant reflect the dominance of the Erskine family (the Earls of Mar) in the area and are fairly predictable. One shows Mary Queen of Scots’ sojourn at Alloa Tower, which was the medieval seat of the Erskines, another the departure of the sixth Earl to join forces with the Jacobites during the 1715 uprising. The final episode features the usual conventional facet of such centenary pageants, dramatising the granting of the burgh charter. However, the pageant had other attractions to commend it. Although held in a football stadium, it was said to have a sylvan setting. In the words of the Glasgow Herald, ‘The Ochil hills overshadow the recreation Ground [Park] where the pageant takes place and the other side is edged by the trees of Alloa Park heavy in their midsummer greenery.’22 (This was a perhaps rather fanciful description, given the large public housing building schemes started in and around the area at about this time: as one local remembers, from the Recreation Park the trees of Alloa Park 'were only visible beyond the houses and on the skyline, about 150 yards away'.) A further attraction was the use of a pre-recorded soundtrack for the dialogue and the players were said to have been 'remarkably successful in synchronising their miming'.23 The music played, or at least some of this, seems to have been live since articles in the press do record that the Burgh Instrumental Band was involved; although no details of the music played are mentioned.

There was no obvious place for humour within this pageant script. This is in contrast to that produced for the Clackmannan pageant in 1949, which ended with a light-hearted and slightly sentimental episode featuring Burns. This is despite the fact that they were both written by the same author. The pageant did manage to get respectable audiences over its three performances, but it is hard to assess just how successful it was viewed as having been. Certainly, it attracted enthusiasm from participants at the time, exemplified by the 'devoted band of needlewomen' that helped with costumes.24 A local review stated, perhaps a little lukewarmly, that it was 'a colourful and well-enacted production'.25 At any rate, the event has left very little trace locally, and no example of pageant literature or ephemera has been recovered with the exception of some film footage, which, in the week after the centenary, was shown at a local cinema for three days alongside a big hit of that year, Calamity Jane starring Doris Day.26 Perhaps it was thought that it needed this added attraction.


  1. ^ 'History is Made at the Recs: A Colourful Pageant', Alloa Advertiser, 10 July 1954, 5
  2. ^ See, for example, 'When Edward the First Visited the Wee County', Alloa Journal, 12 July 1952, 6.
  3. ^ Alloa Advertiser, 17 July 1954, 8.
  4. ^ Advertisement for pageant, Alloa Advertiser, 26 June 1954, 4.
  5. ^ Advertisement for service, Alloa Advertiser, 26 June 1954, 4.
  6. ^ Alloa Advertiser, 17 July 1954, 8.
  7. ^ Alloa Advertiser, 26 June 1954, 4.
  8. ^ Alloa Advertiser, 10 July 1954, 5.
  9. ^ Alloa Advertiser, 10 July 1954, 5.
  10. ^ Alloa Advertiser, 10 July 1954, 5.
  11. ^ Alloa Advertiser, 10 July 1954, 5.
  12. ^ Alloa Advertiser, 10 July 1954, 5.
  13. ^ Alloa Advertiser, 10 July 1954, 5.
  14. ^ The Alloa Advertiser, 10 July 1954, 5, gives the date for this scene as the '14th century', but this is likely an error or misprint; in this context, we may assume 'sweated labour days' refers to the early nineteenth century.
  15. ^ 'Pageantry at Alloa: Burgh Centenary', Glasgow Herald, 9 July 1954, 3.
  16. ^ Alloa Advertiser, 10 July 1954, 5.
  17. ^ Stated in an advertisement, Alloa Advertiser, 26 June 1954, 4 and in an article in the Glasgow Herald, 28 June 1954, 8.
  18. ^ Burgh of Alloa Centenary, 1854-1954 (Alloa, 1954). Clackmannanshire Archives. 941.31c/220.
  19. ^ See Royal Commission of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. For example, record no. 47239, accessed 11 August 2015,
  20. ^ Burgh of Alloa Centenary, 1854-1954, 29.
  21. ^ The loan of costumes is commented on in 'Bon Accord Gossip', Aberdeen Evening Express, 13 May 1954, 2; the article suggests that a fee was paid for the hire of these.
  22. ^ Glasgow Herald, July 1954, 3.
  23. ^ Glasgow Herald, July 1954, 3.
  24. ^ Glasgow Herald, July 1954, 3.
  25. ^ Alloa Advertiser, 10 July 1954, 5.
  26. ^ Advertisement, Alloa Advertiser, 17 July 1954, 4.

How to cite this entry

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