Stracathro House Fete and Pageant
Place: Stracathro House (Stracathro) (Stracathro, Angus, Scotland)
Number of performances: 2
30 July 1930
The pageant was held in the afternoon of Wednesday 30 July at 2pm and 4pm (Dundee Courier, 29 July 1930, 1).
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Producer [Pageant
Master]: Douglas, H.
- Assistant Producer: Mrs
- Assistant Producer: Mr
[children's dancing]: Miss V. Beattie
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Parish Hall Committee
- President: J. Hugh Campbell
- Vice-president: General Becke
- Vice-president: Major McNab
- Vice-president: Mr C. W. Walker
- Vice-president: Mr J. H. Crowe
- Clerical Secretary: Mr A. J. Newlands
- Organising Secretary: Mr T. W. Tweedie
- Treasurer: Mr C. S. O. Mills
- General Convener: Mrs Campbell
Names of committee members are listed in a newspaper review. All members were likely local landowners or residents of country houses within the district (Dundee Courier, 31 July 1930, 3).
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
It is unlikely that this pageant contained any dialogue. The arranger of the tableaux is not specified, but may have been the pageant master—H. Douglas.
Names of composers
Numbers of performers90 - 110
The exact number of performers is unknown; in episode I there were three main characters; and in episode II, around twenty main characters. It is likely there were numbers of supporting players in both episodes that included men, women and children. A horse was used in episode II.
Funds raised via the fete and pageant: c £800
By donations: c £550
Object of any funds raised
The event aimed to raise funds for the erection of a parish hall for which the sum of £1500 was needed. Newspaper reports at the time specify the sum of £800 was made from the fete and pageant, but a later report in 1932 when the parish hall was opened states that 'fully £1000' was made from the event (Dundee Courier, 8 September 1932, 7).
- Grandstand: Not Known
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Newspaper reviews of the event state that large numbers attended the fete and pageant, but figures are not specified.
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Admission to the event was free. Car parking cost 1s, motor cycles 6d and cycles 3d (Dundee Courier, 29 July 1930, 1). It is assumed that entry admission for many of the sideshows was priced separately and one report states that these carried signs stating 'Tuppence for the hall fund', implying this was the charge made (Dundee Courier, 31 July 1930, 3). There is no mention of a charge to view the pageant, but again, donations were likely collected from among the audience.
A fete included stalls selling 'Plain and Fancy Work, China and Glass, Produce and Game, Fruit and Flowers, Cake and Candy, samples, Jumble Sale'. In addition, 'Teas and ices' were served; there were dancing displays and sideshows such as fortune telling, and clay pigeon shooting competitions. The stalls and sideshows were housed in marquees (Dundee Courier, 29 July 1930, 1).
Episode I: The Beginning of the Union Jack 
This depicts the marriage of Princess Margaret Tudor to James IV of Scotland; women played both roles. A newspaper review describes the following drama:
A stately figure in velvet, the King, with brightly clad pages, awaited the arrival from England of his fourteen-year-old bride. The Princess, in robes of golden velvet, panelled to show a rich brocade lining, and revealing wide plantagenet sleeves, came on a gaily-caparisoned mount, and while awaiting the Archbishop of Glasgow, who tied the nuptial knot, the Royal pair were entertained by the dancing of young girls. Garbed in red, white and blue, they made a pretty picture, and as they danced strewed rode leaves before the King and his bride. There followed the ceremony of the Thistle and the Rose, which led 100 years later to the union of England and Scotland.
['Stracathro House Fete and Pageant', Dundee Courier, 31 July 1930, 3.]
Episode II: Empire Display [no date]
This episode opens with the entry of Britannia who 'smilingly' surveys ' her world possessions'; Britannia then falls asleep and is guarded by 'Saint George, attended by Saints Andrew, Patrick and David'. A 'Mephistophelian figure in sable garments' meant to represent 'Sedition' then enters, alongside 'his minion Treason'. They offer the wakened Britannia a cup of wine, but 'just as she made to take it the four saints, followed by the Colonies and Dominions of the Empire, arrived to take prisoner the ill-wishers and dash the poisoned cup from her lips'. Britannia is then presented with a scroll by each of the colonies and dominions 'inscribed with the products each contributes to the success of the Empire' and three attendants come in the wake of each of the empire representatives with all appropriately costumed in national dress and bearing 'appropriate gifts'. In the final part of the episode Britannia is shown enthroned and surrounded by the four saints and 'her far-flung possessions, with sedition and treason at her feet'. In the centre of the tableau, two children represent the 'dove of peace'; they are dressed in 'long white gowns, wreathed with laurel and nestling under palm branches, with a dove resting on their shoulders'. This episode had around 60 performers. The colonies and dominions were all played by women and included the following examples: Newfoundland, the West Indies, New Zealand, Australia, India, Canada and South Africa.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Margaret [Margaret
Tudor] (1489–1541) queen of Scots, consort of James IV
- James IV (1473–1513) king of Scots
- Blackadder [Blacader],
Robert (c.1445–1508) administrator and archbishop of Glasgow
- Britannia (fl. 1st–21st cent.),
allegory of a nation, emblem of empire, and patriotic icon
- George [St
George] (d. c.303?), patron saint of England
- Patrick [St Patrick,
Pádraig] (fl. 5th cent.), patron saint of Ireland
- Andrew [St Andrew] (fl. 1st
cent.), apostle and patron saint of Scotland
- David [St David,
Dewi] (d. 589/601), patron saint of Wales and founder of St David's
Music was provided live by 'Mr Hollingsworth's orchestra' and relayed via an amplification system (Dundee Courier, 31 July 1930, 3). Details of the musical programme have not been recovered. Incidental music was provided via an amplification system, but the specifics of this are not recorded.
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Dundee Evening Telegraph
Book of words
- None found.
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
Sources used in preparation of pageant
The pageant was organised by a committee, which was set up to raise funds for a parish hall at Stracathro. It is presumed that the hall was attached to the Stracathro parish church and that the church served the population of Stracathro estate. The scheme was said to be the idea of the former laird of Stracathro (James Alexander Campbell) thirty years previously, and was brought to fruition in 1930 by the laird's grandson, Hugh Campbell.1
This pageant featured as part of a larger fund-raising fete aimed at raising money to build a community centre at Stracathro, presumably meant to serve the needs of agricultural workers and their families on this estate, and on nearby farms. The question as to why the laird of Stracathro did not simply put his hand in his pocket to fund this plan, which allegedly had been the brainchild of his grandfather thirty years previously, must be asked, especially since the laird—Hugh Campbell—seems to have been very committed to the idea of the hall. Instead, the scheme seems to have been designed more as a community endeavour, and one that would involve all levels of local society, though notably its principal organizers still seem to have come from the upper echelons. Nevertheless, Campbell was sufficiently motivated to put the grounds of his early nineteenth-century Palladian mansion at the disposal of the event, as well as giving his time to the organizing committee as its president. Perhaps it was the case that in these hard times Campbell really did not have the disposable income to fund the hall using his own resources. A more likely explanation, however, is that since the hall was meant to provide an amenity for the local community, its promoters—led by Campbell—felt that members of this community should take some share in the responsibility for its coming into being.
There was, in any case, a larger agenda at play here: rural depopulation. This was a problem that was often worried over in early twentieth-century Scotland, and initiatives such as this aimed to create congenial spaces as a bulwark against isolation and further flights from the land. In the planned hall, amateur drama could be performed, meetings of all kinds of organisations could be held, and all types of social events—from weddings to wakes—could take place. Yet the rosy picture of gentry making common cause with agricultural workers does need some qualification. Although no charge was made for entry to the fete and pageant, it was held on a weekday afternoon and descriptions of the crowds who 'came from all over the counties of Angus and Kincardine' do not suggest that agricultural workers were numerous among the attendees.2 More likely, the great and the good of the county set had the leisure time to flock there on a Wednesday afternoon: accordingly, they were asked to give munificently to this worthy cause throughout the day, whether thorough the purchase of fancy goods, or by generous donation. Although an advertisement for the fete plainly stated that it was hoped 'as many Farmers as possible in the neighbouring districts will allow their workers a Holiday on Wednesday',3 for such workers a day off probably meant a day without wages and it is extremely doubtful many would have been able to attend, let alone spend lavishly. We must conclude, therefore, that while the aim of the event was to raise money for a communal facility, the chief users of this facility were largely excluded from the event in question.
The pageant eschewed the rich local history at the disposal of its organizers and instead focused on the theme of empire; it had only two episodes. While this brevity may have been a result of limited resources in terms of a cast in this rural place, even so, the unambiguously Unionist and imperial message served up was at the expense of the popular, pre-Union Scottish history commonly celebrated in pageants north of the border. This exclusivity makes Stracathro a little unusual among Scottish pageants, for while pageants of this period generally did not question the Union, they avoided any direct enactment of it.
The Unionist cause was riding high in this dpart of Scotland by 1930. With the demise of the Liberal vote in the early 1920s, 'Forfarshire', as this part of Scotland was then known, returned a Conservative and Unionist representative in all Westminster elections held from 1924. Indeed, by 1931, the Conservative lead in this county was considerable.4 McCrone has highlighted the persistence of a society in which the landed elites, who often had been educated south of the border, still held social, economic and political sway over much of rural Scotland. Moreover, this tenacious hold persisted because the Scottish-born 'industrial and commercial bourgeoisie merged into the ranks of the gentry, marrying into their families, and purchasing landed estates'.5 Such was evidently the case in Stracathro, where the Campbell family had made an alliance through marriage with the Adamson family, owners of the nearby Careston Castle and a dynasty that had made its fortune in industry. Thus, 'Mrs Shaw Adamson of Careston Castle' officially opened the fete and rallied her audience to support the cause of the community hall. In her speech she recommended visitors to be generous and 'make the fete a big success' for the resulting hall would be 'the centre of all pleasure, entertainment, dancing and amusements in that part of the district, and the benefits that would accrue were self-evident'.6 The pageant that took place was probably one of the event's biggest money-spinners so far as donations were concerned, for it manifestly spoke to a receptive audience at this time, in this particular place.
If Stracathro is historically famous for any one thing in particular, it is for a less-than-illustrious moment in relations between Scotland and England. For this was the place where in 1296 John Balliol abdicated his throne under pressure from Edward I; evidently, however, this episode of historical infamy was not one the organisers wished to recall. Instead, Scotland's political relationship with its southern neighbour was celebrated in extravagant fashion. Episode I covered the genealogical underpinnings of the eventual union of the crowns in 1603 with a fanciful and romantic re-enactment of the marriage of Margaret Tudor (played by Miss Joyce walker of Lundie Castle) to James IV (played by Miss Kirk) one hundred years earlier.7 The choice of narrative, quite clearly, was meant to show that the later political union was historically inevitable. This homage to the union was then followed in episode II by an allegorical treatment of the crowning achievement of the United Kingdom— its eventual rule over a great empire—and featured the towering figure of Britannia. In this particular rendition, Britannia could only rule and resist the twin foes of Sedition and Treason because of the strength of the Union, represented within the figures of the patron saints of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Notably too, according to one local newspaper report, it is Saint George who is given prominence, with Saints Andrew, David and Patrick depicted as his attendants.8 The episode ended with Sedition and Treason crushed underfoot, and the empire symbolically depicted as a bringer of peace.
This was not pageantry with any obvious appeal to popular tastes, or any interest in local heritage. Although local schoolchildren took part, it is almost certain that the adult players were not socially diverse. Its organisers were local gentry and it audience was predominately middle class. Nonetheless, the event was a great success: at least £800 was raised from the fete and over £500 from donations. This was a healthy sum considering that a fair amount of money was spent on marquees, and also on the amplification for the music that accompanied the pageant and dance displays (this relayed live music via speakers placed in surrounding trees). Finally, even if the fete and pageant may be seen as aimed the maintenance of 'hegemonic power structures’, it must be presumed that its outcome did benefit local people, for the hall in question was later built and was formally opened in September 1932 by Hugh Campbell's wife.9 A report of the opening ceremony states that members of Stracathro Men's Social Club assisted with 'the undertaking', which was built from local stone with a slate roof.10 It was a structure built to last, for it is still standing and in use as a community hall in 2016.11
Dundee Courier, 31 July 1930, 3.
'Garden Fete at Stracathro House', Dundee Evening Telegraph, 30 July 1930, 6.
Advertisement for the fete, Dundee Courier, 29 July 1930, 1.
The Conservative candidate was returned in the election of 1931, having gained over 62% of the vote, with the Liberal Party coming a distant second.
David McCrone, 'Towards a Principled Society: Scottish Elites in the Twentieth Century', A. Dickson and J.H. Treble (eds) People and Society in Scotland, Vol. III, 1914-1990 (Edinburgh, 1998), 185.
'Stracathro House Fete and Pageant', Dundee Courier, 31 July 1930, 3.
Performers named in ibid.
'Stracathro House Fete and Pageant', Dundee Courier 31 July 1930, 3.
M. Woods, ‘Performing Power: Local Politics and the Taunton Pageant of 1928’, Journal of Historical Geography, 25 (1999), 57-74.
'Stracathro's New Hall Opened', Dundee Courier, 8 September 1932, 7.
Various online directories list this hall.