Carlisle Historical Pageant
Place: Bitts Park (Carlisle) (Carlisle, Cumberland, England)
Number of performances: 6
6–11 August 1951, 2.45pm
30 and 31 July 1951, 6.30pm (School children in parties with teachers. Admission 1s. each).
1 August 1951, 6.30pm (Boy Scouts, Cubs, Boys' Brigade, Girl Guides, Brownies, youth organisations and all other organised youth bodies. Admission 2s. each).
2 August 1951, 3pm. Press Day. (County schoolchildren in parties, private schools, colleges and all adult organisations).
3–4 August 1951, 7pm. (County and Citizens' Days. Grandstand 2s. d. and 3s. 6d. Standing Enclosure 1s. 6d).1
In the event, the audience for the rehearsal on Monday 30 July was admitted to the performance at no charge. The amplification for the pageant was not yet ready and this may have been the reason, or there may have been a low initial take up or combination of these factors.
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Pageant Master: Lightfoot, G.L.S.
- Organising Director: Ronald Davidson
- Hon. Assistants: Mrs G.L.S. Lightfoot; T. Dowell
- Mistress of Costumes: Miss J. McLellan
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- President of Grand Council: Sir Robert C. Chance, BA, JP, Lord Lieutenant of Cumberland
- Vice Presidents of Grand Council:
- The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Carlisle.
- The Rt. Hon. Lord Adams of Ennerdale, OBE, MA, JP
- Lieut.-Col. Sir Frederick Fergus Graham, Bart, TD, DL
- Lieut.-Col. Ronald N. Carr, MC, JP
- Captain James Westoll, JP
- W. Dobinson, Esq., JP
- Secretary to Grand Council: H.D.A. Robertson, Esq.
- President: Ald. W. Dobinson, JP
- Chairman: J.F. Radford
- Hon. Secretary: T.E. Williams
- Chairman: Ald. W. Dobinson, JP
- Hon. Secretary: J. Stables
Industrial Exhibition Committee:
- Chairman: W.R. Forster
- Hon. Secretary: L.W. Barker
Reception & Housing Committee:
- Chairman: A. Creighton, JP
- Hon. Secretary: Mrs Mark Fraser
- Chairman: Ald. W. Dobinson, JP
- Hon. Secretary & Treasurer: H.W. Hargreaves
- Chairman: G. Bowman
- Hon. Secretary: C.R. Eddy
Properties & Scenery Committee:
- Chairman: W.B. Haughan
- Hon. Secretary: Miss S. Potts
- Chairman: F.W. Wadely, MA, Mus.Doc.
- Hon. Secretary: A. Bettany
- Each episode also had a committee with names officials as follows:
- Chairman: W.J.R. Brown
- Honorary Producers: H. Atkinson; F. Wilkinson; J. Anton; R. Irving; Mrs Dempster
- Costume Mistress: Mrs A.P. Watt
- Hon. Secretary: Miss M.M. Brown
- Representatives on Pageant Committee: W.J.R. Brown; H. Atkinson
- Chairman: Mr E. Lees
- Honorary Producer: Mr H. Turner
- Costume Mistress: Miss M. Eames
- Properties: Mr A. Brown
- Honorary Secretary: Mr J.L. Stevens
- Representative on Pageant Committee: Mr E. Lees
- Chairman: Rev. T.E. Kennaugh
- Honorary Producers: Mr L.P. Diamond
- Costume Mistress: Miss M.A. Vickers
- Properties: Mrs M.I. Diamond
- Honorary Secretary: Miss M. Bulman
- Representatives on Pageant Committee: Mr L.P. Diamond; Mr J.B. Thomson
- Chairman: Mrs E.L. Ferguson
- Honorary Producer: Mr L.P. Diamond
- Costume Mistress: Miss M.A. Vickers
- Properties: Mrs V. Rowland
- Honorary Secretary: Mrs E.A. Bisgrove
- Representatives on Pageant Committee: Mrs E.L. Ferguson; Mrs E.A. Bisgrove
- Chairman: Mr W.J. Haile
- Honorary Producer: Mr S. Napier
- Costume Mistress: Mrs T. Skinner; Mrs R. Kennedy
- Properties: Mr R. Howe
- Honorary Secretary: Mr M.C. Kennedy
- Representatives on Pageant Committee: Mr W.J. Haile; Mr M.C. Kennedy
- Chairman: Dr C. Harrison
- Honorary Producer: Mr James Gate
- Costume Mistress: Mrs V.E. Ward
- Properties: Mr J. Dodd
- Honorary Secretary: Miss K. Shiach
- Representatives on Pageant Committee: Dr C. Harrison; Mr James Gate; Miss K. Shiach
- Chairman: Lady Graham
- Honorary Producers: Mrs Coates
- Costume Mistress: Mrs Macdonald
- Properties: Major Charles Graham
- Honorary Secretaries: Miss Jean Pearson; Miss Joan Westoll
- Representatives on Pageant Committee: Mrs McMurtrie; Mrs Miles Chance; Mrs Hassell
- Chairman: Lt.-Col. J.W. Allison, OBE
- Honorary Producer: Lt.-Col. J.W. Allison, OBE
- Costume Mistresses: Members of the WRAC Association
- Honorary Secretary: Miss E. Wightman
- Representatives on Pageant Committee: Lt.-Col. J.W. Allison, OBE; Miss E. Wightman
- Chairman: Mr V.J. Dunstan
- Honorary Producers: Mr C. Colegrave-Scott; Mr G.T. Lightfoot
- Costume Mistress: Mrs H.S. Eynon
- Properties: Mr G.C. Archer
- Honorary Secretary: Mr L.E. Banks
- Representatives on Pageant Committee: Messrs. V.J. Dunstan; C. Colegrave-Scott; R. Lomas; J. Armstrong
- Chairman: Mrs Mark Fraser
- Honorary Producer: Mrs E. Sheffield
- Costume Mistress: Mrs E. Owen
- Properties: Mrs H. MacGillvray
- Honorary Secretary: Mrs C.M.M. Bessey
- Representatives on Pageant Committee: Mrs Mark Fraser; Mrs E. Sheffield; Mrs E. Owen; Mrs E.R. Harper
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Eagles, J.S.
- McIntire, W.T.
J.S. Eagles BA (Prologue and Episodes I-VI).
W.T. McIntire, BA (Episode VIII).
J.S. Eagles BA & W.T. McIntire, BA (Episode VII).
Episode VIII (the '45) is said to have been based on the work of David Johnstone Beattie.2
Names of composers
- Wadely, F.W.
Numbers of performers5000
The pageant was opened by a different person on each day it was performed and each of the opening events had a Chairman as follows: Monday: Sir Robert Christopher Chance, BA, JP, Lord Lieutenant of Cumberland; Chairman: Lt-Col. Timothy; Tuesday: Alderman G.H. Routledge, JP, Mayor of the City of Carlisle; Chairman: A. Hargreaves Esq., MP for the City of Carlisle; Wednesday: HRH Princess Margaret; Chairman: The Earl of Carlisle; Thursday: Doctor William W. Edel, President of Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA; Chairman: Charles Henry Roberts, Esq. CC, Chairman of Carlisle City Council; Friday: Major General P.J. Shears, CB, Colonel of the Border Regiment; Chairman: The Right Rev. Thomas Bloomer, DD, Bishop of Carlisle; Saturday: Her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland; Chairman: Sir Frederick Fergus Graham, Bart.
Object of any funds raised
Linked occasionFestival of Britain
- Grandstand: Yes
- Grandstand capacity: 3000
- Total audience: 120000
Estimated figures for attendance at rehearsals was 60000.3
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Grandstand: 20s., 15s., 7s. 6d., and 5s.
Standing Enclosure: Adults 2s. 6d.; Children 1s. 6d.
Tickets for rehearsals ranged in price from 1s. to 3s. 6d.
Most of the tickets were for the Standing Enclosure.
The most expensive seats were for the centre stand.
- An Industrial Exhibition (held in the Covered Market, Carlisle).
- A Historical Exhibition (held in Tullie House).
- Evening performances took place from 8 pm to 11 pm nightly, including the following items: A display of 'Physical Training' by local youth; English Folk and Scottish Country Dancing; Displays by the Margaret Morris Movement and Women's League of Health and beauty; and, 'from over the Border, Two Hundred and Fifty Highland Dancers with Massed Pipe Bands Supported by A Spectacular and Sensational Services Searchlight Display by the Royal Navy, the Army and Royal Air Force with Noted Bands of the Combined services including the famous broadcasting band of the ‘Lifeguards.’
The words are unchanged from the 1928 performance of the pageant but in this Book of Words it is highlighted that alongside Father Time are groups of children led by the character of Puck. This may have been included in 1928, but was not elaborated upon in the Book of Words, or it may have been a new presentation. Following this, the action proceeds as before with the Chorus singing 'Who shall now our eyes unseal?' and Time declares that he can 'truth reveal' by the light of his torch which enchants the place wherein it burns so that the 'dead who wrought therein old deeds of weal and woe, [t]read there once more'. Time then lights the torch and conjures up 'the ancient spirits of this place'.
Episode I. Hadrian and the Roman Wall, AD 122
This Episode appears unchanged from that presented in the 1928 Carlisle pageant biut the more specific date of AD 122 is stated. It includes Father Time, the British ruler Luel, Archdruid Gwynneth and a party of Druids, the Emperor Hadrian who rides a horse, a detachment of Roman legionaries and various characters playing small parts including a young girl who is to be a human sacrifice. It begins with the chorus introducing the scene:
Hadrian's men on Hadrian's Wall,
Along the road they come,
The road that starts from Eden's flood
And runs to Tiber's foam,
And crosses into Rome.5
Following this, Luel and a number of Britons from the settlement enter together with Druids led by the Gwynneth. A human sacrifice of a young girl is about to take place. Into this scene, the Romans suddenly arrive and Gwynneth and the other Druids leave having loosened the girl. Hadrian condemns the practice of human sacrifice and states that he will put Gwyneth to death and fine the 'town'. Luel appeals against this and states that such moves will incite trouble. In response, Hadrian states that Rome will 'hold them for thee' and there 'establish the bound of her empire'. He describes the wall to run 'from Wallsend where the Tyne joins the sea to Bowness, where the Solway shallows end...' A Briton declares 'a cheer for Rome and the wall and the army of the wall'. Hadrian declares his departure from Britain, gives the girl saved from sacrifice a gold necklace, and Time states that the wall is now in 'his safe keeping.' In the introduction to this episode, it is stated that such a necklace was found on the skeleton unearthed in 1925.
Episode II. King Arthur and the Picts, AD 500
This episode is again unchanged from 1928. It contains several characters including King Arthur, Merlin and 'Critho', the Pictish leader, as well as sections of performers playing the parts of Knights of the Round Table, British Prisoners and Pictish scouts. The episode opens with the Picts crossing the wall where they find the Romans have abandoned their station; at this, they pillage the town of Carlisle and carry off British prisoners. King Arthur and his Knights come to the rescue of the prisoners who recognise Arthur and proclaim him their King. The episode ends with Merlin foretelling the conquest of Britain by the Angles and stating: 'if the Picts are to be feared, the Angles are to be feared ten times. They shall conquer all this land and change it, and change its very name.'6 The chorus again sing some of the lines in this short episode.
Episode III. St. Cuthbert, AD 685–875
This episode is identical to that performed in 1928. It is divided into two scenes. The first of these begins with the King's wife (Irminburga) and his sister (Ethelfleda) who are seen with the nuns of the Carlisle Sisterhood awaiting news of Ecgfrith's campaign against the Picts. Onto the scene Cuthbert, then Bishop of Lindisfarne, arrives accompanied by a mystic named Herebert. Cuthbert sees a vision in which the King dies in battle, the news of which causes the Queen to faint. A horseman then arrives confirming the King's defeat and death. The party of women then departs.
In scene II, 200 years have passed. The Bishop of Lindisfarne is now Eardulf. It opens with the Bishop and the Abbot of Carlisle (Eadred) accompanied by seven monks from Lindisfarne bearing the body of Cuthbert in its coffin being greeted by a 'white-haired novice of the Carlisle Monastery'.7 This happens because the Dane, Halfdene, has sacked Lindisfarne. The party who have taken charge of Cuthbert's remains have been wandering Northumbria for seven years seeking refuge. An order is given that a chapel will be built in Carlisle to honour Cuthbert whose remains are then taken to safety in Ireland. These are short scenes, mostly consisting of dialogue: there is singing by nuns and by the pageant chorus.
Episode IV. Carlisle and the Norman Kings, 1092 and 1132
This is the same drama as for the pageant in 1928; it is mostly conducted through dialogue. In scene I, Dolfin, the son of the Gospatrick, Earl of Northumbria appears with his Chaplain and some troopers; he has lately been beaten in battle with the Normans. Carlisle is then part of the Scottish fiefdom and Dolfin its overlord. Ranulf Le Meschyn and a group of supporters successfully challenge this party and, following this, the King of England (Rufus) appears with his Queen, Ethel of Scotland; he declares Carlisle to be English: '...the land of Carlisle shall be safe and wax fat as English ground.'8 Dolfin is sent into exile and the King further orders the building of Carlisle Castle using the labour of Dolfin's vanquished men to fell trees and quarry stone from 'the Picts' wall' built by 'Hadrianus, a pagan emperor of Rome'. 9 The building is put in the charge of the Flemish master builders (the Flemings). The building of a cathedral is also ordered and Ranulf is appointed Earl of Carlisle. Ranulf later succeeds to the Earldom of Chester and therefore must forfeit the title of Carlisle.
In scene II, Henry I arrives in Carlisle; during his visit he creates the Bishopric of Carlisle, gifts walrus tusks to the church (said to be still preserved) and provides for a settlement of Augustinian monks to serve the church (Black Canons). He divides the land of Carlisle into two kingdoms (Carliol and Westmaireland) and further into several baronies. The King declares the town itself as his own personal demesne to be in the charge of a sheriff rather than a feudal lord. The appointed seven Barons, the Canons and eminent members of the town then form a procession before the King.
Episode V. King Edward I, 1307
This episode is again identical to that enacted in 1928; it has a large cast of named characters including, Edward, Queen Margaret, the Papal Legate, McDoual of Galloway, an executioner, a great many southern English nobles, local nobles and the King's soldiers and courtiers. The scene takes place when Carlisle is the seat of the English parliament and on the eve of the campaign against Robert the Bruce. Having been captured by McDoual, two brothers of the Bruce are brought before Edward; he orders their execution and afterwards knights McDoual as reward for his support. Meanwhile news arrives that Bruce is holding his own; the Papal Legate (Pedro D’Espagnol) consents to denounce Bruce and the cathedral bells are rung to announce this. The Queen asks the ladies of the court to dance in order to lighten the mood of the King who afterwards calls for his arms and horse in order to go off to battle. The court then moves off leaving Edward alone in the arena. The episode ends with the chorus singing of the death of Edward in battle.
Episode VI. Mary Queen of Scots, 1568
There are no changes in this episode from the 1928 version. Together with Mary, there are around twenty named characters in this episode, alongside groups of townsfolk and Cumberland gentry; also returning to the scene is the figure of Time. Mary arrives at Carlisle Castle where Sir Richard Lowther, the emissary of Elizabeth, invites her to stay until he has received his orders from the English Queen. Mary's supporters object to her being kept in the same place as prisoners. The French Ambassador to the Scottish Court who has accompanied Mary is asked to relay this protest to France. In scene II, set ten days later, Mary and her entourage are seen watching a game of football played by lads of the town. Mary states to Lowther that 'it is eleven days since I wrote to my royal cousin' and asks if an answer has been delayed. Mary is told that she is now a prisoner. This scene again ends with the chorus singing, in this instance about the tragedy of the Queen and comparing her to Helen of Troy. The episode contains a great deal of dialogue.
Episode VII. Kinmont Willie, 1596
This episode is unchanged from the earlier performance and again contains a large cast and many characters on horseback; it takes place over three parts. In part one, the Mayor and bailiffs of Carlisle close the gates of the city at dusk against reivers. Townspeople are enjoying a country dance in the street before this curfew. At this there is a commotion and ten men of the Musgraves appear with Kinmont Willie bound and showing signs of a struggle against his capture. One of the townspeople spots that this is Kinmont Willie, the 'worst thief on the whole Border'.10 Willie is led off to be imprisoned. The crowd of townspeople are being forced back from the town gate; in this throng a woman (Lizzie who is Kinmont Willie's daughter) and a man (Jock) exchange words.
In scene II, there is a meeting between the Laird of Buccleuch (the Scottish Warden) and Lord Scrope (Warden of Carlisle Castle); Buccleuch demands the return of Kinmont Willie and Scrope refuses. Lizzie, having been hiding in the town, suddenly appears, throws herself at the feet of the English warden and pleads for clemency for her father, to no avail. Lady Scrope also appeals to her husband to let Willie go in order to improve relations between the English and Scots; she too is unsuccessful. Jock then appears and tries to reassure Lizzie that Buccleuch will come to the rescue.
Buccleuch and his men are seen at dawn in the final scene; they carry ladders and tools. Jock appears and relays information to Buccleuch about the whereabouts of Willie. Jock is from a family (the Elliots) who are enemies of Willie's family (the Armstrongs) but is rewarded for his help by being granted permission by Willie to marry Lizzie. Willie and his rescuers scale the city wall and take off on horses. Scrope in pursuit fails to catch up with them, but he captures Jock. Lady Scrope again intervenes and this time her husband grants her wish stating: '[t]his is a weary world, and yet I love a brave deed, and this was a gallant deed.'11
Episode VIII. The '45, 1745
This episode is identical to that performed in the 1928 pageant; most of the action and exposition of the narrative is given over to the townspeople and the tone is generally light-hearted up until the end when a note of pathos is introduced. There are a great many performers representing Cumberland's troops and the supporters of the Prince, including pipers and Highlanders. Many of the soldiery are on horseback and Charles rides on a white horse. It opens with 'Charlie is My Darling' played on bagpipes being heard in the distance. Within the city, a Scot (Jimmy) is in the stocks for having drunk the health of the Prince. Other drinkers tease him, but in a friendly way. The Deputy-Mayor of Carlisle appears and pompously reproaches the drinkers for doing nothing to help defend their town. Carlisle surrenders to the Jacobites and Jimmy is freed from the stocks. The Highlanders march into the town followed by the Prince who is given lodgings in 'Rue D'Angleterre'. This scene is played for comic effect.
In scene II, the Prince has left Carlisle and Jimmy has joined the departing Jacobite rebels. A crowd of townsfolk are gathered when Jimmy appears back onto the scene disheartened by his experience and declaring himself henceforth a loyal Hanoverian. He also delivers the news that the Jacobites have fled Derby. Onto this scene, the retreating Jacobite army appear causing alarm until the artillery fire of Cumberland's army is heard. A white flag is then seen flying over the castle; the Jacobites are led off to their fate. The scene ends with a young Scottish girl spotting her lover among the prisoners. She cries:
Aye, they'll kill thee, they'll kill thee, and tha' head wi' its bonny yellow curls will moulder on Carel Yetts, but I’ll watch o'er thee, I'll watch o'er thee...13
Episode IX. Carlisle and Gretna Green, c. 1797
Again, there are no changes from 1928 in this episode and the summary given in 1951 programme merely states 'Carlisle Fair and Gretna Green' and gives a short description of the background histories of both.14 There is no recorded author for this episode and most of its action takes place as a tableau depicting a fair on the Sauceries on Easter Monday. The scene is lively with livestock (including geese), market sellers, a fortune-teller, a Punch and Judy show, gypsies and townsfolk. Children are seen at play and there is dancing among the youths. A constable chases a witch; when he catches her, she is placed in stocks. A blacksmith is also seen at work.
After some time a post horn is heard and a chaise arrives. Out of this coach a young couple emerge, looking nervous; they call for the blacksmith who arrives to repair their chaise. The horn sounds again and another coach approaches; the crowds impede the progress of the coach and, in a temper, the occupant gets out and makes his way through the crowd wielding his whip as he goes. This is the father of the young woman and he takes the young man to task while the crowd look on. The horn sounds for the third time announcing the arrival of John Peel accompanied by a pack of hounds. Peel intercedes and reconciles the quarrel. The father gives way with bad grace and the crowd then sings the traditional song 'John Peel'.
Epilogue. Grand Tableau and March Past
This consists of a closing monologue in verse recited by Time while all the performers from previous episodes re-assemble in the arena. This speech is generally patriotic and admiring of the past. Time then reads a passage from Ecclesiastes ('Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us') and following this, the choir sings 'Oh God Our Help in Ages Past'. While this is being sung, Time's torch is handed from one principal character to another, beginning with Hadrian and ending with John Peel. During the last verse, a child appears and looks up into the face of Time. There does not appear to be any differentiation between this closing scene and that performed in 1928.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Hadrian [Traianus Hadrianus] (AD 76–138) Roman emperor
- Æthelflæd [Ethelfleda] (d. 918) ruler of the Mercians
- Arthur (supp. fl. in or before 6th cent.) legendary warrior and supposed king of Britain
- Merlin [Myrddin] (supp. fl. 6th cent.) poet and seer
- Cuthbert [St Cuthbert] (c.635–687) bishop of Lindisfarne
- Eadred [Edred] (d. 955) king of England
- Dolfin (fl. 1092), found in Gospatric, first earl of Lothian (d. 1138) baron
- William II [known as William Rufus] (c.1060–1100) king of England
- Ranulf (I) [Ranulf le Meschin], third earl of Chester (d. 1129) magnate
- Henry I (1068/9–1135) king of England and lord of Normandy
- Edward I (1239–1307) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
- Margaret [Margaret of Scotland] (1424–1445) dauphine of France
- Mary [Mary Stewart] (1542–1587) queen of Scots
- Lowther, Sir Richard (1532–1608) landowner and soldier
- Armstrong, William, of Kinmont (fl. 1569–1603) border reiver
- Mary Seton (b. c.1541, d. after 1615)
- Scott, Walter, of Buccleuch, first Lord Scott of Buccleuch (1565?–1611) landowner and border reiver
- 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
- Peel, John (1776–1854) huntsman
Musical productionOrchestra of 100 conducted by the composer of the pageant music. The music was the same as that used for the 1928 pageant, with the exception of a new overture said to be based on the theme of 'John Peel'. For most of the pageant, the music was original and composed by Dr F. W. Wadely. Exceptions to this were some traditional pieces included which were as follows:
- Charlie Is My Darling (Episode VIII).
- John Peel (Episode IX).
- Come Lasses and Lads (Episode IX).
- O God Our Help in Ages Past (Epilogue).
Newspaper coverage of pageant
The Yorkshire Post
Cumberland Evening News
Cumberland News (weekly)
The Cumberland Journal
Book of words
- Carlisle Historical Pageant 6-11 August 1951 Book of Words, Two Shillings. Carlisle, 1951.
Copies in Cumbria Record Office, Carlisle; BL; NLS & Tullie House Museum, Carlisle.
Other primary published materials
- Carlisle Historical Pageant Souvenir Programme August 6-11, 1951. Price 2s. 6d (Carlisle, 1951). Copy in Cumbria Record Office, Carlisle; Tullie House Museum, Carlisle.
- Carlisle Pageant Week: Evening Displays Programme 6d (Carlisle, 1951). Copy in Tullie House Museum collections.
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Cumbria Record Office, Carlisle holds published materials in a variety of accessions although most contain duplicates of the same items; selected files as follows: DPH/2/49; DX173/13; DB20/493; DX1816/3/2
- Tullie House Museum, Carlisle, holds examples of published material plus a variety of ephemera including a souvenir tin and a souvenir matchbox in its collections.
- The National Library of Scotland holds a copy of the Book of Words. PB4.208.196/3.
- The British Library holds the following:
- Souvenir Programme. YD.2005.b.1377.
- Book of Words. YD.2005.b.1499.
- Eagles, J.S. and McIntire, W.T. Carlisle historical Pageant : August 6th-11th, 1928, 1951 / the book written by J.S. Eagles and W.T. McIntire ; the music composed and arranged by F.W. Wadely(London, 1951) heldwithin the library’s music collections.
- Carlisle Historical Pageant, August 6th to 11th, 1928: a Description of the Pageant as Illustrated by the Series of Paintings upon the Walls of the Pageant Hall, Silver Grill, Carlisle by W.T. McIntire, BA., FSA, Scot. YD.2013.a.1708.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
- Ecclesiastes (Epilogue).
- English and Scottish Ballads edited by Francis James Child (1847-8) (episode VII).
- Traditional folk songs (episode IX).
The Festival of Britain was the occasion for the restaging of the Carlisle pageant. For the most part, this post war performance was identical to that held in 1928. The composer of the pageant music, Dr Wadely, was still in post as Music Director at Carlisle Cathedral and he did take the opportunity to write new music for the prologue, but in every other way the organisers of this pageant evidently thought it good enough to meet the demands of an audience which may well have gained more sophisticated tastes by the early 1950s. This, however, was not a vain ambition. For once again, the pageant was a huge success and this was achieved despite reservations which were voiced by the Dean of Carlisle who was quoted as saying: ‘[t]here were people who had misgivings as to the advisability of keeping festival this year at a time of grave anxiety in our public affairs.’ The Dean went on to say that he had been one of those who were anxious but that ‘he had been converted’ and that the pageant had ‘done much to consolidate our people’.17
Despite the international volatility then ongoing and some of the deprivations caused by continuing post-war austerity, visitors to the pageant again saw the glorious spectacle that had been a hallmark of the interwar performance. Even without the management of Frank Lascelles who had been Pageant Master in 1928, a local amateur theatrical enthusiast as Master managed to put on a performance with even more participants than in 1928. One newspaper editor who had seen both of the shows commented that the recent event was even ‘more colourful and spectacular’ and that this was the majority view.18
Some further factors may have contributed to this. For example, one significant update to the performance was the use of amplification which had not been available in 1928 and which seems to have been a critical factor in winning over this new audience.19 And, although royalty had attended in 1928, the royal who put in an appearance in 1951 was one who brought extra glamour to the occasion; this was the almost twenty-one year old Princess Margaret who at the time had A-list celebrity status and constant newspaper coverage of her wardrobe and love-life as well as her royal duties. In the weeks before the pageant there was speculation about her visit and, once this was confirmed, local papers ran almost daily news stories about the Princess. She attended in the middle of pageant week on Wednesday 8 August, and, predictably, this was the performance which sold out fastest.20
However, it appears likely that the whole of the pageant week was a sell-out with an estimated one hundred and twenty thousand people attending both rehearsal and regular performances. This figure included ten thousand people admitted for free on the first day of rehearsals when the broadcasting system was not yet in place.21 Similar to 1928, the weather was good for most of the week, and other attractions held as part of Carlisle’s Festival of Britain Civic Week proved popular with over thirty-four thousand people attending an Industrial Exhibition in the city’s famous covered market and over one thousand at the historical Exhibition in Tullie House Museum. This said, within the wider context of the nationwide Festival of Britain, the achievements of the Carlisle Pageant did not receive the level of national news coverage that the event of 1928 had, underlining the fact that Carlisle was a long way from London. Indeed, had Princess Margaret not graced the event it may have been ignored beyond the north of England.
The themes which ran through the pageant script and which were mainly concerned with the peril of being a city positioned on a border, whether by a division created by a Roman boundary wall or by a modern national frontier, as well as the fractious relationship of Cumbrians with the Scots in the past, were not changed for 1950s tastes. Yet, as with 1928, British identity and the power of British institutions were to the fore and perhaps even more in evidence as a promoter of unity, as an article in the local daily paper proudly made clear on the day of Princess Margaret’s visit:
The great houses of the North and those of the Scottish Borders have contributed to the fabric which is our Cumberland story. The young Princess, with the blood of England and Scotland in her veins, cannot but be stirred by the story which we unfold... We are a Border City, but now living at peace with our neighbours. Our guest today represents our Royal House under whose Crown we all, Scots and English combined, are proud to serve.22
The call to harmony in peacetime may well have induced for some a welcome atmosphere of nostalgia for the national unity that had recently been created by conflict. Peacetime rationing was, however, still in evidence as photographs of ‘Father Time’ make clear; the 1951 incarnation of this omniscient narrator in the pageant did not quite cut the elegant figure presented in 1928. With clothing coupons still in use, some raiding of the dressing-up box was clearly necessary!
Moreover, citizens were reminded to be on their best behaviour. With the war over, keeping calm and being patient with queuing were again de rigueur for the pageant during a week when the compact city of Carlisle must have been overflowing:
All good citizens should help to make visitors comfortable and at home... be helpful if asked questions; and show consideration in the queues and in the crowds.23
A further hint at post-war change can be seen in the cast lists for the pageant. Although the Grand Council still had many aristocratic members, these were fewer, and there was perhaps a proportionately larger number of politicians without lordly titles. Notably, however, this committee was even more top heavy with high ranking officers from the armed services than it was in 1928. No famous faces from the aristocracy played significant roles as they had done in the first pageant. However, the common man, in the shape of John Peel in Episode IX, was played by one of his direct descendants! This may be a metaphor of some sort for the alleged levelling effects of the war within the context of this particular pageant.24
- ^ Note of dress rehearsals in Carlisle Historical Pageant August 6-11, 1951 Book of Words, Two Shillings (Carlisle, 1951), 63.
- ^ '1745 Rising at Carlisle Pageant', The Scotsman 31 July 1928, 6. The script in 1951 was the same as that used in 1928. Beattie hailed from Langholm in the Scottish Borders and published his book shortly before the 1928 pageant; he was known as a writer and it is likely he was consulted.
- ^ ‘120000 Saw the Pageant’, Carlisle Evening News, 13 August 1951, 1.
- ^ Advertisement, Carlisle Historical Pageant August 6-11, 1951 Book of Words, Two Shillings (Carlisle, 1951), 64.
- ^ Carlisle Historical Pageant August 6-11, 1951 Book of Words, Two Shillings (Carlisle, 1951), 5.
- ^ Carlisle Historical Pageant August 6-11, 1951 Book of Words, Two Shillings (Carlisle, 1951), 13.
- ^ Carlisle Historical Pageant August 6-11, 1951 Book of Words, Two Shillings (Carlisle, 1951), 38.
- ^ Carlisle Historical Pageant August 6-11, 1951 Book of Words, Two Shillings (Carlisle, 1951), 25.
- ^ Carlisle Historical Pageant August 6-11, 1951 Book of Words, Two Shillings (Carlisle, 1951), 25.
- ^ Carlisle Historical Pageant August 6-11, 1951 Book of Words, Two Shillings (Carlisle, 1951), 46.
- ^ Carlisle Historical Pageant August 6-11, 1951 Book of Words, Two Shillings (Carlisle, 1951), 49.
- ^ Carlisle Historical Pageant August 6-11, 1951 Book of Words, Two Shillings (Carlisle, 1951), 50-56.
- ^ Carlisle Historical Pageant August 6-11, 1951 Book of Words, Two Shillings (Carlisle, 1951), 56.
- ^ Carlisle Historical Pageant Souvenir Programme August 6-11, 1951 (Carlisle, 1951), 23.
- ^ Carlisle Historical Pageant August 6-11, 1951 Book of Words, Two Shillings (Carlisle, 1951), 60-62.
- ^ 'Carlisle Pageant', The Yorkshire Post, 7 August 1951, 2.
- ^ The Dean of Carlisle quoted in Cumberland Evening News, 6 August 1951, 7.
- ^ Editorial in Cumberland Evening News, 9 August 1951, 3.
- ^ Editorial in Cumberland Evening News, 9 August 1951, 3.
- ^ Advertisement for the pageant, Cumberland News, 1 August 1951, 3.
- ^ ‘120000 Saw the Pageant’, Carlisle Evening News, 13 August 1951, 1.
- ^ ‘Large Crowds Greet the Princess’, Cumberland Evening News, 8 August 1951, 3.
- ^ Article in the Cumberland Evening News, 4 August 1951, 3.
- ^ ‘Rain during Pageant Rehearsal’, The Yorkshire Post, 3 August 1951, 6.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Carlisle Historical Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1024/