Lilias Day Pageant: The Story of Kilbarchan

Pageant type

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Place: Kilbarchan Public Park (Kilbarchan) (Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, Scotland)

Year: 1934

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 2


18 August 1934, 4.15pm; 25 August 1934, 8.15pm (floodlit)

The performance took about two hours.1 A floodlit peformance was scheduled for the evening of Tuesday 21 August 1934, but it was cancelled due to the weather: the park was waterlogged.2

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Producer [Pageant Master]: Wright, James
  • Dance Instructors: Miss Gordon and Miss Muir (Members of the Scottish Country Dance Association); Mr Harry Maitland
  • Marshall: John M’Intyre
  • Ferguslie Mills Brass and Pipe Band, Paisley, Conductor: Hugh F.E. Caldwell
  • Sherwood Church B.B. Pipe Band, Band Officer: Robert Bryden
  • The Garnock Choral Society, Conductor: Alexander M’Innes
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Miss Jenny Mitchell
  • Assistant Wardrobe Mistresses: Miss Margaret M’Laren and Miss Jessie M’Caig
  • Floodlighting: John M’Intyre and James Newton
  • Posters: Ralston Gudgeon
  • Properties: John M’Intyre and Walter G. Meikle
  • Wigs and Make-up: Harry Maitland
  • Reserved Seating: James G. M’Vicar and James Muir
  • Brochure: Ronald H. Bowie and James Wright, RSW

Names of executive committee or equivalent

  • Chairman of Committee: John T. Prentice
  • Hon. Joint Secretaries: W. M’Callum Douglas, Gateside Place, and Andrew Walker, Milliken Drive
  • Hon. Joint Treasurers: Andrew Mitchell, Southview, and Robert Ritchie, 37 Low Barholm

Convenors of Floral Arches:

  • The Kirk-Toun: John Gardner, Colin Houston, Andrew Neilson, George Park
  • Shuttle Street: Charles Barr, Angus M’Laren, William Scobie Sen., Robert Semple
  • New Street: James Cowan, Peter Gilchrist, William Hyndman, Jack Vaughan
  • Barholm: Samuel Holmes, John M’Dougall, Robert Waldie, James Webster
  • Old Toll: Joseph Craig, Alex. Harrison, Robert Holms, David Neilson
  • Heather: George Fulton and John M’Intyre
  • Street Decorations: Cuthbert P. Lyle, Robert Ritchie
  • Hon. Secretary: John Erskine, 23 Shuttle Street

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

  • Wright, James


The ‘scenario’ was by James Wright, adapted from ‘The History of Kilbarchan by Rev. R.D. Mackenzie, DD’: actually Mackenzie, R. D. Kilbarchan: A Parish History (Paisley, 1902). The pageant was the same as in 1933.

Names of composers

  • Purcell, Edward
  • Wright, Waugh

Numbers of performers


136 named male and 122 named female performers.

Financial information

The pageant raised £275.4

Object of any funds raised

Endowing a bed in the Royal Alexandra Infirmary, Paisley: the same object as the 1933 pageant.

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 18000


12000 were there for the start of the Saturday afternoon performance (with more coming in during it) and more than 6000 for the repeat performance under floodlights the following Saturday.5

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


‘Admission to the pageant, 6d.’ There were some reserved seats available at 2s., including admission to the park.6

Associated events

The pageant took place as part of Kilbarchan’s annual Lilias Day celebrations.

Pageant outline

Episode I. 6th Century AD)

‘Britons of the Gryffe Valley gather at the foot of the Bar Hill. The Chief sits in council, while his folk await the coming of the Druid on Beltane Day. There is a love triangle incident, the Chief intervenes—but the “look-out” on the hill warns them of the Druid’s arrival. The folk gather in fear. One of their number is chosen for the sacrifice. Suddenly the alarm is shouted, “Gael” (strangers). The Chief and his men get into fighting order. Sanct Barchan and his monks arrive, The Druid is made prisoner—the maiden released—the heathen altar overthrown. The anger of the Britons is quelled by the Raising of the Cross.’

Episode II. c.1315

‘Marjory Bruce, daughter of the King, hunted in these fields and woods. The party arrive with ladies in attendance, huntsmen and dogs. The chase begins. Folk of the Kirk Toun of Kilbarchan give hospitality to Princess Marjory.’

Episode III. Early 15th Century

‘Early in the 15th Century, Thomas Craufurd of the castle of Auchenames gave to Kilbarchan the little chapel of St. Catherine. The ruin can still be seen in the auld kirkyard. This incident will be portrayed: The ladies of Auchenames come to meet their Laird. The Seneschal and the Master Builder with model of Chapel in attendance on Dame Craufurd. Craufurd enters, inspects the model and the procession moves off to meet the Church party, to whom the Chapel is gifted.’

Episode IV. Late 15th Century

‘For centuries the Cuninghames of Craigends have been closely connected with Kilbarchan. At one time the village was a Barony under the dominion of Baron Cuninghame, who had power as judge and landlord over the village. This episode shows the Baron with his household presiding at a village holiday: Beltane Day, in the 15th Century. Sports are held. A gypsy and his wife, fortune tellers, are haled [sic] before the Baron and sent to the stocks. The Minstrels sing the famous old Scots ballad of Binnorie. Old time Mummers entertain the crowd.’

Episode V. 16th Century

‘In which Habbie Simpson the Piper and his wife Janet appear. The Crier proclaims the morn of Beltane Day and children rush on to the green to dance. Pedlar enters followed by the villagers. Habbie and his wife arrive and are joyfully hailed by the village folks, who demand a tune from him. ...To Habbie’s piping the villagers dance “The Glasgow Highlanders”. (This dance “belongs” to Renfrewshire and is centuries old.)’

Episode VI. Early 18th Century

‘Introduces another William Cuninghame—of the 18th Century. A man of some note in his time, and a member of Parliament. Ladies and gentlemen stroll on to the green. Baron Cuninghame and his Lady arrive, accompanied by his “Doer” or Lawyer and his Lady. The Baron announces that the “heathen” name of Beltane “shall be discontinued” and gives the name of “Lilias”—(his favourite daughter)—as the new name of the Fair Day. Lilias enters with pages and receives the congratulations of the company. The choir sings “Passing By”. Then the Minuet is danced. After the dance the Baron askes “Mistress Jenny for a song”. The Lilias Day song [is sung].’

Episode VII. 1860

‘In the sixties Kilbarchan was at the height of its prosperity. These were the days of Paisley Shawls and crinolines; what better opportunity to flaunt these braws than a wedding. The men were sober in dress, but a “Tile” and a “Surtout” were considered “bien”. Embroidered waistcoats were sported at a wedding, and it is of interest to note that those worn in this episode were designed and made in the village—away back in the sixties, as were the Paisley Shawls. The bride and bridegroom enter, guests pelting them with rice. The guid faither and best man throw coppers to the children as in ancient custom. Duncan Gray is sung. The beautiful dance “The Lovers’ Knot” is appropriate. The company depart after singing “Maggie Lauder”.’


‘All the groups march in and take up their positions on the terrace; “Auld Lang Syne” will then be sung, in which the audience are heartily invited to join.’

‘On Tuesday, 21st, and Saturday, 25th, several Tableaux will be staged after the Scenario is finished. (Time and weather permitting.)’7

Key historical figures mentioned


Musical production

The music was exactly the same as in 1933, although a couple of different dances were performed, and different bands provided the accompaniment. Music was played by the Ferguslie Mills Brass and Reed Band and sung by the Garnock Choral Society. The Sherwood Church B.B. Pipe Band is also credited in the programme, though it was not part of the procession. The following pieces were performed:

  • Trad. arr. W.S. Roddie. Folk song, ‘Binnorie’. 
  • Ed.C. Purcell. ‘Passing By’ (Herrick). 
  • Waugh Wright. ‘Lilias Day’ (J.W. [i.e., James Wright]). 
  • Arr. J. Bell. ‘Duncan Gray’ (Burns). 
  • ‘Maggie Lauder’ (Francis Sempill of Beltrees).
  • Trad. ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (Burns).
  • Dances including ‘Garland Dance’; ‘Glasgow Highlanders’; ‘Minuet; Dance’ (Craigends); ‘Love Knot’.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette

Book of words


Other primary published materials

  • Lilias Day Pageant: The Story of Kilbarchan, 18th, 21st, 25th August 1934, Souvenir Programme. Kilbarchan, 1934. Price: 6d.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • The programmes for Lilias Day are in Paisley Central Library.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Mackenzie, Robert D. Kilbarchan: A Parish History. Paisley, 1902.

The ‘scenario’ was based on Robert D. Mackenzie, Parish History of Kilbarchan (1902) [sic].


The undoubted success of the historical pageant associated with the Lilias Day celebrations in Kilbarchan in 1933 encouraged a repeat performance in the following year. Revived after a 55-year hiatus in 1931, Lilias Day had proved successful, with crowds in that year amounting to around 10000—if the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette is believed—or even 30000 according to the Scotsman.8 As recounted in the entry for the 1933 Kilbarchan Pageant, Lilias Day dated from the early eighteenth century but had disappeared during the nineteenth century; its revival in the early 1930s was part of a series of wider national and local developments including large-scale historical pageants and other rituals such as the annual William Wallace commemoration at nearby Elderslie. In 1933, Lilias Day involved both a procession and a theatrical pageant, performed entirely in mime, and almost exactly the same agenda was followed in 1934. The performers processed from the Old Toll Arch, stopping at the war memorial and steeple, to Kilbarchan Public Park, where the pageant took place. Again, the Kilbarchan General Society, a charity founded in 1765, was behind the celebrations, and a number of its ‘managers’ were also members of the pageant committee.9

The producer of the pageant, as in the previous year, was the noted local artist James Wright, and a large range of local voluntary effort was mobilised to ensure that the streets were decorated with floral arches, that the participants had appropriate costumes, that music and singing featured in the event, and that spectators could enjoy the pageant and buy tea from the marquee in the park. There was a sixpence charge for admission and another sixpence for the souvenir programme in which the names of the participants were listed, along with a summary of the episodes depicted. Visitors could spend another sixpence on the ‘Lilias Day Song’, with words by James Wright and music by his brother Waugh Wright, which had been specially composed for the previous year’s pageant and which was sung again in episode VI.10 As in 1933, the object of any profits was to be the endowment of a bed in the Royal Alexandra Infirmary in Paisley, the nearest large town to Kilbarchan. This time three performances were planned—one on the Saturday afternoon of Lilias Day, 18 August 1934, and two floodlit evening pageants on the following Tuesday and Saturday—but in the event only the first and third took place, with weather preventing the Tuesday night performance from going ahead. Audience figures were impressive: according to the local newspaper, 12000 people were in the park at the start of the first performance, with more coming in as it proceeded, and more than 6000 attended the floodlit performance a week later.11 There were special trains from Glasgow and ‘augmented’ bus services on the days of the pageant, and car parking was available.12 So busy were the streets during the procession on the first Saturday afternoon that the police found it difficult to keep a clear space in front of Kilbarchan steeple to allow the famous local sixteenth- and seventeenth-century piper Habbie Simpson (played by Thomas Park) to get inside.13 (There is a statue of Simpson in a niche on the side of the steeple; this was first erected in wood in 1822 and had been replaced by a bronze figure in 1932. The procession summoned Habbie down from his perch, and the actor playing him took a place of honour in the procession.)

Localism and ‘village patriotism’, together with ‘community spirit’, were again clear features of the Kilbarchan pageant.14 Few nationally recognised figures were depicted in Wright’s tableaux, with Marjorie Bruce, daughter of King Robert I, being the only real exception.15 James Wright’s contribution to the souvenir programme expressed pride in the modesty of Kilbarchan, its long history and its quirky characteristics: ‘Pomp and Circumstance’, he noted, ‘has passed by Kilbarchan, but the village has its own history, its own kent folk and traditions.’ Yet ‘romance’ ran through this thousand-year history, from characters such as Habbie Simpson the piper (who was also the local butcher) to the ‘ancient craft’ of handloom weaving which still just survived in 1934; and even the new council houses ‘have been kept in the Scottish tradition’.16 In the episodes themselves the length of unbroken traditions was emphasised: the Cuninghame family of Craigends, for example, who gave Lilias Day its name, were ‘for centuries ... closely connected with Kilbarchan’.17 In Episode V, where the villagers danced ‘The Glasgow Highlanders’ to the piping of Habbie Simpson, it was emphasised that this dance, despite its name, ‘belongs’ to Renfrewshire ‘and is centuries old’.18 The ‘community spirit’ was reflected in the large numbers of performers—a third of the population, according to the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette19—and the enthusiasm with which many residents threw themselves into the associated activities, notably the floral decorations. The programme emphasised that the ‘men of Kilbarchan’ made the props, and the ‘women-folk of the village’ produced the period costumes.20

This localism contrasts with the national focus of the Wallace commemoration at Elderslie, which took place on the day of the Saturday evening floodlit performance of the pageant and which was also reported at length in the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette.21 Attended by between 2000 and 3000 people, and organised by the newly formed Scottish National Party,22 this event was much smaller than even the second staging of the Kilbarchan pageant. Indeed, it is worth noting the size of the reported audience for the pageant: the 18000 who saw the two performances is very impressive compared with the total figures of around 100000 who saw the Glasgow Pageant of 1928 and around 50000 who saw the Scottish Historical Pageant at Craigmillar Castle in 1927. Closer to Kilbarchan, only around 6000 are likely to have seen the indoor Paisley Pageant of 1929.

In a period when historical pageants were increasingly being staged in large industrial cities, Kilbarchan’s pageant organisers felt that they were doing something different. It was claimed in the souvenir programme that ‘[p]ageantry of this standard has previously been achieved only by cities or large towns, but Kilbarchan has boldly broken away from the conventional village gala.’23 The pageant was part of a wider campaign for ‘village improvement’ that was motivated by rural depopulation and other aspects of ‘rural decay’.24 As co-editor Ronald H. Bowie noted in his foreword to the souvenir programme:

The significance of such a festival does not lie solely in the entertainment and joy which it affords to performers and spectators alike, or even in the support it gives to charity. These things, admirable in themselves, are by-products of an enthusiasm and spirit which expressed revolt against the materialism and the dullness of contemporary village life in Scotland. In Kilbarchan we have found definite signs of a new social consciousness, born of Lilias Day, which has since expressed itself in many ways. It is in this re-awakening of village life that Scotland will find itself again.25

In Kilbarchan as elsewhere, then, pageants were seen to be addressing first a local need, but also a national need, in a period when the stirrings of Scottish nationalism were being felt both politically and culturally. A small community such as Kilbarchan was an ideal setting in which to produce a pageant. According to the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette: ‘it is possible for the producer to control his production as an entity ... there are no loose ends, and no experiments in historical costume by well-meaning amateurs .... a small community is capable of the team work and enthusiasm which springs from unity, in a measure impossible for a city’.26

Yet despite these apparent advantages, and despite the huge success of the pageant—the soggy non-event of Tuesday 21 August notwithstanding—Kilbarchan did not stage a pageant again, and even Lilias Day was forgotten very quickly. Indeed, it was not until 1968 that Lilias Day was revived, with the Kilbarchan General Society again playing a key role, as it still does. The processional elements remain, and Lilias Day has been called a ‘historical pageant’,27 but the theatrical creation of James Wright—‘in the opinion of many good judges, the most artistic and satisfying work of the kind ever seen in Scotland’28—was never seen again.


  1. ^ Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 28 July 1934, 5.
  2. ^ Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 25 August 1934, 5.
  3. ^ Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 18 August 1934, 4.
  4. ^ Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 28 July 1934, 5.
  5. ^ Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 25 August 1934, 5 and 1 September 1934, 6.
  6. ^ Lilias Day Pageant: The Story of Kilbarchan, 18th, 21st, 25th August 1934, Souvenir Programme (Kilbarchan, 1934), 3 and 25.
  7. ^ In the event, the Tuesday performance was cancelled due to the weather.
  8. ^ Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 29 August 1931, 5; Scotsman, 16 August 1933, 7.
  9. ^ Lilias Day Pageant: The Story of Kilbarchan, 18th, 21st, 25th August 1934, Souvenir Programme (Kilbarchan, 1934), 21 and 24–25.
  10. ^ Ibid., 25.
  11. ^ Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 25 August 1934, 5 and 1 September 1934, 6.
  12. ^ Lilias Day Pageant: The Story of Kilbarchan, 18th, 21st, 25th August 1934, 3.
  13. ^ Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 25 August 1934, 5.
  14. ^ The phrase ‘village patriotism’ and ‘community spirit’ were both used in relation to the first pageant in the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 12 August 1933, 4.
  15. ^ Marjorie Bruce is mentioned in G.W.S. Barrow, ‘Stewart family (per. c.1100–c.1350)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 6 January 2016, No other figures portrayed in the pageant appear in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  16. ^ [James Wright], ‘Kilbarchan and Its Folk’, Lilias Day Pageant: The Story of Kilbarchan, 18th, 21st, 25th August 1934, 31–32.
  17. ^ Ibid., 36.
  18. ^ Ibid., 37.
  19. ^ Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 28 July 1934, 5.
  20. ^ Lilias Day Pageant: The Story of Kilbarchan, 18th, 21st, 25th August 1934, 28.
  21. ^ Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 1 September 1934, 4.
  22. ^ The Scottish National Party was formed in April 1934 by the merger of two smaller political parties.
  23. ^ Lilias Day Pageant: The Story of Kilbarchan, 18th, 21st, 25th August 1934, 29.
  24. ^ Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 26 August 1933, 4.
  25. ^ Lilias Day Pageant: The Story of Kilbarchan, 18th, 21st, 25th August 1934, 27.
  26. ^ Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 28 July 1934, 5.
  27. ^ ‘Domesday Reloaded’, BBC, accessed 6 January 2016,
  28. ^ Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 28 July 1934, 5.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Lilias Day Pageant: The Story of Kilbarchan’, The Redress of the Past,