Ury House Empire Pageant
Place: Ury House (Stonehaven) (Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)
Number of performances: 2
10 September 1932
The pageant was performed at 4pm and 5.45pm. Ury House is a mansion with extensive grounds; at the time of the pageant, it was one of the residences of Lord Stonehaven, a Conservative politician and former Governor-General of Australia. The house is now derelict and on the at-risk buildings register.
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Pageant Master: Douglas,
- Costumes: Mrs Helena
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- Chairman: Alexander Thomson
- Vice-Chairman: Miss
- Secretary: A.W. Bisset
The pageant was a feature of a larger fete organised by members of the Stonehaven branch of the Kincardine and West Aberdeenshire Unionist Association. This pageant was the last in a series held by this Association over the summer of 1932. The fete was organised by a committee made up of the seventeen members of the Stonehaven Branch Executive.
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
News reports give no information is provided regarding authorship, and it is likely that if any dialogue was included, this was minimal. The arranger of the tableaux is not specified, but may have been the pageant master—Harry Douglas.
Names of composers
Numbers of performers60 - 80
Performers were junior members of the Stonehaven branch of the Kincardinshire and West Aberdeenshire Unionist Association.
Object of any funds raised
Kincardine and West Aberdeenshire Unionist Association
The fete and pageant was last in a series of similar fundraising fetes held over the summer of 1932 by the Kincardinshire and West Aberdeenshire Unionist Association ['Mearns Pageant of History', Aberdeen Press and Journal, 7 September 1932, 8]. There is no evidence that a pageant featured in any of the previous events.
- Grandstand: No
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: 700 - 500
A report in the Scotsman newspaper states that over 500 people attended the fete ['Brighter Times in Store', Scotsman 12 September 1932, 14].
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Entrance to the fete included access to the pageant and cost 1s for adults and 6d for children. Special buses were run to and from Stonehaven to Ury House [Advertisement, Aberdeen Press and Journal, 9 September 1932, 1].
This dramatizes the meeting of Margaret Tudor and James IV of Scotland. Each arrives with an entourage of ladies-in-waiting and lords. The royal figures are led in from different directions by pages and are first seen on horseback. When the groups are assembled, Margaret and James greet each other and a dance is then performed for their entertainment. The scene ends with an archbishop [the Archbishop of Glasgow?] blessing 'the union between Scotland and England'. The members of the court then disperse to make their way to Edinburgh. Around 20 performers took part (the majority female) and some 'choirboys from St James's Episcopal choir' further augmented this group.
The Hon. Ariel Baird provides a solo dance.
This episode had around ten players; the Hon. Ava Baird played the character of 'Peace'. A newspaper review gives the following description:
This opened with Britannia looking at a large map of the Empire and then composing herself for sleep. Saints appear and regard her sadly as she sleeps and after they have gone there enters Sedition and Treason. These two sinister people try to poison Britannia by crafty wiles, but the situation is saved by the dramatic return of the Saints, followed by the Colonies. Britannia then holds court and receives homage of her Colonies and generous arrangements for mutual help are made. While all kneel St George hoists the Union Jack; sedition is in chains, and the body of Treason, who had died through drinking from the poisoned cup, is brought in. Beside the flag the figure of Peace tells us that once again Britain has been restored to her noble position among the other countries of the world.
The Hon. Ariel Baird provides another solo dance.
This is a parade 'of the different countries of the Empire, the various dress representations being appropriate and ingenious'. Around twenty-five performers took part. [All information and quotation in the synopses of episodes is taken from 'Pageant of Empire at Ury House', Aberdeen Press and Journal 12 September 1932, 8.]
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 live and provided by an orchestra from Brechin [Aberdeen Press and Journal, 12 September 1932, 8]. Some choirboys are present in episode I suggesting that singing was a feature at some point in the drama.
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Press and Journal
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 master for this event—Harry Douglas—was in charge of an empire pageant at Stracathro two years earlier in July 1930. The production held at Ury House was almost identical in terms of its narrative, and suggests that this particular pageant may well have had several outings. The occasion that gave rise to the pageant in 1932 was a fundraising fete for the local Unionist Association. This makes perfect sense, for in many ways the pageant was as much a celebration of the union as the empire and it reflected the importance this Scottish political party (effectively the Conservative party in Scotland at this time) placed on the dominions for ensuring the stability of the British union. The first episode covered the genealogical underpinnings of the eventual Union of the Crowns in 1603 with a re-enactment of the marriage of Margaret Tudor to James IV in 1503. This homage to the United Kingdom was followed in episode II by an allegorical treatment of the union's crowning achievement—its eventual rule over a great empire. The episode ended with Britannia's crushing of the allegorical characters 'Sedition and Treason', and the empire symbolically depicted as a bringer of peace. A fancy dress parade with participants dressed in the national costumes of countries of empire closed the pageant.
The fundraising fete was last of a series of such events held in the summer of 1932, which aimed to collect money for the Unionist cause in Aberdeenshire. The party enjoyed a clear majority in all of Aberdeenshire's parliamentary constituencies following the 1931 general election, at a time when the Labour vote was deeply split after Ramsay MacDonald decided to remain head of a largely Conservative Nationalist government, but their funding drive indicates that had no desire to rest on their laurels. The then British Conservative Party chairman—John Baird, 1st Viscount Stonehaven—made the grounds of his home at Ury House available for the event, and he performed the opening ceremony. In his opening speech he stated that there existed a 'need for continued, unflagging support of the National Government' by the working classes, given 'the potential danger' posed by 'ill-advised utterances by so-called Socialist leaders'.1 A large number of his aristocratic neighbours came along to the fete and pageant; unfortunately, we do not know if the working classes were also present in significant numbers, although the Unionists commanded support from many working-class voters in Scotland at this point. At any rate, there appears to have been a healthy turnout overall with around five hundred people attending. Fine weather prevailed throughout the day.2
This type of event demonstrates the influence the upper classes retained in rural Scotland well into the twentieth century. The pageant itself was performed by 'junior unionists' on the lawns in front of the mansion house, and the cast included Lord Stonehaven's daughters, the Hon. Ariel Baird (who performed solo dances between episodes), and Ava Baird (who played the part of 'Peace' in episode II).
'Pageant of Empire at Ury House', Aberdeen Press and Journal, 12 September 1932, 8.
'Brighter Times in Store', The Scotsman 12 September 1932, 14.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Ury House Empire Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1441/