AN ALBUM OF PHOTOGRAPHS AND EPHEMERA TELLS THEIR STORY
For the war effort, various Home Front groups and organisations produced entertainments to raise funds for the Red Cross and other organisations. This happened all across the country. One such theatrical group – ‘The Eves’ – performed local entertainments in Perthshire. Rehearsals for ‘The Eves’ theatrical group were held at the home of Helen Wilson at Colquhalzie, or Kilcolquhalzie, in Perthshire.
Under the curation of the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Library, an album of photographs and ephemera, including concert programmes and news clippings, offers an insight into the performances of ‘The Eves’.
Most of the cast of ‘The Eves’ were female and the name of their group was derived from the fact that their husbands, brothers, and fathers (their Adams) were serving in the forces. They offered sketches taken from London musical theatre productions, songs, recitations, choruses and dances. They were accompanied by piano or by the Auchterarder Ladies Orchestra.
Mrs. Helen Wilson of Colquhalzie was the daughter-in-law of Sir John Wilson (1844-1918) of Airdrie House, businessman, Unionist politician, Chairman of the Wilsons and Clyde Coal Company, and MP for Falkirk Burghs from 1895 to 1906. Her husband, Captain James R. Wilson – Sir John’s son – served with the Lanarkshire Yeomenry in Gallipoli and Egypt.
‘Eves’ performances took place at, for example, the local village hall in Muthill, August 1916, in aid of the National Work Party…
…and other performances were at Porteous Hall, Crieff, September 1916, in aid of the Scottish Red Cross, and at the Pavilion Hall, Glasgow, later in 1916.
In the album acquired by Edinburgh University Library, a photographic reproduction of a news clipping from The Strathearn Herald, 26 August 1916, describes the Variety Entertainment at Muthill Hall where ‘the seats were extensively booked throughout Muthill, Crieff and Auchterarder districts’. Indeed, ‘fully half-an-hour before the starting-time […] motor cars began to arrive with front-seat ticket-holders, as well as public vehicles which brought numbers more from populous centres’. The programme opened with Mrs Wilson and a Chorus offering a ‘fine rendering of Ivor Novello’s popular Keep the Homes Fires Burning.
The performance was ‘shown nicely under the special lighting arrangements regulated […] and worked from a dynamo driven by Mrs. Wilson’s private motor outside’.
A Special Matinee at the Pavilion Theatre on 7 November 1916 was held to raise funds to purchase Motor Ambulance Wagons for Glasgow and District. ‘The Eves’ Committee were indebted to the Pavilion Theatre Directors for giving the use of the Theatre, and to Mr. D. Y. Cameron A.R.A. for ‘so graciously having designed the cover’ of the Matinee Programme.
David Young Cameron (1865-1945) – knighted in 1924 – had been a student of both the Glasgow School of Art and the Edinburgh School of Art.
The Special Matinee at the Pavilion Theatre included performances by Mrs. Wilson and her son ‘little Jock Wilson’. With the Chorus she sang ‘Molly, the Marchioness’ from The Country Girl, ‘The girl with the brogue’ from The Arcadians, ‘The flower girl’, and ‘The lads who play the game’. Unaccompanied, and with Miss S. Bulloch Graham she sang ‘The girl with the brogue’ from The Arcadians, and ‘The Middy’ from ‘The Marriage Market’.
Again, the album describes the Pavilion Theatre performances from news clippings. A feature of the charity event was the floral display – on the stage and in the Theatre – and the distribution of 3000 buttonholes. Apparently, one of the highlights ‘was the appearance of little Jock Wilson […] the little fellow presented a bouquet and ran off the stage with as little self-consciousness as if he had been in his nursery’.
After their successful appearance in Glasgow, ‘The Eves’ gave a Grand Concert and Variety Entertainment at the Pavilion Theatre, Johnstone, a few weeks later on 7 February 1917.
This was for a special appeal by the 38th Renfrew Voluntary Aid Detachment for the County of Renfrew Red Cross Fund.
Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian Archives & Manuscripts, Centre for Research Collections