All the world re­ally is a stage for Scot­land’s most the­atri­cal clan

3 gen­er­a­tions worked for 40 years at Gai­ety venue

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Mag­gie Ritchie

FOR stage­hands work­ing be­hind the scenes, the aim is usu­ally to stay out of the spot­light.

But a group of back­stage work­ers at a Scots theatre share a his­tory so re­mark­able that their story begs to be told.

Three gen­er­a­tions of one fam­ily were stal­warts be­hind the foot­lights at the Gai­ety Theatre in Ayr for more than 40 years, and now their tale is to take cen­tre-stage in a trav­el­ling ex­hi­bi­tion.

Youngs of all ages brushed shoul­ders with the likes of Andy Ste­wart, Chic Mur­ray and Ken­neth McKel­lar.

The saga be­gan when An­drew ‘Deb’ Young took up the role of stage man­ager in 1913, a role he held un­til 1955. Mr Young met his wife, Mil­lie, at the theatre when she ar­rived as a dresser for a trav­el­ling show.

The couple had daugh­ter Lizzie, who fol­lowed in her mother’s foot­steps to be­come a wardrobe dresser be­fore meet­ing and mar­ry­ing Jimmy Thomp­son, a joiner and stage­hand at the theatre.

They had five chil­dren who grew up tread­ing the boards, babysit­ting for the stars and tak­ing bit parts in pan­tos.

Among them are Bar­bara Mackie, 80, and sis­ter Morag Flem­ing, 74, whose mem­o­ries are to be told in her­itage project the Mem­ory Suit­case, which will travel around Ayr­shire.

Mrs Mackie, who lives near Kil­marnock and re­tired from work­ing in the theatre in 1966, said: ‘It was a mag­i­cal way to grow up. Ev­ery time a vol­un­teer from the au­di­ence was needed, we had to get on stage.

‘I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my mind read or played a foot­man in panto.’

In the evenings their fam­ily home would be filled with the stars of the day, from Johnny Beattie to Jack Mil­roy and Val Doon­i­can. The sis­ters danced with mem­bers of the cast after the cur­tain had gone down.

Mrs Mackie said: ‘I danced with them all – with Johnny Beattie and the three mem­bers of The Bach­e­lors, an Ir­ish singing trio.

‘They were all very re­spect­ful of us girls, al­though Andy Ste­wart was a bit of a chancer, and so was Syd­ney Devine. I used to knit socks for the Alexan­der Broth­ers, and babysit for Ken­neth McKel­lar’s chil­dren and for Chic Mur­ray’s chil­dren. We used to fall about laugh­ing when Chic came to din­ner.

‘I had my first date with my husband, Bill, at the Gai­ety in 1959, and when we got mar­ried all the stars of the theatre were present.’ The Mem­ory Suit­case project now aims to share such rec­ol­lec­tions of the popular theatre, which helped to launch the ca­reers of house­hold names such as Rikki Ful­ton.

Project man­ager Mirella Ar­cidi­a­cono said: ‘It is an iconic venue for many per­form­ers and re­tains con­sid­er­able af­fec­tion in Scot­land’s theatre in­dus­try.’

‘It was a mag­i­cal way to grow up’

Cur­tain call: Bar­bara Mackie in the Ayr theatre

Lime­light: The Gai­ety, be­low, helped to launch the ca­reer of Rikki Ful­ton

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.