Admirable Crichton / Northern Lights (1928)

1928’s ‘Admirable Crichton’ was a production of The Admirable Crichton, a comedy play written in 1902 by Scotsman J. M. Barrie, Rector of the University of St Andrews from 1919-1922. Barrie’s older brother, Alexander, graduated with honors in Classics at Aberdeen University in 1866.

It is uncertain if this production was actually a student charities show, though it is frequently mentioned alongside the ‘Northern Lights’ revue of the same year.

In a 1986 interview, cast member Arnold Burns says :

“I was president of the Dramatics Society for two years. I think it was very important, we had a big, big membership. One year and we went the whole hog and took the then Palace Theatre and put on Barrie’s Admirable Crichton, and when we went along to book the theatre the management wanted to know how we stood financially and we said “Yes we have a bank account”. We didn’t say we’d minus £10! And every night the box office returns were brought to my dressing room which I shared with one or two pals, and half way through the show, on Wednesday night, great news! We had covered our costs..”

from a 1986 Interview with Arnold Burns (1907-1996), (M.A. 1931)

Arnold Burns’ wife Winifred was also interviewed in 1986, and had the following memory of Student Show :

“Well, I was always in the students’ show. I wasn’t doing anything else. The show you see started two months before and we practised such a lot for it you see. I was in the dancing chorus there and we had lots and lots of practice for that.”

“Who were the leading lights of the students’ shows?”

Mrs Burns:
“In the girls, Doris Tindel, Kathy Gavin of course, and Stephen Mitchell, they were ? and then there were singers like Robert Henderson.”

“Mr Burns, can you remember any of those, the leading lights in the shows?”

Mr Burns:
“Well she’d mentioned Stephen Mitchell, Kathy Gavin, Molly Mathieson, and Doris Tindel and ? Johnston and Arthur Murray ? John ? and let me see who else.”

“Can you try and characterise for me the sort of humour of the shows, was it university-related humour or was it broader as it is nowadays and localised?”

Mr Burns:
“It was more university humour. I mean the songs we had – Rosemount Rosie was about a bajanella and digs in Rosemount and Stella the Bajanella these were all the songs that we did. I would think that it was very much more university-oriented than now. Now it is more, as far as I can see, as Scotland the What sort of approach. But in those days it was a very big thing, we had two dancing choruses – two female dancing choruses, a male dancing chorus, singing chorus of both sexes and quite a number of principals.”

from a 1986 Interview with Arnold Burns (1907-1996), (M.A. 1931), and Winifred Burns, (fl. 1908-1986), (M.A. 1930)

MD Vernon Eddie also contributed the following memory of the 1928 ‘Northern Lights’.

“In ‘Northern Lights’ 1928, again in the Palace Theatre, I conducted the Theatre Orchestra. I recall Andrew Cruickshank, now a well-known stage star, singing in his very pleasing baritone voice a tune of the mystical East called “Singapore Sorrow” and my first association with Stephen Mitchell, singing about liking “Dumplings in his Stew”. In the 1928 Production, I had, as my sole student companion in the Orchestra Pit, Bill Hawkins playing his clarinet.”

Vernon Eddie, 1958

(This memoir first appeared in the 1958 Student Show souvenir programme)