Northern Lights (1927)

For the next five years, from 1927 to 1931, the Student Show switched to a revue format.

‘Northern Lights’ revue was the first Student Show to produce a souvenir programe, and was performed for the first time in the Palace Theatre in Bridge Place.

(As an aside, the history of the Palace Theatre venue since 1927 stands as a good microcosm of the changing nature of entertainment venues in Aberdeen. The Palace Theatre was converted to a cinema in 1929, as Poole’s Picture House and then the Palace Cinema, before becoming the Palace Ballroom in 1960. From the late 1970s, it has been a nightclub. Depending on their age, various generations of Aberdeen students will know it as Fusion, Ritzy’s, Bonkers, The Palace Nightclub, and today, Liquid.)

Cast member Catherine Gavin spoke about the first ‘Northern Lights’ show in 1986 :

“I played in the first ‘Northern Lights’ in the old Palace Theatre in Aberdeen and afterwards we graduated to that splendid theatre, His Majesty’s. I played in all in three ‘Northern Lights’ and I had in the last two shows a wonderful partner called Stephen Mitchell. We played low comedy mostly I’m sorry to say though they often gave me a chance to put on a pretty dress and come out and sing a song with a lot of help from the conductor Bernard Eddie who used to strike just one note to give me the note and then we got on fine with the 32-piece orchestra. Stephen Mitchell afterwards made a name for himself in the London theatre as an impresario. He’d taken a Law degree but obviously ‘Northern Lights’ was far more important to him than his Law studies.”

From an interview with Dr Catherine Irvine Gavin (1907-1999), (M.A. 1928, Ph.D. 1931)

MD Bernard (or Vernon) Eddie himself contributed the following piece on the show :

“When the Editor of the Charities Show Souvenir asked me to write a few words reminiscent of my experiences musical or otherwise of the Shows, I was only too happy to comply and to dwell shortly on what was to me, one of the more exciting, perhaps glamorous, of my student activities. There was a great deal of hard work but there was a lot of fun as well.

Whilst still at school, I had seen the University Musical Comedies of the early twenties from “Stella The Bajanella” onwards, and inspired by such musical heroes as R.G. McCallum and Johnny Taylor conducting his famous Jazz Band, I conceived an ambition to emulate their feats.

Came the first Northern Lights in 1927 in the old Palace Theatre, now a cinema off Bridge Street, and the invitation to produce and conduct a Stage Band of some twelve or fourteen I which I included two pianos – then something of a novelty in Jazz Bands: Bill Norrie, that indefatigable Stage Director, said the second one only took up much needed stage-room! Actually, one of the pianos was played by Jimmy Ross, then in his last year at Gordon’s College, and there began a close association and friendship which extended through all the Revues with which I was connected.

One other recollection of 1927 was Lois Obee, now well known stage and film actress Sonia Dresdel, singing a tune called “Whistle, dear, like a Meadow Lark”. When I met Miss Dresdel recently, I reminded her of her appearance as a singer, and she assured me it could only have happened in a Student Show!”

Vernon Eddie, 1958

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

Another memory of the show came from Andrew Cruickshank in 1970 :

“Alas, yes, it’s all too true that I appeared in “Northern Lights” in 1926 [sic] at what was then the Palace Theatre, off Bridge Street. I sang as I remember ‘Singapore Sorrows’ – something about the East. But that was not the first time I helped out. As a boy at the Grammar School, Charlie Walker, whose father was minister at St. Nicholas, asked me to be the shepherd boy who leads on Tiresias in “Oedipus”, which the Greek class were doing in the Music Hall, in which ‘Linkie’ (E.R.R. Linklater) was Creon. Linkie wrote “Stella the Bajanella”, the first Show the University did after the first war – Douglas Raitt did the music.
My love to you all!”

Andrew Cruickshank, 1970

(This memoir first appeared in the 1970 Student Show souvenir programme)

The first ‘Northern Lights’ revue raised £5,577.