Stella The Bajanella (1922)

‘Stella the Bajanella’ (1922) was apparently named for Stella Henriques, a medical student at Aberdeen University. ‘Bajan’ is a medieval term (literally ‘yellow beak’ – bec jaune), describing trainees in the pre-student year. It was traditionally applied to Aberdeen University Freshers. Female students were referred to as bajanellas.

The 1922 theme song “Stella the Bajanella”, by R. F. G. McCallum and J. S. Taylor, became a popular anthem for many years. It was in existence before the 1922 Show, while the show was apparently written around this song.

At the age of 87, Stella Henriques reminisced on the show and her role in it :

“I was the original Stella the Bajanella. We didn’t have it in the theatre, we had it on the platform in the men’s Union. That was the very first Stella the Bajanella and I was the Stella. That’s how they took the name, because I had to wear a red hood which of course I wasn’t entitled to at all. They borrowed songs from all kinds of musical comedies and things, I don’t know if we paid any money towards it at all. That was left in the hands of Harvey and Mac. That was Rowntree Harvey and Gordon MaCallen they played the piano and we did a kind of review. That was the original Stella the Bajanella. It went down very well. But I hadn’t a strong enough voice to sing, they realised that. I had to talk the songs and then the following year when they got His Majesty’s to do it then they got somebody with a better voice, so I was out of it. I wasn’t in those performances but I was the very first and original one.”

from a 1986 Interview with Dr Stella Henriques (1899-1988), (MB., Ch.B. 1923)

Transferring to His Majesties Theatre in 1922, the title character was then played by Jean Mackay Cruickshank, who provided the following memoir of the show some 38 years later. :

“We builded better than we knew” might well be said of the enthusiasts of the early twenties who laid the foundation of the Song, Play and Dance Gala Week in aid of local charities. Gordon McCallum’s “Stella” [1922] sounded the first note and around it Johnny Taylor’s melodies and Linklater’s libretto soon raised a cacophony of sound which each year raises louder echoes and brings increasing dividends to the tune of £10, 000 last April [1959]. What will this year bring? Undoubtedly an even greater total, for such unselfish and devoted activities of the alumni of our beloved University are bound to bring a sure reward.

And who of us who have joined in these efforts can deny that they bring great rewards to ourselves – in the form of joy, lasting friendships and memories! The plays, comedies and revues put on in our student days shed a golden light of their own, no matter how many years intervene.

We, of “Stella”, remember with joy Daisy Moncur’s delicious portrayal of Marcelle, who “told the boys about things that boys should know”! Harold Peterkin’s pompous Orpington who “caught her eye and straightened his tie and summoned up courage to speak”. Sandy Cheyne’s heartwinning Dollop singing “Oh a gay sort of fellow am I!” contrasting so completely with Link’s own misogynistic monologue starting so deeply “I was born so they say, on the first day of May”. Memories fly back too to Gladys Miller’s winsome portrayal of the Glaxo Baby, Maxie Wright’s ornithological “Finch” and Reggie Peterkin’s fickle “Flitwick” with Johnny Taylor ruling us sternly – but oh so ably – with his conductor’s baton with hectic rehearsals in the old Debater, his zealous orchestra never tiring and always giving heart to the performers on the stage.

Today the cast of ‘Folies Berserques’ in promoting their Gala Week are building up stores of memories for themselves – with perhaps this happy exception that they are not ear-marked for life with the tag “Oh you were Stella!” followed thereafter by a quiet but unerring calculation of the years between!

Heigh-ho! I wouldn’t have missed it for worlds! Nor, I am sure, would the Cast which is presenting their Revue to you this evening!

Stella, the Bajanella

Jean Mackay Cruickshank, 1960

(This article first appeared in the 1960 Student Show souvenir programme)

The 1922 Student Show raised the then princely sum of £250.