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Aberdeen Theatres

The Theatre Royal - Marischal Street

A plaque erected by Aberdeen City Council at Theatre Lane states: "In 1795 the Theatre Royal, seating 600, was created in Marischal Street where the Church is now. This lane runs under the building and was between the Stage and the Auditorium.  The Theatre Royal was conceived by Stephen Kemble, brother of the actor John Philip Kemble. Eminent performers included Charles Macready and Charles Keen. The Theatre flourished until 1872 when it was replaced by Her Majesty's Opera House, later the Tivoli, in Guild Street.

The Theatre Royal, was completed in 1795 and funded by a subscription; it was Aberdeen's 1st permanent Theatre. The Theatre, designed by Mr Holland, cost £3000 Sterling and seated 5-600 people. In 1818 a box cost 6s, a place in the pit 4s and a place in the gallery 2s, whilst in 1837 this was 3s for a box, 2s for the pits and 1s for the gallery. The Theatre Royal was very popular with Aberdeen's high society until the 1830s when it began to fall into decline. Three years after the opening of Her Majesty's Theatre and Opera House in 1872 (Tivoli) the premises of the Theatre Royal were sold to the Church of Scotland.

Although theatre and public performances have a long history in Aberdeen this was the 1st permanent Theatre in the City. Arguably public performances in Aberdeen can be traced back to the dramatic religious performances of the pre-reformation era. From the early 17th century James VI licensed stage plays and companies of comedians to perform in the city. From the latter 17th and early 18th century travelling theatre companies and theatre productions became almost unheard of in Scotland. After some opposition a company of comedians established themselves in Edinburgh in 1745 and a detachment in Aberdeen in 1751. The detachment were initially denied any premises in Aberdeen itself and raised a building on the south side of the Spital for performances. This closed after one season. In 1768 the magistrates licensed a company under one Fisher to perform in Aberdeen, in the New Inn. In 1773 the celebrated West Digges attempted to establish a theatre in Aberdeen. Having been opposed he set up a successful theatre on the north side of the Spital.

West Digges received his early education at Westminster School, London which he left in 1740. He became an ensign in Colonel James Long's Regiment of Foot (in January 1741) and later (in June 1744) in Colonel Richard O'Farrell's. He left the army in 1749, and shortly after began his acting career. His first stage appearance was in Venice Preserved at Thomas Sheridan's Theatre Royal in Dublin (1749). He continued to act, although with some breaks, in Dublin until 1756 when he moved to Edinburgh and became actor-manager of the Edinburgh Theatre (a.k.a. the Canongate Concert Hall). Often in debt and unpopular with his creditors, he moved around a lot for the remainder of his life, appearing at various times in Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Cork, Limerick, York and Liverpool.  He retired from acting in 1784, after having suffered a paralytic stroke during rehearsals for a new staging of Venice Preserved at Dublin's Theatre Royal - the same play and the same theatre in which he had had his theatrical debut 35 years before.


In the wake of this success a site was selected on the newly formed Marischal St to house a permanent theatre in Aberdeen proper. The building was completed in 1795 at a cost of £3000 raised by subscription. Eventually the site was purchased outright by John Fraser, a local merchant. The theatre was effectively small to medium sized housing some 5-600 people. In the first few decades of its existence it was particularly popular and drew in many of those from Aberdeen's high society. The journalist W Carnie reminisced that in the 1830s 'I have seen Marischal Street half lined with the waiting carriages of the best families of the town and county.' Its main attraction, after 1818, was its production of Rob Roy. In 1817 the lease of the Theatre Royal had been taken on by Corbet Ryder, who was an actor-manager. He made a reputation for himself with his swashbuckling acting style. It has been argued that Ryder, and his wife Jessie Pollock (who managed the Theatre after her husband's death in 1842), established Scotland's northern theatre circuit using Aberdeen as their base.

In 1818 the elder Samuel Johnson and his wife were with Corbet Ryder’s company, based on the Aberdeen circuit. Peter Baxter, author of The Drama in Perth, thought him to be the best Toni Lumpkin of that time. He played many leading roles with Ryder’s company and was probably the ‘Mr. Johnson’ who played at the Theatre Royal Dublin in the spring of 1821.


The Penny Rattler - Street Theatre

Albion Street, also known as the 'Bool' or Bowl Road because it led to the bowling green. It led to the Links from the foot of Justice Street. On the right hand side is the Mission Chapel which in 1848 replaced the "Penny Rattler", a rough Street Theatre which gave the area a very bad reputation. No doubt so named as a result of the randomly collected voluntary donations from the assembled public for their bawdy plays staged on a makeshift platform between property gables by Amateur Players.  The site later became Albion Street Congregational Church. The area was cleared in the 1940 & 50s for the development of the Beach Boulevard.  It is apt that loons played 'Bools' on the waste ground in front of Hanover Street School in the 1940's opposite the Casino Cinema in Wales Street These compatible scene depictions may have been near the site of the later school

By the 1830s and the 1840s the growing evangelical reform movement in Aberdeen successfully challenged the notion of the Theatre as being a respectable form of entertainment for the aspiring and established classes. At this time the 'Penny Rattler' or Bool (Bowl) Road Theatre (later Albion Street) attracted more patrons and more criticism for its poor taste, violence and drunkenness that attended its performances.

Aside from these considerations Pollock's tastes were conservative, at a time when London based shows were increasing available (via an improving transport network) to the north. This led to a need to build a big venue to attract these touring London shows, this led to the opening of Her Majesty's Theatre and Opera House in Guild Street Circa 1872 (reopened as the Tivoli in 1910 after a refit by Frank Matcham), the Palace Theatre in Bridge Place 1898 and finally His Majesty's Theatre in Rosemount 1906, His Majesty's could seat 2500. Three years after Her Majesty's opened the premises of the Theatre Royal were sold to the Church of Scotland.

The Lyceum or Royal Theatre John Street
Opened in 1913 in former Zion Chapel of 1841.  Refurbished and renamed, 1916. Closed by 1918. Later a Salvation Army hall. Now antiques warehouse.

Alhambra Guild/Exchange St
Converted from church in 1881; Theatre from 1881 - 1910

The old Church of the Redfriars was pulled down in the 1790s and replaced by a new one. At the end of 1793 the Town Council appointed Reverend George Gordon to the vacant East Church of St Nicholas. Many of the parishioners protested vigorously about both the choice of candidate and the mode of election. When they were ignored they felt called upon to leave the congregation and set up their own place of worship.  The Church, along with a session house and manse, was built at a total cost of £2000,  raised almost entirely through the efforts of those who had walked out of the South Church of St Nicholas. On Sunday 27 April 1794, the church was opened for public worship by Dr Cruden, minister of St Fittick’s Church at the Bay of Nigg. The 1st minister of the Church was the Reverend Robert Doig. By 1825, the weekly attendance averaged about 1200, with a membership, which exceeded 1400, scattered in all parts of the city. The minister at that time, the Reverend David Simpson, was highly respected and had a tendency to take strong attitudes on certain subjects. It was said of him that he was a ‘ringleader among the teetotallers who infest the town’.  Simpson’s sympathies lay very clearly with the Disruption in 1843, when 450 ministers of the Church of Scotland broke away to form the Free Church of Scotland, the main contention being over the right of a wealthy patron to appoint the Minister of his choice to a Church. After the formation of the Free Church Mr Simpson preached his last sermon at Trinity Church on 11 June 1843, which incited the congregation to leave with him: almost all of them did.

Ultimately the Church buildings were sold in 1881, converted and opened as the Alhambra Music Hall, a sort of rival to the nearby Her Majesty’s - later Tivoli theatre. Not only was the Alhambra one of several locations in Aberdeen where the public could experience the delights of the electro-graphic cinematograph, but it was also the winter quarters for the small zoo opened by John Sinclair in 1906, which boasted the ‘finest collection of lions, bears, wolves and hyenas in the North of Scotland’.


Tivoli Theatre - formerly Her Majesty's Theatre

The new Theatre and Opera House, in Guild Street, was built in 1872 at a cost of £8400, seats 1650 spectators, and has a frontage of 75, a mean depth of 90, and a height of 50 feet.  Although generally known as the Tivoli this theatre was opened in 1872 as Her Majesty’s Theatre and Opera House, to the design of architects James Matthews of Aberdeen and C B Phipps, a London based architect brought in as a consultant. It was built at a cost of £8400 and is credited with being the first theatre in Scotland to use concrete on any considerable scale. The inaugural play was Lord Lytton’s ‘Lady of Lyons’. The auditorium was rebuilt in 1897 by the famous theatre architect Frank Matcham, but then closed temporarily following the opening of the larger His Majesty’s Theatre on Rosemount Viaduct. This theatre was extensively Reconstructed in 1909, again by Matcham, and opened in July 1910 as the Tivoli. The Tivoli was refurbished again in 1938, but eventually fell foul of changing tastes and the advent of TV. It became a Bingo Hall in 1966 and by the 1990s over 500 players entered its doors daily. The impact of the National Lottery and the beginnings of internet based Bingo with larger jackpots brought its closure in 1997. This much loved building was then at the centre of many calls for it to be re-opened. A grant from the Green Townscape Heritage Initiative in 2010 has allowed works to make the building safe to reopen to the public.

Built as Her Majesty's Theatre & Opera House in 1872, with 800 seats. Renamed the  Tivoli Music Hall in 1910, after a rebuild by Frank Matcham in the mixed Gothic style, for £8400. With the stage 52 ¸ feet by 29, and the auditorium for 1700 to 1800 persons. The front wall is of bluish granite and red and yellow freestone, with some polished Peterhead granite pillars, the rest being built of concrete.

1872 Prospectus for Aberdeen Theatre & Opera House issued

Prospectus for "The Aberdeen Theatre and Opera House Company Ltd" issued with a provisional committee consisting of 18 influential gentlemen is formed.  The capital was stated at £8000, in shares of £1.00 each, and the site to be in Guild Street, Aberdeen. A number of shares were also taken by parties in London.  Mr James Matthews was appointed Architect in consultation with Mr C.B. Phipps, FSA, London.  "The want of a Theatre and Opera House, where the public can obtain good accommodation and which can be utilised, if necessary, for other purposes, has been for some time universally felt. With the view of supplying this want, a site in Guild Street, extending back to Trinity Street, has been secured by the promoters".  The new house was built at a cost of £8400 to hold 1650 people and was opened on the evening of 19th December 1872 "The 3 storey Venetian Gothic looking building with its coloured voussoir stones to the arches provided an imposing façade of bold design - Concrete was used for the 1st time on any significant scale in Scotland for the side and back walls" - J Littlejohn

1897 Structural alterations by Matcham to the Phipps building

In January 1897, the pre-eminent theatre architect Frank Matcham carried out "structural alterations and improvements" - This consisted of "improvements to safety precautions and ventilation with more spacious exits provided throughout the house".  The above alterations were no doubt carried out in light of the tragic fire at the People's Palace of Varieties in Aberdeen in 1896.


People's Palace of Varieties

The Palace was built following destruction by fire in 1896 of the People’s Palace on the same site.  The interior of the new Palace, originally with two tiers and of vigorous oriental appearance, was completely gutted to the shell walls in 1929 and rebuilt, re-opening as a cinema with one balcony in 1931.  The 4 storey asymmetrical granite façe survives largely intact, but this is a crude design of industrial quality - plain with a pediment over the 3 central bays and 3 large doorways with thin broken segmental pediments.

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The new variety theatre in Bridge Place, which has been built by Messrs Livermore Brothers in place of the old People's Palace, destroyed by fire, was opened.  The proprietors have certainly spared no expense, and the result is a building, spacious, handsome, admirably contrived, comfortably arranged, and chastely decorated. Seating accommodation is provided for 1,800 persons, although the generous apportionment of space will permit of a very much larger audience. Alike in construction and equipment, the building is a model theatre. Stage fittings, lighting, heating, and ventilating apparatus are of the most modern type ; everything is of the best. The total cost, exclusive of site, is £15,000.

The building is designed in the Italian Venetian style of architecture. The front elevation to Bridge Place is divided into a central facade, with two side wings; the façade has ornamental fluted pilasters, and is surmounted by a massive cornice and pediment. In the centre is the main entrance, which is ornamented with finely-dressed pilasters of Kemnay stone running up either side, with carved truss blocks over the capitals, and a rich pediment capped by a cornice. On either side of the main entrance are two other large doorways. Every care, it need hardly be said, has been taken to ensure that in the event of a panic there shall be no repetition of the dire circumstances that attended the burning of the old building. In addition to the doors already mentioned, there are four giving access to Crown Terrace, and altogether there are fourteen exits from the auditorium by which the audience could escape from any outbreak of fire. All the doors open outwardly, and can be opened by a child.

The main entrance gives access to the stalls, which are on the ground floor. Passing over the mosaic tiled floor of the vestibule, the visitor ascends a short flight of marble steps, 10ft. long, to a spacious promenade that runs round three sides of the building. In front of this promenade, and under the balcony or grand circle, are the pit stalls, and in the area of the hall are the reserved stalls and orchestra stalls. The handsome lounges are upholstered in peacock plush, and the floor is covered with a heavy velvet - pile carpet. The reserved stalls, of which there are seven rows, occupy the back part of the area. Comfortable tip-up chairs, upholstered in crimson velvet, are provided, and the floor is covered with Brussels carpet. The stalls can accommodate about 200 persons.

Upstairs is the grand circle or balcony, running round in the form of a semi-circle.  The balcony is seated for between 300 and 400, and the promenade could accommodate from 200 to 300 more. Behind the grand circle are the private boxes, nine in number, which are furnished and decorated in the most lavish style. While they are at the rear of the hall, and are not seen from most parts of the theatre, the boxes command an excellent view of the stage.  On the next floor is the amphitheatre, another large gallery, capable of seating about 500, and behind it, away up under the roof, is a limited range of accommodation for the "gods."  In addition, the four doors in Crown-Terrace open direct on the balcony and galleries. There is also a private stair from one of the side entrances to the boxes.

In size and equipment the stage is in keeping with the other parts of the building. It is 38ft. wide by 34ft. deep. The scenery, which is entirely new, cost £350, and the large pile plush curtain, in colours of flame and old gold, alone cost 120 guineas. Over all is an asbestos curtain, which would effectually prevent an outbreak of fire in the proscenium from spreading to the auditorium. Ample provision has been made for the accommodation and comfort of the artists. There are six dressing-rooms at each side of the stage, with lavatories in addition, and there are also two staircases leading from the stage to the dressing-rooms and exits.

The ceiling is richly decorated in delicate colours, and the upper walls have panels containing various appropriate figures and scenes designed and executed by local and London artists. The gallery fronts are richly encased with carton pierre enrichments in relief, and the work is treated in tints that harmonise with the more striking embellishments of the walls. The lower walls are hung with heavy Japanese paper, and the numerous columns and pillars are tastefully decorated.

The theatre will be entirely lighted by electricity. The ninety footlights on the stage are each of sixteen candle-power, and there are also two electroliers of twenty lights each suspended from the roof. Numerous smaller lights illumine the stairs and corridors. Altogether, there are in the building 370 lights, with a total candle-power of 27,000. In front of the building in Bridge-Place will be fixed six arc lamps of 250 candlepower each, and four similar lamps will adorn the front of Crown Terrace.

The plaster is fixed on patent steel lathing instead of on wood lathing, and the joisting, beams, and rafters of the galleries are all of steel. Nothing, in short, has been omitted that is likely to conduce to the comfort and safety of visitors, and Messrs Livermore Brothers and their energetic manager, Mr Sheldon, as well as Mr John Rust Jr., the architect, are to be congratulated on the completion of so handsome a building.

After referring to the high character of their entertainments, he called on the architect of the theatre Mr John Rust, City Architect, who said that he was commissioned by Messrs Livermore Brothers to make the place as good as it could possibly be done for money, and he hoped the proprietors would have a good dividend out of the house night after night. Variety entertainment, such as was provided at the Palace, was as worthy of the patronage of all classes in the community as the ordinary theatre.

Conflagration

The most serious fire which has occurred in Aberdeen for many years occurred 30th September 1896, when the Music Hall in Bridge Place known as “The Palace of Varieties” was burned to the ground. The fire broke out shortly after the commencement of the evening’s performance, and in the stampede upwards of thirty people were more or less seriously burned and injured. The music hall has a frontage to Bridge Place of about 50 feet, the rear being to Crown Terrace; while to the east is situated a photographer’s studio and a restaurant, the latter forming a corner to Bridge Street, Internally,  The hall was circular in form, and was originally adapted for a circus by Mr John Henry Cooke. Latterly, however, the building was turned into a Music Hall by the Livermere Brothers, and performances have gone on regularly during the season under their auspices. As a place of amusement The Palace, as it was called, was very popular, and usually drew large audiences. The bill for last night was described as “a special company for the holidays.” Fortunately, the autumn holiday was observed in the city on Monday, and on that account the “house” was smaller than it might otherwise have been. The area was thinly filled, but the gallery and promenades were fairly well occupied. Just after the second “turn” by O’Connor and Martrey, described as eccentric comedians and dancers, the curtain was rung down, and preparations were being made for the next item on the programme. Without a moment’s warning the audience were startled by seeing a red glare through the drop scene. The import of this was all too evident. A fire had broken out in the top of the flies among the scenery to be used in the third act, and it is supposed the inflammable material had come in contact with the gas jets. An attendant at once rushed to the spot and attempted to extinguish the blaze. His hands got badly scorched, however, and he had to desist. Then Mr Russell, the assistant stage manager, went to the front and calmly advised the people to retire. At the same moment almost, Peter McIntosh, the bill inspector, rushed across the street to the Bath Hotel, and telephoned for the Fire Brigade. With a rapidity that baffled all subsequent efforts, the flames burst through the roof, and then seized on the wooden interior. A wild rush was made by the audience for the exits. They scrambled through the narrow passages and down the stairs leading to Bridge Place. As indicated, it was fortunate that the house was not filled as it usually is, otherwise the consequences would unquestionably have been very terrible. As it was, the results were disastrous. The people tumbled over each other in their efforts to get out. Clothes were rent, and serious personal injuries were received, while those who escaped the crush had a worse fate in being terribly scorched by the rapidly advancing flames. The fire spread through the building and had attacked the whole wooden framework before the last of the audience gained the street, and several people had to be dragged from what was soon a fiery furnace. The artistes, about 12 in number, had barely time to gain the passage leading to the street, and several ladies were practically in deshabilé. They were carefully attended to by Mr Thomson in the Bath Hotel.  One of the artistes, in his anxiety to save some of his property, threw a dress basket in the direction of the exit door, but unfortunately it blocked the way, and a number of people who rushed out by that particular passage tumbled over the obstacle, and created a somewhat serious congestion. Then it turned out that the door was locked, and it was burst open - a man having previously got out by smashing the glass and clambering through the fanlight. One of the audience leapt from the gallery window to the street, and sustained a fracture of the leg. In the panic a man named Charles Cooper ran back to rescue his wife, and she was got safely out although severely burned, her husband in his gallant effort also being badly scorched. Both were afterwards removed to the infirmary. A baby of 5 months was snatched from its mother’s arms, and is missing. In the course of the conflagration the gas exploded with a terrific noise, and the heat was so fierce that the glass of the house windows in the vicinity was cracked.  The full strength of the brigade was present under Firemaster Inkster, but the fire practically burned itself out. Streams of water were poured upon the burning mass both from Bridge Place and Crown Terrace, the end of the latter thoroughfare just overlooking the hall. A tremendous crowd congregated in the streets, but the operations of the firemen were not hampered, Chief-Constable Wyness and a force of policemen regulating the movements of the spectators. A detachment of Gordon Highlanders did splendid service in the extinguishing operations, All the injured were removed to the Infirmary.   The Scotsman, 1st October 1896
McGonnegals Poem on the Disaster at the Palace

Re-opened in 1898 as the Palace Theatre, seating 1800 over two tiers. Films introduced in 1911. Interior rebuilt 1931, 2000 seats. Top Rank Ballroom from 1959, and nightclub since 1976.


His Majesty's Theatre

File:Playhouseaberdeen.jpg

The 3 Bastions, Education, Salvation and Damnation.  Library, Church and Theatre.

His Majesty's Theatre first opened its doors on 3rd December 1906 with the pantomime Little Red Riding Hood. Costing £35,000 to build, it was designed by the pre-eminent theatre architect Frank Matcham. Local tradesmen built it entirely of Kemnay granite, making it the only theatre of its type in the world. Together with the Public Library and St Mark's Church, these three central landmarks of Aberdeen became known as 'Education, Salvation and Damnation'. Following the purchase of the theatre in 1933 by James F Donald, it was closed for a year, during which a refurbishment took place at a cost of £15,000. A significant change was the introduction of swing seats to replace the benches in the balcony making the capacity 1800.

A revolving stage was installed to allow a quick change from film to theatre making the theatre the most technically advanced in Scotland. HMT hosted stars including Noel Coward, Vivien Leigh, Sean Connery, Errol Flynn, Harry Lauder, Charlton Heston, Jimmy Logan, Sir Ian McKellan, Timothy West and Robbie Coltrane to name but a few.

In 1975 the building was sold to the Council for £250,000. However, by the late 1970's new health and safety laws meant that the theatre would have to be substantially renovated or face closure.  The Council therefore allocated £3.5 million in 1979 to ensure the survival of Aberdeen's theatrical gem. A new counterweight fly system was installed backstage, allowing the theatre to accommodate sophisticated West End productions. The front of house area was restored.

The curtain at His Majesty's Theatre went down again on Saturday 13th March 2004 and marked the beginning of an ambitious £7.8 million redevelopment project - the results of which we see today. This project would not have been possible without the generous contribution of our core funders - Aberdeen City Council, The Scottish Arts Council Lottery Fund and Scottish Enterprise Grampian. We also acknowledge the generous support for the project from companies and individuals through the HM Tomorrow fundraising campaign.

New life has been breathed into this grand Edwardian building to help ensure HMT continues to attract a wide range of top quality theatre productions.

The auditorium has been sympathetically refurbished to retain its stunning Edwardian colour scheme, as befits a Grade A listed building. Comfort levels have been improved by re-upholstering the seats and increasing the legroom in the stalls. The stalls seats have also been offset to improve sightlines and further enhance the comfort of our customers.

Ghostly Jake
Location: Aberdeen - His Majesty's Theatre
Type: Haunting Manifestation
Date / Time: Pre
1982, and 2006
Further Comments: A former stage hand who lost his head in an accident at the theatre prior to the 2nd World War, Jake disappeared after building work was completed in
1982. However, when renovation work started again, contractors began to report the sound of someone in high heels walking around empty areas of the theatre.


Gaiety Theatre or Beach Pavilion

In Aberdeen, the old Beach Pavilion was one of the finest sea-side entertainment venues. Harry Gordon - as the Laird of Inversnecky - brought joyful hilarity with his high quality character comedy and played there until 1940 when he commenced his great partnership with Will Fyffe in Tom Arnold’s pantomimes at the Alhambra, Glasgow.

The Beach Pavilion, originally a wooden concert hall in use from 1882 just south of the Bathing Station was surpassed by the later multi-purpose larger building further north near the Broad Hill in 1928.  Harry Gordon often was the Master of Ceremonies at the Old Beach Pavilion and eventually leased the theatre himself before its closure in 1940.  His first full time professional engagement was with 'Monty's Pierrots' at Stonehaven in 1912 and this led to an engagement at the Beach Pavilion in Aberdeen in 1913 at a salary of £2 per week. He joined the Army at the outbreak of World War 1 and served for three years. As soon as he was demobbed he returned to the Beach Pavilion, purchasing it in 1924. As the owner/producer of Harry Gordon's Entertainers Harry made the Pavilion one of the principal dates for British Stars, and himself appeared there annually until World War 2 closed it in 1940.  He made over 100 broadcasts from the Pavilion among them Harry's Half Hour and Gordon Gaieties.

During this time "it was seriously stated by officials of Aberdeen Town Council that Harry Gordon was one of the chief advertisements for Aberdeen as a holiday resort."

The beach-front Theatre often called the The Gaiety, it was a regular venue for Sir Harry Lauder and in the early 1930's he would do several shows in Aberdeen and also several in Glasgow.  This was possible because he had a De Havilland Puss-Moth aircraft and a pilot who flew him between Theatre  venues, and it was rumoured that the aircraft landed on the Queens Links which saved local travelling from the nearest Dyce Aerodrome.
The de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth is a 3-seater high-wing Monoplane aeroplane designed and built between 1929 and 1933. It flew at a speed approaching 124 mph (200 km/h), making it one of the highest-performance private aircraft of its era.

Sheltered entertainment was possible with the opening of the Esplanade with the first Beach Pavilion – a theatre building that soon become indelibly associated with a young, home-grown entertainer. Harry Gordon was to run successful, family-orientated shows at the Pavilion and its bigger successor, the New Beach Pavilion, till the start of the second world war. After the war, changing public tastes meant the Pavilion ceased to be a gaiety theatre. In 1961 it became instead the Gaiety Restaurant – and the building continues that culinary second life today as a Jimmy Chung’s restaurant.  But a legacy of the Pavilion and Harry Gordon remains. One of his most popular theatrical creations was the Laird of the fictional village of Inversnecky. Harry was friendly with Peter Vicca, who owned a business nearby – and who changed its name to the one it bears to this day, the Inversnecky Café.

Beach Pavilion now a restaurant, was home to Harry Gordon's Beach Entertainers. The Management must have welcomed inclement weather in order to fill the Matinee stalls.  Originally a white fronted portico facade with billing information each side of the entrance and the name Pavilion mounted on the Facade.

The Inversnecky Cafe on the Esplanade was conceived by Lui Vicca, an Italian immigrant from Gaeta, close to Naples. He left there to seek his fortune, like so many others from that area, by working building the railroads in South America. After some time in Venezuela he caught a ship to Canada to work on the building of the Canadian Pacific line. Unfortunately the Ship took him to Preston in the north of England. From there he and his wife worked their way north before finally coming to Aberdeen, where they opened a small ice-cream shop.  Lui Vicca was a great entrepreneur who tried his hand at a number of different businesses; a zoo, a lemonade factory, a fruit and vegetable shop and the seafront Café.  Of these different ventures only the café survives to this day.  His son, Peter, took over in 1923, changed the name of the Café and set about establishing the successful business that it is today. The Café takes it's name from a fictional character created by local comedian 1923, a regular visitor to the Beach Pavilion in the 1920's. A similar age to Peter Vicca, Harry Gordon played his summer season at the 'Gaiety Theatre' south of the shop, and the two men subsequently became firm friends.

The Inversnecky Cafe is still going strong although I have always gone to his cousin's shop just in the next block - the Washington Cafe run by Vic Canale  to whom I have given the nickname of Papa Vincenzo. Don L


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Last modified: 01/09/2013