An Ayrshire Arts Archive ~ Arts Groups and Venues

Craigie College of Education : A Dramatic History ~ 1964 - 1988

Drama and Theatre at Craigie College of Education, Ayr (1964-1988).


This is a personal account of the Drama and Theatre presented by and at Craigie College of Education during my time at the College. All this was a very long time ago. Any memory lapses, omissions and other inaccuracies are entirely my fault and I am happy to be corrected where necessary.

I was appointed Lecturer in Speech and Drama within the English Department of Craigie College of Education when the College opened in September 1964. I became Senior Lecturer in Charge of the now separate Department of Speech and Drama in 1970 and accepted early retirement in August 1988. During this whole period the College presented nearly forty dramatic performances to the general public of Ayrshire and beyond. They included plays, operas and musicals. Apart from an early production of Noyes Fludde, which was given in a local church, they took place in three venues, all on the College campus. The Assembly Hall was our only performance space when the College opened. The Drama Studio became available two years later and was first used in 1967 for small-scale productions. The new Theatre was completed in late 1969 and its opening public performance, by the College, took place in 1970. Thereafter the Assembly Hall was used for College functions rather than drama. The Drama Staff originally consisted of myself and Celia Massie. We were soon joined by Ken Brice and Sylvia Mackie. Jane Moreland replaced Celia Massie and Robert Stefani replaced Sylvia Mackie. Ken Brice was not replaced. Over the years, our departmental numbers thus fluctuated between two and four.

In 1964 all our students were women. Obviously this limited our choice of play. We were obliged to use cross-dressing or to involve male staff, not exclusively from the Drama Department, in plays with large female casts. Our first male students arrived in 1966 but, throughout the whole time of my employment, a dearth of male student actors was always a problem. As time went on we became very dependent on local ex-students to fill male roles. The “golden age” of Craigie productions was from the late 1960s to the end of the 1970s. During this period there were usually two major productions every year. The larger scale performances, often of opera or musical theatre, were so-called College Productions and took place in the larger venues. More intimate dramas were organised by the College Theatre Group and were usually held in The Drama Studio. This distinction was mostly organisational and financial as most of the same actors and directors were involved. The music for opera and musicals was supplied through the ever co-operative Music Department of the College: initially John Wilson and James Clark and later Bernard Porter and Alan Ross. We also had the invaluable assistance of the Art Department: Hugh Ramsey, Kirsty McFarlane and, later, Fred Bull, Bill Graham and Jean Hart, in set design and painting, as well as advice and assistance with costume. A notable performer in many of our musical productions was our Chief Librarian, baritone Geoff Dixon.

The early 1980s saw a gradual decline. At that time there was a sharp decrease in student numbers. The continued existence of the College itself was now under threat. Even after it was saved, following a massive political effort by staff and students, we all found ourselves under severe financial constraints. One of our four teaching blocks was leased to Ayr Technical College. The advent of a new three-year Bachelor of Education degree, which was much more taxing than the old Primary Diploma course, meant that fewer students and staff now had much less time to spend on out-of-hours activities. Staff members were also under other pressures. With fewer students to teach and those of us that were left not being replaced, many of us were allotted additional jobs. For example, I was given responsibility for an expanding audio-visual service. Drama and Theatre in the College gradually became limited to study and practical work within the curriculum. Our last major College production was in 1981.

I think that all of us who worked and studied at the College and who played a part in its theatrical productions made a useful contribution to the artistic life of the town and its surrounding area. Five years after I left, Craigie College was closed and its site was handed over to the University of Paisley, which has since been re-branded as the University of the West of Scotland. How far these new institutions continued to contribute to the arts scene in Ayr is for others to record.

David J F Crouch (BA, MA, DPhil, Diploma in Drama in Education)
York, 2010

Beggars Opera 2
Craigie College Drama Group. The Beggar's Opera by John Gay performed in the Assembly Hall, 1969.   magnify

Craigie College Drama Group. The Fan by Carlo Goldoni performed in the Assembly Hall, 1965. magnify

Blood Wedding
A scene from the 1968 production of Garcia Lorca's Blood Wedding.  

Images from David J F Crouch (personal collection)

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Creative Ayrshire acknowledges the assistance of David J F Crouch (BA, MA, DPhil, Diploma in Drama in Education), Carolyn O'Hara, Ken Walker, Mike Bailey,  Barbara Crouch and the Librarian UWS for the provision of material for this section of the website. 

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