Corbet Ryder   ~  Incidents and Events in a Professional Life

Theatre in Aberdeen with the Fraser and Ryder Families.

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.

[Based on material published by mcjazz.] 

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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 flourished until 1872 when it was replaced by Her Majesty's Opera House, later the Tivoli, in Guild Street. Recent Photograph ©The Doric Columns Theatre Royal pentecostal Churchon Theatre Royal site

Early Theatre in Arbroath

The spirit of dramatic adventure which created the 'stock' days — the difficulties of transport, the handling of much baggage, the ever-varying conditions of public appreciation — soon led to the adoption of long visits, and thus allowed the Arbroath folks to enjoy those passing flights of genius which brought to the town many of the great ones of the time. There was old Ryder, who made Arbroath a part of his northern circuit. Producing Rob Roy at Perth for the first time on 22nd June 1818,

Corbet Ryder, after touching Dundee, brought his distinguished company to Arbroath. Mrs Ryder was Diana in Rob Roy; Martha was played by the daughter of his scene-painter, the lady who afterwards became the wife of the great Macready; and the Bailie was no other than the illustrious Mackay.   Ryder's two daughters played the children; one of them afterwards became the wife of the great McNeill.

Chippendale, in The Rivals, was in the district so early as 1819. It was perhaps to Ryder that we owe that benign encouragement to amateur art which first brought the non-professional and the real into such close union. The first 'gentlemen amateurs' were invited by him to appear in 1821.  Pritchard and Edmund Glover were other celebrities familiar to playgoers, and during succeeding years Arbroath was afforded special facilities for seeing Miss Heath, Mrs Siddons, Shiel Barry, Miss Bateman, Talbot, Creamer, Fred Cooke, Wilson Barrett, and Osmond Tearle.

[FromRed Light Recollections 40 Years of Fairport from the Footlights, by P Charles Carragher, published Arbroath 1906]


The Old Trades Hall, Arbroath

THE situation and arrangement of the old Trades Hall, which, built in the year of Waterloo for a specific use, ultimately became the successor of the Arbroath Theatre, may be recalled.

It entered from a passage close beside a public-house which had given entertainment to all the passing 'stars' and their supporters. The lobby and stairs of the present Court-House formed practically the approach. The actors dressed in what is now the Sheriff's room, and his lordship still walks to the seat of judgment over the classic Thespian way to the stage, which was approached, as it is still, by one or two steps.

Other dressing-rooms were beneath — places which, on account of unendurable heat, were termed 'The Inferno' — access to them being by tortuous wooden stairways. The officials of the Court sit in the place of the orchestra. Behind the proscenium was the great sheet of zinc (covered with chalk caricatures) which rolled thunder. There also were the scene plots, the prompter's box, the gas disc, and the overhead gangway, alongside the street side of the stage, from which the scenery was controlled by ropes. It was a very efficient stage, having splendid appointments, including that delight of youth, the trap-door for descent into abysmal depths.

[From Red Light Recollections 40 Years of Fairport from the Footlights, by P Charles Carragher, published Arbroath 1906]


Ryder Anecdotes

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