Players of the 18th and 19th Century Theatre

Charles Mackay,  1785 - 1857

Little is known regarding Mackay's earliest years.  Morris gives some information on Mackay's theatrical debut which occurred in or about his 25th year.

Mackay made his debut in Ayr as a comic singer, about the year 1810.  He was a member of the band in the Argyllshire Militia, then quartered in Ayr Barracks, and his performances on particular occasions in the officers' mess-room having spread his comic fame, induced him to announce a concert in the old Assembly Rooms, which unfortunately proved a failure. Two or three admirers of the talents and modesty exhibited by Mackay, were induced to make a little collection of money amongst a limited number of friends, which they handed over, at the conclusion of the entertainment, to the grateful recipient.

As one of the contributors, I was always afterwards recognised by Mackay as an old acquaintance. Mackay's comic talent being duly admired and highly appreciated by our late old townsman, Mr. Robert Mackay, the latter applied to his friend, Harry Johnston, then manager of the Queen Street Theatre, Glasgow, to receive Mackay into his company.

Links with Ayrshire:

Mackay was in Ayr as a bandsman with the Argyllshire Militia.   Mackay appeared at the opening night of the Theatre Royal in Ayr resulting in the following notice:  Mr. Mackay, in the mock Duke, made us laugh exceedingly; but he seems to have a habit of raising then lowering his voice a full octave in the same sentence, which though comical . . .

[This text draws on Recollections of Ayr Theatricals from 1809, written by James Morris and published by the Ayr Advertiser in 1872.]


Charles Mackay as Bailie Nicol Jarvie
in Rob Roy.
  magnify [Image in the public domain.]

Daniel Terry,   1789 - 1829

Born in Bath and educated first at Bath grammar school and then at a private school at Wingfield, Wiltshire, under Edward Spencer, he originally trained as an architect with Samuel Wyatt.

 After five years he left to join a theatre company in Sheffield, under the management of the elder Macready. Towards the close of 1805 he joined Stephen Kemble in the north of England. When Kemble's company broke up in 1806 he went to Liverpool. His success there recommended him to Henry Siddons, who brought him out in Edinburgh (29 November 1809) as Bertrand in William Dimond's The Foundling of the Forest.

At that period Terry's figure is said to have been well formed and graceful, his countenance powerfully expressive, and his voice strong, full, and clear, though not melodious. He is also credited with stage knowledge, energetic and appropriate action, good judgement, and an active mind.

Between 1813 and 1822 Terry appeared frequently at the Haymarket and Covent Garden, and afterwards played a few seasons at Drury Lane. In 1815, he had, by permission of the Covent Garden management, supported Sarah Siddons in Edinburgh, where he played Macbeth, Wolsey, King John, and the Earl of Warwick. He became a close friend of Sir Walter Scott and, in admiration of his hero, he frequently imitated Scott’s voice and handwriting.

Links with Ayrshire:

Although no evidence is available, it is possible that Terry appeared in Ayr with Henry Siddons' company.

[This text based on material by Joseph Knight and Klaus Stierstorfer in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.]


Portrait of Daniel Terry (1789 - 1829) by Henry William Pickersgil    magnify   [Image in the public domain.]

Harriet Elizabeth Faucit,  1789-1857

Harriet Faucit (nee Diddear) was married to John Saville Faucit an actor.  She was the mother of two daughters, Helena Saville Faucit and Harriet.  Many commentators refer to her divorce from her husband; this divorce action was before an ecclesiastic court and the decision was based in a fault in the banns called prior to the marriage.  It appears that the husband's details were incorrectly recorded and called.

Harriet Faucit was one of the actors associated with 'The Norwich Company of Comedians', based in Norwich, during the 18th and 19th centuries.  The company was professional, respected and a comfortably-off band with better than average wages and popular headquarters at the White Swan inn. The company was treated with deference in every town it visited. Unusually, a good relationship had matured between the Norwich Theatre manager and the local magistrates, who under normal circumstances had little time for players. At some towns, when the season was drawing to a close, the town clerk would even send a note of congratulation to the troupe; and by 1804, relations had progressed along such a friendly path that Lord Chedworth was recorded as having left legacies of between £13,000 and £14,000 to members of the company. Norwich owed its place among the top five provincial circuits in England to its dramatic tradition.

The Company were careful to perform plays soon after their London première, reinforcing their professionalism by presenting the most recent plays possible. For instance, John Gay's "The Beggar's Opera", new to London in January 1728, was performed to Norwich audiences three months later and taken soon after to Bury St Edmunds, Colchester and Ipswich.  The real era of prosperity for this company began in 1758 when local architect Thomas Ivory became proprietor of the circuit. In 1758, Ivory built Norwich its first proper theatre, a miniature Drury Lane Theatre.

Links with Ayrshire:

There is no evidence that Hariett Faucit appeared in Ayrshire.  However, Morris, and other sources, show that her daughter Helena Faucit was a regular performer on the stage in Ayr.  Although it is not confirmed, it is belived that Harriet Faucit played in Glasgow and may have been at Greenock and Dublin.

[Text based, in part, on the Oxford Dictionaryof National Biography and other sources.]


Harriet Faucit    magnify   [Image in the public domain.]

Edmund Kean,  1789 – 1833

Edmund Kean(1789 - 1833) made his first appearance on the stage, aged four, as Cupid in Jean-Georges Noverre’s ballet of Cymon. Born in London, it is believed that his father was Edmund Kean, an architect’s clerk, and his mother an actress, Anne Carey, daughter of the 18th century composer and playwright Henry Carey.

As a child he was a universal favourite and some supporters paid for him to go to school.  He did well in school but found the restraints intolerable.  He shipped as a cabin boy at Portsmouth but found life at sea even more restricting.  In Madeira, he persuaded doctors that he was both deaf and lame, allowing his early return to England.

On his return to England he sought the protection of his uncle Moses Kean, who introduced him to the study of Shakespeare. At the same time the actress Miss Charlotte Tidswell taught him the principles of acting.  On the death of his uncle she took charge of him, and he began the systematic study of the principal Shakespearean characters. About this time he picked up music from Charles Incledon, dancing from D’Egville, and fencing from Angelo. 

Aged fourteen, he was engagement to play leading characters for twenty nights in York Theatre, appearing as Hamlet, Hastings and Cato.  It would be at this time that he made his debut in Ayr.  Shortly afterwards King George III commanded him to appear at Windsor Castle.  In 1807 he played leading parts in Belfast with Sarah Siddons, who said that he 'played very, very well', but that 'there was too little of him to make a great actor'. In 1808 he married Mary Chambers while the couple were playing leading roles in Beverley’s provincial troupe. His wife bore him two sons.

He died at Richmond, Surrey where he had spent his last years as manager of the local theatre, and was buried in the Parish Church.

Links with Ayrshire:

It is recorded that Edmund Kean first appeared in Ayr in 1802.  At that time he was with Beaumont's company in the old school room at Mill Vennel, behind the Wallace Tower.  Kean played a variety of roles at the Theatre Royal after it opened in 1815.

[Text based on summary article in Wikipedia, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and other sources.]



Edmund Kean as Hamlet.  magnify   [Image in the public domain.]

William Henry Wood Murray,  1790 - 1852

William Henry Wood Murray was born at Bath in August 1790, the son of the actor and dramatist Charles Murray, and grandson of the Jacobite Sir John Murray of Broughton. He moved to Edinburgh in 1809 and worked there for over forty years as an actor, manager and dramatist.  He managed the Theatre Royal jointly with Henry Siddons (son of Sarah Siddons) until Siddons' death in 1816.  Thereafter he shared the management with his sister Mrs. Henry Siddons. Under their direction, the theatre was improved to the point where it was said to compare favourably with any outside London.

Murray was the author of several scottish historical plays including Gilderoy and Crammond Brig

Murray married Ann Jane Dyke, an actress, in August 1819 at St. George's Chapel in Edinburgh. Ann was born in 1799 and was the daughter of Thomas and Johanna Dyke.

William Henry Wood Murray had a second wife, Ellen Gray.  The marriage was contracted in 1830, or possibly a little earlier.  Ellen Gray was born about 1804 in Bath.

William Henry Wood Murray died on 5 May 1852 in St. Andrews. He was buried in the Old St. Andrews Cemetery. His second wife, Ellen Gray Murray survived until 18 March 1888 at Birkenhead.

Links with Ayrshire:

There are no recorded links with Ayrshire although the Edinburgh Theatre Royal company, under Mr and Mrs Siddons, were frequently in Ayr.  It is probable that Murray would have participated in some of these visits and could have appeared at the Theatre Royal.


William Henry Wood Murray as George Heriot  magnify [Image in the public domain.]

William Charles Macready,  1793 - 1873

William Charles Macready was an English actor.  Like many of his contemporaries, he appeared in Scotland.   Born in London, and educated at Rugby, it was his intention to go up to Oxford, but in 1809 his father, the lessee of several provincial theatres, required him to share the responsibilities of theatrical management.

On 7 June 1810 he made a successful first appearance as Romeo at Birmingham. Other Shakespearian parts followed.   Following disputes with his father, Macready moved  to Bath in 1814, remaining for two years, with occasional professional visits to other provincial towns.

On 16 September 1816, Macready made his first London appearance at Covent Garden as Orestes in The Distressed Mother, a translation of Racine's Andromaque.   His early roles were in the romantic dramas. In 1818 he gained success in Isaac Pocock's (1782-1835) adaptation of Rob Roy. The following year he established himself as a tragedian when he played Richard III at Covent Garden. In 1823 he married Catherine Frances Atkins (d. 1852). The couple had numerous children but only one son and one daughter survived.

Macready's final stage appearance was in Macbeth at Drury Lane on 26 February 1851. The remainder of his life was spent in happy retirement, and he died at Cheltenham on 27 April 1873. In 1860 he married Cecile Louise Frederica Spencer (1827-1908), by whom he had a son.

Links with Ayrshire:

While Macready was frequently in Scotland, there is no evidence that Macready played in Ayr.  However, he did appear at Greenock, Kilmarnock and Dumfries.  His memoirs show that he visited Burns' birthplace in Alloway in the autumn of 1850.

[Text based on an article in Wikipedia and on the Theatre Database.]


William Charles Macready.  magnify   [Image in the public domain.]

Edmund Kean in Ayr

The great Edmund Kean was the first celebrity who appeared in Ayr's New Theatre,

Macready at Kean's Funeral

The church was crowded by curious and gay visitors, and was distressingly hot; his son and Mr. Lee were much affected. The anthem was beautiful, but long.

John Saville Faucit and Harriet Faucit (Diddear), their marriage and joint careers.

John Faucit Saville [Savill] (1783?–1853), actor, theatre manager, and playwright, was reportedly seventy years old when he died .  .  .

Harriet Elizabeth Saville

Mrs Faucit's London début, as Desdemona in Othello, was at Covent Garden. . .

Macready on tour, 1828 - 1829

1829. 5th January - Plymouth; 19th January - Path.  22nd January , &c. [Engagements at Bristol, Stratford, Warwick, Grantham, Pontefract, Halifax, Newcastle, Shields, Greenock, Kilmarnock.]

Macready in Scotland, Autumn 1850

. . .  Glasgow is ended-good Glasgow!  Paisley, 2nd October.  We reached Burns's birthplace-the cottage, bed, &c. There had God given breath to that sensitive frame and lighted up that divine genius

Competing with Kean.

1816:  John Philip Kemble at
Covent Garden has seen his
business collapse because of
Kean’s drawing power at Drury

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