Actors, Musicians and Theatre Personalities with Scottish Links ~ Ira Frederick Aldridge (1807 – 1867)


Ira Frederick Aldridge 1807 – 1867

Portrait of Ira Frederick Aldridge (1807-1867)   25th December 1858.  Pastel drawing by Taras Shevchenko (1814 - 61) [Omage in the public domain]

Trouping through the North

On leaving Ireland, Aldridge went to Scotland where he performed for three or four nights in mid-November 1839 in the nearest port town, Stranraer, before moving on to Ayr. He was enthusiastically received in both towns by large audiences who were impressed with his powerful delineation of scenes from Othello and The Revenge.

'In his graceful ‘strut, his bold and dignified appearance, his self-possession, and excellent elocution, the audience at once recognize the man of genius and education.' But equally appealing were his delightful personifications of Mungo and Ginger Blue, which were recommended 'as a specific for ennui' and the most potent antifogmatics in this proverbially gloomy month.

His comic songs were extremely popular - particularly his rendition of Jim Crow, partly because almost every individual in Ayr was lampooned in a friendly way.   From the Magistrates down to Bowsie Hunter, all came in for a notice.   The audience was literally convulsed and he was repeatedly encored and on every repetition gave a new version of the ditty in the manner of T D Rice.

Aldridge's years of touring small towns in Ireland evidently had taught him how to entertain rural audiences by mixing memorable melodrama with rollicking farce and topping it off with songs filled with local humour.

Aldridge spent nearly the whole of 1840 performing in Scotland but not in the two major cities Edinburgh and Glasgow.    Instead, he visited towns large and small ranging from Aberdeen (63,248) and Dundee (62,794) to Dingwall (2100). During this whole year he never once performed an entire tragedy or melodrama, only selections of scenes from them, followed by condensed versions of his favourite farces, The Padlock and The Virginiun Mummy as well as a variety of comic songs.

[From Ira Aldridge by Bernth Lindfors. Publisher: University Of Rochester Press, 2011.]


Ira Aldridge Anecdotes

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