A History of The Club
In 1931 the Carnegie Library in Wick was appointed a new librarian by the county council, Mr Kennedy Stewart, known as K.S. He was a former pupil of Dollar Academy in Clackmannanshire and he studied at Edinburgh University. Mr Stewart came straight from BBC Scotland and he seemed to have found us "Wickers" quite amusing. We were in his view “lacking in culture”- no music, no theatre, no art. K.S decided decided to do something about it, he called a meeting and "The Players" was born. The original constitution of the formation is an interesting read, the membership fee was 2/6 and applicants for membership could only be accepted at the decision of the general committee after being nominated by two qualified members. At least one applicant at this time was rejected! Prior to this there is evidence that there were many people interested and involved in drama in the town.
The burns out remains of The Breadalbane Hall, August 1933.
copyright (The Wick Society).
Pantomime was was a whole new dimension to theatre in the Highlands and it was and still is, as can be seen today, very popular. A “panto” ran for a whole week including a Saturday matinee, standing only. At this same time, a separate group called “The Pantomime Society” was on the go, however, as most of its member were “Players” it was decided that the two would be merged together to create what is now “Wick Players”. Starring roles were taken by well-known locals such as George Bain, Willie Wilson, Jack Calcott, Alex Boyd, “Dadda” Davidson, Arthur Doyle, “Herbie” Lyall, Effie Wilkie and Kathlyn and Helen More. The first pantomime Wick was to see was produced and performed by the Bridge Street Church in the Rifle Hall. "Cinderlla" was enjoyed by a wide audience and proved that Wick was going to enjoy many more in future.
Club founder, Mr Kennedy Stewart "K.S" (left).
Our first ever production was staged in 1932, and records tell is that the cast of this long-winded play were "over loaded, over ambitious and over confident". Undeterred "The Players" soldiered on and through sheer hard work and dogged determination built up a very healthy audience based, and from their resounding failed attempt the group went straight into production with Arnold Ridley's "The Ghost Train" (a three act thriller). This was a turning point for the club, they had captured their audience and from here "The Players" set a firm foundation.
The Breadalbane Hall played a crucial part in the foundation of the club. The hall was opened in 1911, it had good acoustics, a well laid out auditorium with a balcony, a generous sized stage and a dressing room. It was the only theatre North of Inverness, and was more or less the club's base. Tragically on a Thursday evening in 1933, the hall caught fire and burnt to the ground in to the early hours of the following morning. This was a huge blow to the club, leaving its members with many questions- where would they perform? Or do they have a future?”. The solution was the Rifle Hall; this meant installing a lighting system and buying curtains- an expensive task in the 1930’s. In that same year, K.S left the county. Wick for him was never more than an entertaining interlude but he gave the town “The Players”.
The first major achievement for Wick Players on the national stage was in 1952 with their adaption of J.A Ferguson's "Campbell of Kilmhor". The production was very well received at the Scottish Finals of the SCDA drama festival.
A selection of photographs depicting members of Wick Players "hamming it up". Copyright (The Wick Society).
The particular success of "Campbell of Kilmhor" did much to lay the down the foundations for many years to come, with teams visiting the Scottish Finals in each of the subsequent decades. In 1998 we endeavoured to reach the peak, winning the British Finals on home soil in Falkirk with James McClure's "Lone Star".