I’m back! Sorry I’ve been MIA (Missing In Action) for so long – again! Things have been fairly hectic, but I would have posted this page ages ago if it were not for the fact that I seem to have a problem with Blogger! I’ll try and post again today but I’m not sure it’ll work.
I’ve been spending a lot of my spare time in the last few weeks, helping a friend prepare for a talk on her life in the theatre. She’s 85 now, but was pretty well known in the 1950s and 60s for her acting, singing and dancing. As a result she has masses of photos, newspaper clippings, posters, etc. of her career, which I was organising and photographing to make a presentation for her talk at our U3S meeting. That happened the other day, and she was well received by everyone, who enjoyed hearing her story. It had not been an easy run up to the day of the talk with her not feeling happy about using the pictures at first, feeling she was giving a commentary rather than just talking to the audience and telling her story. However, we got the photos in order and she was brilliant. Rave reviews, I told her later! You had rave reviews.
Because she speaks in public about her career, I feel she might not mind me giving a short presentation here. It’s nothing that can’t be found on the internet or in archives of newspapers and probably theatres in both England and Scotland. Her stage name is Fay Lenore, and she’s the third generation of her family to “tread the boards” - go into the business - after her great Aunt Beattie Evans, and her mother and aunt, known as the Gordon Sisters, Bunty and Bijou.
While quite young, Fay was brought into an act, starting with the role of Baby Bear in the story of Goldilocks and the three Bears – and as she told us this she began to lumber across the limited floorspace being a bear on its hindlegs to her singing The Teddy Bears Picnic! (Cheers and laughter!!)
As she grew up, travelling with her parents – dad was Leon Dodd, who had joined Bunty’s show and later married Bunty herself – she found herself taking on parts almost as an understudy, “Fay, Yer on!” she was often told!
At 16, during the 2nd world war, she found herself on the way to India with ENSA, joining her mother and a small company entertaining the allied troops. (Dad, Leon, had joined the RAF and served in West Africa and Italy.) Her photo of the kind of stage they performed on, reminded me of an old TV comedy show set in India – It ain’t half hot, Mum! Here’s Bunty, left. and Fay, right, with the rest of the company!
Bunty and Fay travelled all over, to such countries as Afghanistan and the Yemen, performing for the servicemen, in not altogether salubrious conditions until at last they came home, and returned to the theatre in Britain. Fay only once played the part of a principal girl in pantomime, but was to take on the part of principal boy more often than not. I believe it was, and possibly still is, one of the customs in Scottish pantomime at least, for a girl always to play the principal boy, and Fay was many times to wear the costume of a boy – Robin Hood, Prince Charming, Dick Whittington…. – with the traditional fishnet tights, made of hat veiling in the days before hosiery became as we know it today!
She appeared before the Queen on two occasions in Royal Variety Shows, but says the biggest thrill of her career was when she met famous conductor, John Barbirolli, who invited her to accompany his mother sitting in a theatre box, to hear his orchestra play, and at the end, as well as bowing to his audience he turned to the box and made the two women a sweeping bow!
As well as appearing in theatres in England and travelling abroad on many occasions, her life was soon to be changed when she came to a theatre in Aberdeen. The Braemar Highland Games was taking place one weekend and Fay and friends attended to watch the great feats of strength of the athletes on the Games circuit. One young man in particular, she noted, was being eyed up by the younger of the two princesses staying at nearby Balmoral Castle. Thinking no more about it at the time, she was soon to meet the young man himself on his home territory on the island of Inchmurrin on Loch Lomond, and after a few months courting, Fay became Mrs Jay Scott.
She still followed her career, appearing with many of the well known Scots actors, singers and comedians: Jimmy Logan, Johnny Beattie, Stanley Baxter, Kenneth McKellar, Una McLean, Rikki Fulton and Jack Milroy, and the Alexander Brothers…. to name a few.
Of course the family soon came along and daughter Shona was often taken to “work” with Mum. Later, Robbie was born, by which time, Fay was in the real life role of farmer’s wife to Jay’s farmer. Sadly he died when he was only in his 50s, having suffered ill health after an accident on the farm.
The children grew up, Shona getting married and having three sons, and Fay retired from her later job teaching singing and drama at a college in Edinburgh, moving to Peebles some years ago. Since then she has kept her hand in, you might say, by appearing in some local theatre productions. The talk that she gave to the U3A is likely to be one of her last performances though, as she feels she isn’t as able as she once was. However, she entertained us royally and amused us with her funny stories and impressions! Well done, Fay! You’re still a star!
Talk again soon.