ANDREW PATERSON was heavily involved in the Inverness amateur dramatic scene for many years; in fact, an old carte de visite exists showing him as a youth dressed up as ‘Buffalo Bill in the Wild West.’
Although associated with many different programmes, he was most regularly involved with stage productions of Rob Roy. On 9th and 10th April 1915, Rob Roy was produced at the Theatre Royal by a company of over 50 performers under his management. Paterson also acted in the production as Captain Thornton (of the Royals) and several of his Mairi cast were also involved; Tom Snowie, Jack Maguire and Evelyn Duguid (with her sister Jean Duguid).
The three performances, in aid of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home in Inverness, were successful quite beyond expectation, raising a “sum not much short of £100.”
The play had previously been performed some six weeks earlier, and there was a lengthy review in The Inverness Courier, which in part read: “As on Thursday night, the theatre was filled up to the last inch of standing room on Friday night, and again on Saturday night. On each night people turned away from the doors disappointed…the bumper houses, the applause and laughter of the audiences were convincing proof that the presentation of the Scottish drama was pleasing and satisfying…The last performance had the spirit and smoothness of professional work.
“There was less hardness in the delivery of Captain Thornton’s [Andrew Paterson] lines, and the manliness of the character was made appropriately conspicuous. Rob Roy, [Tom Snowie] too, showed improvement in the same direction. There was added deliberativeness in the ring of his sentences – the last words in manliness; and the acting of the part was more sustained. Helen Macgregor [Jean Duguid] was above criticism. Not a point was missed. Of the remaining characters in the cast, one that revealed distinct improvement was Diana Vernon [Evelyn Duguid]. The part was earnestly and sympathetically sustained in acting, speaking, and singing.”
Another production of Rob Roy was produced in the Central Hall Picture House, in March 1930, in aid of the Royal Northern Infirmary. Once again it featured Tom Snowie as Rob Roy and Dan Dallas as Dougal Cratur.
On 26th September 1932 the Sir Walter Scott centenary was celebrated in Inverness with a production of Rob Roy by the Inverness Amateur Dramatic Company, with proceeds again in aid of the Royal Northern Infirmary and the Provost’s Coal Fund.
Featuring Snowie as Rob Roy, Dallas as Dougal, and Paterson as Thornton, Diana Vernon was played by Carrie M. Cruickshank. In an indication of how popular these presentations were, the Highland Transport Company ran late buses to Beauly, Muir of Ord, and Dingwall, and a special bus to Fortrose on the Thursday and Saturday nights.
On Tuesday 27th September, The Inverness Courier printed its review under the headline ‘Delightful Production by Inverness Amateurs.’ “Judging from the large audience which attended the opening performance last night, and the continuous applause which greeted the conclusion of each stirring incident or each humorous or pungent sally, it was evident that everybody present was enjoying the play to the very utmost. Inverness has seen many fine performances of this production, but we doubt if there has been such a satisfying one, or if it has been presented so completely as it was last night. Indeed, from the overture, that beautiful series of folk songs, to the very end the performance went with complete animation and a refreshing amount of vigour and sprightliness.
“Mr Tom Snowie, who is thoroughly familiar with the part of Rob Roy, gave a strong and forcible impersonation of that character, and Mr Donald Dallas as Dougal always delighted the audience with his pungent manner of expression and fearless and defiant gestures…Much credit is due to the producer, Mr Andrew Paterson, and the stage manager, Mr Tom Snowie, for the success of the performance, despite the difficulties which had to be surmounted on account of the lack of proper stage accommodation.”
Tom Snowie, a cabinet maker by trade, was also the manager of the Central Hall Picture House, and it was something of a coincidence that the role of the villain Rashleigh in Rob Roy was sometimes played by Alexander Mackenzie, the manager of the rival La Scala cinema; a coincidence that usually prompted Donald Dallas (as Dougal Cratur), and who often departed from the script to amuse the audience, to call out at the end of the duelling scene where Rashleigh is defeated by Rob Roy, “Central Hall one! La Scala nothing.”
Snowie’s father was the Bailie Thomas Beals Snowie, and his grandfather Hugh Snowie, the famous gunsmith, fishing tackle merchant and taxidermist, known throughout the Highlands to many sportsmen and shooting tenants in Victorian and Edwardian times. His son, also Thomas, served with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during the Second World War and was Head Porter of the Royal Northern Infirmary.
Tom Snowie had first become interested in the stage as a teenager in the late 1890s. He worked first as a stage hand at the Theatre Royal and then became stage manager under the proprietorship of Cameron Burgess, who had always played the part of Rob Roy until illness in 1915 gave Snowie the chance to play the role. Snowie’s last performance as Rob Roy was in 1943.
In his 1932 memoirs Dan Dallas wrote: “In the course of my association with the Rob Roy company we have had three Helen MacGregors – Miss Jeanie Duguid (now Mrs Lamb, Halkirk, Caithness), Miss Margaret Fraser, and Mrs George Mackenzie. All were excellent. We were also very fortunate in our Diana Vernon, which was first played by Miss Evelyn Duguid, then by Miss Carrie Cruickshank, and also by Mrs Paul. It was the splendid co-operation of these ladies that helped to make the play the great success it proved to be. Our present Rob Roy – the character I mean – is Tom Snowie, who has played the part so long and so well that he is absolutely indispensable.”
Not only was Andrew Paterson involved in managing and acting in stage productions, he was also a collector of theatrical memorabilia and owned a copy of the original poster for the London 1856 production of Midsummer Night’s Dream which featured an eight year-old Ellen Terry in her first role as Puck.