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Opera House - Kilmarnock Standard article March 1875

Operetta House Kilmarnock Standard 27 March 1875

Now that the Town has a Theatre worthy of the support of  all classes of the community   it remains to be seen whether the puritan spirit of ”Auld Killie” is relaxed to give it the encouragement it deserves.

The successful formation of a Limited Liable Company for the erection of the Operetta House is due in a large measure to the indefatigable exertions of John Gilmour of Elmbank who originally took the matter in hand and enlisted the cooperation of a number of influential businessmen in Kilmarnock.

Evacuation of the ground undertaken in1873 and the building proper commenced in November 1873 on the 9th April following the Memorial Stone was laid. It was at first thought that the House would be completed by Christmas but in consequence of the mason’s strike and other circumstances which we need not list, considerable delay occurred and it was impossible to fix a date for opening sooner than Monday last. Meanwhile a 3 year lease of the Theatre was granted to Messers Glover and Francis of the Glasgow Theatre Royal to whom the license was issued by the Justice of the Peace for the District. The building as complete has a very handsome appearance situated on a plot of ground containing 8160 sq ft ( probably just about where the old Langlands Estate House stood) at the head of John Finnie Street it has a frontage on both John Finnie Street and the Strand. The Façade to John Finnie Street is 100 ft and to the Strand 99 ft with average depth 73 ft 6 ins. The frontage to John Finnie Street is two stories high in the Italian Style of Architecture the under story rusticated and the upper split into three bays. On the ground floor with cellars beneath and on the first floor a Saloon connected to one of the shops and on the other a billiard room large enough for two billiard tables. The shop with a Saloon is let and handsomely fitted out as refreshment room and restaurant. The Frontage to the Strand is three stories in height but with no architectural treatment. The main entrance to the Operetta House is by the main entrance in John Finnie Street leading to hall and main staircase communicating with stalls and boxes. The pit entrance is also from John Finnie Street but as the North end of the building while the frequenters of the amphitheatre and gallery use the strand entrance where also is the stage entrance and the private entrance of the leases. Inside the building is bright and cheerful -----the lofty ceiling is of octagonal shape dividing into 16 panels radiating from a large sunlight in the centre containing 450 burners. The house is beautifully lighted by this arrangement and a pilot light which is constantly kept burning. The Proscenium Arch will have a large Coat of Arms in the middle. In all the theatre has seating for 1050. The Circle has seating for 170 the Stalls70 the Pit 420 Amphitheatre 170 and the Gallery 220. The stage is 22 ft wide 40 ft deep and the breadth between its walls is 68 ft the height is 50 ft. Underneath the stage are the male and female dressing rooms unlike many Theatres the dressing rooms are complete and the whole are heated by gas stoves.

Fire Prevention equipment is in place with a good supply of water and Hydrants are in place as well as ample egress.

One of the leases has a clever invention at the back of the Pit, the footlights change to any colour required and are free from any danger to actresses on stage.

Messrs Ingram of Glasgow and Kilmarnock are the Architects of the building. Mason work by Andrew Calderwood Kilmarnock.

Opening Performance on Monday night 22 March 1875 was attended with very gratifying success. There was a bumper audience every part of the house being occupied and outside the Theatre in John Finnie Street so great a crowd assembled around the main entrance that there was great difficulty in clearing a space for Carriages. The arrangements of the Police were efficient. Curtain arose at 7.30 and there displayed a scene of Burns Monument and the River Doon with the Brig o’ Doon with the words “Ye banks and Braes” which is a painting by Mr Glover.

The Elite of the District were there and never has there been such a gathering in Kilmarnock. The drop scene was raised revealing M/s Glover and Franis and the whole strength of the company commenced the proceedings by singing the National Anthem. A capital performance of Box and Cox was performed. The audience enjoyed and applauded at the end calling for Mr Glover. Mr Glover addressed the audience “Ladies and Gentlemen I am no speech maker and as a rule rarely appear before the public in person but on this occasion and after a very cordial reception you have given us ---- The charming little Theatre you are presently seated is an enterprise conceived and carried out by John Gilmour the Laird of Elmbank and others of your most enterprising citizens. Gives an amusing speech. Kilmarnock is civilised with this theatre in place. The place of Robert Burns 1st Edition and your own Dick Whittington and Honest Men and Bonnie Lassies.