Andrew P. Wilson

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Andrew Patrick Wilson
Born (1886-01-01)1 January 1886
Dumfries
Died 26 October 1950(1950-10-26) (aged 64)
Edinburgh Royal Infirmary
Nationality Scottish
Occupation
Spouse(s) Ann Shiels

Andrew Patrick ("Pat") Wilson (1886 – 26 Oct 1950) was a Scottish playwright, producer, actor, and teacher who co-created the repertory company Scottish National Players, which made a significant contribution to radio drama in the early days of the BBC in Scotland and from which emerged a large number of actors who would go on to influence Scottish theatre as well as BBC Scotland. Wilson worked on many projects with the BBC, most notably as part of the comedy double-act, Sandy and Andy. In his book Andrew P. Wilson and the Early Irish and Scottish National Theatres, 1911–1950, author Steven Burch claims from the outset that Wilson "was at the forefront of several major movements in Ireland, England, and Scotland", and laments that the absence of information about Wilson and his work distorts the recorded histories of several eminent Scottish and Irish theatres.

Early life

Wilson was born in Edinburgh or Dumfries in 1996.

Abbey Theatre, Dublin, 1914–15

For a short period between 1914 and 1915, Wilson was general manager and producer at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, at a time when Lady Gregory and the poet W. B. Yeats were associated with it. There, he produced his own play, The Slough, about Irish poor. Burch maintains that the play was the "Abbey's first attempt to bring the highly politicized world of the urban underclass to its predominately middle-class audience". (37)

Stage Director, Sir Oswald Stoll Theatres, 1915

Wilson was stage director for Sir Oswald Stoll's Theatres whom he joined in 1915.

Scottish National Players

Wilson was one of the co-creators of the Scottish National Players when it was formed in Glasgow in 1921, becoming their first producer (or 'director' in modern parlance), both in an honorary, and later, a salaried position.

Wilson, or 'Pat' as he was known to his friends, had been a member of the St Andrew Society's Scottish National Players Committee in 1914, while he was working as manager of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

In 1920, when the arrangements for the first SNP production were being made, David Glen MacKemmie, who was responsible for most of its organisation, urged Wilson to write to the press discussing his Abbey experience in an attempt to arouse interest in the SNP venture (Wilson, at the time, was working for Sir Oswald Stoll in London). As there had been some interesting correspondence in the Edinburgh Evening News during September 1920 on the need for a national theatre and the practical problems involved, MacKemmie felt that this would provide a good opportunity for a letter from Wilson.[1]

Wilson's letter to the Edinburgh Evening News was printed on 8 October 1920. He gave an account of the Abbey Theatre, highlighting its "largely accidental" development from "a poet's dream" to world fame and renown.

Silent films

In 1924 he directed a series of silent films adapted from the golf stories of P. G. Wodehouse. The films featured actor Harry Beasley as a caddie who observes the humorous dramas of various golfers, thus providing a connective tissue between the short films. ( In the short stories, this function is performed by The Oldest Member of a golfing club.)

BBC

Wilson played the part of ‘Heather Jock’ in the Edinburgh Children’s Hour during the 1930s.

Comedy

He earned a strong reputation as an author of homely Scots comedies, of which he wrote an enormous number, and few rural drama clubs had not, at one time or another, performed one of his popular plays.

Wilson wrote radio plays for the BBC, including the series Sandy and Andy that ran between 1936 and 1947.

In an obituary in the Scotsman it was said that his great asset was "imbuing the characters he portrayed with a most lovable personality, that lifted the play above the usual run of Scots kitchen comedy".[2]

Later career

He used the Hebrew pseudonym of 'Asher Ben Vil' when he wrote "The Coat of Many Colours" for the Edinburgh Jewish Dramatic Society for presentation in 1948 in the Edinburgh district stage of the Scottish Community Drama Festival. The play was placed first, and the adjudicator, unaware of the true identity of the author, complimented him on the "most unusual script".

Towards the end of his life he was most noted for his performance as 'Spiritualitie" in the 1948 production of The Three Estates at the Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama. Illness prevented him from appearing the following year.

Assessment

In his book Andrew P. Wilson and the Early Irish and Scottish National Theatres, 1911–1950, author Steven Burch posits two theses: first, the somewhat implicit argument that Wilson's career was colored and shaped by his political ideals, and second, that Wilson's decline into invisibility and obscurity stems from his troubled relationships with Sean O'Casey and W. B. Yeats.

Death

Wilson died in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on 26 October 1950 at the age of 64. He was survived by his wife, Ann Shiels.

References

  1. Karen Anne Marshalsay, The Scottish National Players: in the nature of an experiment 1913-1934, (Glasgow: 1991, University of Glasgow PhD thesis).
  2. 'Mr A. P. Wilson Dead', Scotsman, 27 October 1950, 3.