Final curtain at the Byre Theatre ?

The Byre Theatre officially closed its doors on Saturday 26 January 2013. The final performance, on Thursday 31st January was a charity show to help raise funds for Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

Here we take a look at the history of the building from its humble beginnings in a cattle shed in 1933 to the present day.

Byre Theatre 1933

Byre Theatre 1933

The original Byre Theatre was founded in 1933 by Alexander B Paterson, a local freelance journalist and prolific playwright, with help from a theatre group made up from members of the Hope Park Church, St Andrews.

Its first home was a semi-derelict cow byre which the group cleaned out and ran as the St Andrews Play Club. When the Playclub moved into the old Byre in 1933 it was leased from the Council for £10 per annum and the play Club would be given a years notice for planned street widening & housing developments in the area, which would result in the demolition of the Byre. In 1964 the Friends of the Byre was formed with Jenny Rodger as President in anticipation of a new theatre in the near future.

Last Days of Old Byre 1969: with A.B. Paterson taking a final look. STA Hk 5/11

Last Days of Old Byre 1969: with A.B. Paterson taking a final look.
STA Hk 5/11

 In 1969, after over 30 years with many successful productions, the much loved original Byre Theatre was demolished. The final performance in the Byre on January 3rd of Grouse Moor Image by William Douglas Home was attended by many Play Club members past and present. At the end, the curtain was not drawn, to signify that there would be continuity in the next Byre Theatre.

New Byre Theatre. STA Mn 85/4

New Byre Theatre. STA Mn 85/4

Byre Theatre, 1970STA Hk 5/11

Byre Theatre, 1970
STA Hk 5/11

 Moving on, and in 1970 the opening ceremony of the new building was performed by Andrew Cruickshank with the first performance of A.B. Paterson’s version of Weir of Hermiston

The current building, built by award winning architects Nicoll Russell Studios, was opened by Sir Sean Connery in 2001. The theatre opened to critical acclaim with the play Into the Woods 

There is an online campaign for the theatre to stay open and it appears increasingly likely the theatre building, owned by Fife Council, will reopen in the near future under the umbrella of Fife’s cultural body – the Fife Cultural Trust. The trust already operates theatres in Dunfermline, Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy and Lochgelly.

The Scottish Theatre Archive holds leaflets, programmes, presscuttings and some production photographs. For an overview of the collection see the Byre Theatre collection description page.  

As always, if you wish to see an item from the Scottish Theatre Archive, do come and see us on level 12 of the library and we will be happy to help.

Related Links:
Website of the Byre Theatre


Categories: Special Collections

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