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Weird of Colbar The weird of Colbar

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William Beaton Moonie (Born Stobo, Peebleshire, 29 May 1883; died Edinburgh, 8 December 1961).


Rev George M Reith.



First Performance: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 22 March 1937.



The work was billed as a 'Scottish Romantic Opera'  and its setting is the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellion. The substance of the plot is relatively predictable. The theme may owe much to the historical works of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, which were still popular and widely read. It is particularly difficult to avoid seeing the influence of the former's Bride of Lammermoor and even the latter's Weir of Hermiston.

For Glasgow Grand to take on such an ambitious project, with six performances, many parts double-cast, and no popular second choice during the week, indicates that Dr Chisholm must have been mightily impressed with both the composer and the opera. Moonie was essentially an Edinburgh-based musician, with little previous connection with Glasgow.

Contemporary press comment emphasises the all-pervading influence of Scottish folk music. Moonie himself, in a talk a few days before the opening, drew parallels with England, where such a highly desirable use of folk idioms had already become common - clearly with Vaughan Wiliams and similar composers in mind.


Main Characters

Alan Colbar, the Laird (tenor)

Alan Graeme, his son, disguised (tenor)

Ailie Graeme, the housekeeper (mezzo-soprano)

Angus Colbar, who usurps his elder brother's title (baritone)

Dame Colbar, his wife (mezzo-soprano)

Moira, daughter of Angus (soprano)


Plot Summary

Towards the end of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, Alan Colbar, a rebel, had left his estates with his pregnant wife, fleeing across the highlands in hope of escape. She died in childbirth, and the baby was spirited back to the security of his home. Alan and his three grown sons all fight at Culloden, which he alone survives.

The Prologue occurs a few weeks after the disastrous defeat at Culloden, and Jacobite supporters are being hunted. Alan's brother Angus, loyal to the Hanoverians, asks returning soldiers for news of his relations. One old highlander lambasts him for failing to join the rebellion, tells him that his nephews are all dead and his brother in hiding, and lays a curse on him and his family. When Alan arrives home, he gets Angus to promise to protect his infant son, who is now in the care of Ailie Graeme, an old retainer. The plan is for young Alan eventually to marry Angus's daughter Moira. Alan now flees for good, and Angus orders Ailie to keep the baby's true identity to herself..

Twenty years pass, and 'Alan Graeme' and Moira are attracted to one another. Her mother, however, has other ideas and plans to get young Alan out of the way. Aware of the threat to her foster-son, Ailie tells him of his real identity, but the plot takes effect, and he is taken by the press-gang, and sent to join the army in the American colonies. Only some time later is Alan able to return home. By this time, Moira is under pressure to marry Lord Belford. Alan challenges Belford to a duel in which they are both mortally wounded. At a ball in honour of her 21st birthday, Moira sees the ghost of her dead lover, goes mad and dies shortly after.

Summary of Scenes

Act 1 (Prologue) - April 1746, Colbar Village Green.

Act 2 - April 1765 - Scene 1 A room in Colbar House. Scene 2 Village Green.

Act 3 - Scene 1 Stirling Castle Banqueting Hall. Scene 2 Colbar House Ballroom. Scene 3 Village Green.




The Cast

Ailie Graeme
 housekeeper at Colbar House
Alan Colbar
 of that Ilk
Alan Graeme
 (so called) son of the older Alan
Angus Colbar
 younger brother of Alan
 of the Grenadiers
Captain Carr
 of the Royal Regiment
Colonel Ransome
 of the Royal Regiment
Dame Colbar
 wife of Angus
Earl of Belford
 suitor to Moira
 maid to Moira
First Rustic
 of Colbar Village Inn
 an aged Highland Prisoner
 daughter of Angus
Recruiting Sergeant
 in charge of the Press Gang
Second Rustic
 of the Inn

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