Edinburgh Recollections   -  Entertainment

Theatre Royal


Theatre Royal (Broughton Street?)

Burnt Down

Maureen McRobb left a comment in the EdinPhoto Guest Book.

Maureen wrote:

Question 1

"As a child I lived in Dalkeith and used to be taken to Edinburgh to the Theatre Royal (in Broughton Street?) before it burnt down.  I'm looking for further information on it.

Does anyone know when it was burnt down?

Maureen McRobb, Glasgow, Scotland:  March 2, 2008

Question 2

"Alec Finlay used to be the resident Dame in the Pantomimes and sang a song about :

' The coos will a' get me, they a' know my address,
 Alec Finlay Scotland o' the A.F.S.'

Does anyone know all the words of that song?"

Maureen McRobb, Glasgow, Scotland:  March 2, 2008




Archie Foley

Joppa, Edinburgh

Thank you to Archie Foley, Joppa, Edinburgh for sending the reply below:


"The Theatre Royal was in Broughton Street.  It was on the south side of  St Mary's RC Cathedral.  The site is now occupied by the northern part of the John Lewis store in St James Centre. "

Broughton Street used to extend to the south beyond York Place, up to  Leith Street.  The housing at the top of Broughton Street, opposite the cathedral was then demolished to make way for a large roundabout that stands there now.

-  Peter Stubbs


"The fire began one hour after the close of the second house performance on Saturday 30th March 1946.  The show appearing there at the time was the revue 'Hail Caledonia' starring comedian Tommy Morgan.

The theatre was badly damaged but the stage area was intact and was used occasionally for rehearsals during the Edinburgh Festival.

It was in fact the fifth theatre built on that site, having risen four times from the ashes of previous fires. This time, however, it was not rebuilt.

The Theatre Royal may not have re-opened but it's interesting to see that the new Omni Centre with cinemas and restaurants opened recently, very close to the site of the Theatre Royal.

-  Peter Stubbs

Archie Foley, Joppa, Edinburgh:  March 7, 2008




Jack Craig

Silverknowes, Edinburgh

Jack Craig wrote:


"Thanks to Archie Foley for giving the date of the fire as March 1946. This set me back on my heels.  I thought I was about 14 at the time but I must have been 17!  Doesn’t time fly?

I clearly remember being there and seeing the flames, and going   into the Deep Sea for fish and chips just 100 yards down the Walk.  How things have changed."

Jack Craig, Silverknowes, Edinburgh:  August 23, 2008




Jim Suddon

Morningside, Edinburgh

Thank you to Jim Suddon for writing about:

-  The Theatre Royal at the top of Broughton Street, following its fire (See below)

-   Life in the surrounding streets in the 1960s (See Leith Street, Recollections 27).

Jim wrote, giving an answer for the location of the theatre a little different from that given by Archie Foley in 1 above:

The Location

"The site of the Theatre Royal in Broughton Street was actually bought by St Mary's Cathedral who extended onto the site.  The hall at the back would also be on the site.

The theatre entrance used to be on Broughton Street with other doors from Little King Street. This area in my childhood was a very tough area as it was the central Edinburgh attraction for crowds, particularly on Friday and Saturday evenings."

The Fire

"I recall that on the morning after the fire when my mother and I were going for a bus to Pathhead.  We discovered the theatre had been all but destroyed. It was the auditorium that was destroyed as the safety curtain had been in place and the stage, flies etc were all completely intact."

Plans to Rebuild

"There were plans to rebuild the theatre and it stood for years as a shell, complete with outside canopy.  I remember that all the hooks and crooks, Charlie Gangster, Honest Joe, etc were always to be found on the corner under the canopy, and in the summer complete with sunglasses.

The shortages of timber put the rebuilding on hold for a few years, then in the 1950s the introduction of TV and the rapid decline of theatre attendance put paid to the rebuild.

The canopy was removed some years before the theatre was demolished but the guys still stood there.

Theatre Shows

"I recall going to the Theatre Royal and seeing Renee Houston and her sister. There was also a comedian called Jack Anthony who had white face make-up. I could not understand why he did this, he went on for many more years, but I have since read that he was the last of a famous tradition going back to Italy, and also slap-stick.

When he retired he bought a big hotel in Dunbar, the Bellevue. Like the theatre, this building was also burnt down but I think he had sold it by then."

Jim Suddon, Morningside, Edinburgh:  July 21, 2012




Jim McGurk

Glenrothes, Fife, Scotland

Thank you to Jim McGurk who wrote:.

Theatre Royal Fire

"I lived at No.129 Leith Street, just above the Imperial.  We had a grandstand view of the demise of the Theatre Royal.  Five of us all sat in the window watching the fire - some memory!"

Jim McGurk, Glenrothes, Fife, Scotland:  September 23, 2012


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