Benefactor: Pat Julier

PAT JULIER – An appreciation

When she arrived in Brampton at the beginning of the 1970s, Pat Julier was no stranger to amateur dramatics. As a girl in Burntisland, she had organized shows with the local church youth group. She had also been involved with amateur shows during the war in the Army and after the war she had taken part in theatrical shows with Courtauld’s, the textile firm in London where she and Norman first met. Now, as her husband Norman set up Geltside Textiles on Brampton’s new industrial estate, Pat joined Brampton Players and brought with her energy, enthusiasm, stagecraft and innovation from the word go.

She was the first to add pantomime to what had been a diet of just plays on the Playhouse stage. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1971 was the first of a whole decade of shows she directed in which she welcomed – nay dragooned – a generation of local youngsters, who were soon acting, singing and dancing alongside more mature Players members whom Pat had winningly persuaded to let their hair down – those who had any – and abandon any dignity they had. Aladdin, Cinderella, Robin Hood, Mother Goose, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Wizard of Oz followed, along with Jack and the Beanstalk (1979), which featured a wonderful two-headed giant, one head belong to a local languages teacher and the other to the Chairman at the time – the Reverend Arthur Penn from St Martin’s ! – both squeezed into the same outsize costume. Some were built on traditional scripts – sometimes retaining dialogue in rhyming couplets – but others were written by Pat herself.

She was also the first to present an open-air Shakespeare production at Lanercost Priory in 1990 with an ambitious and very musical production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was a ground-breaking venture that began an ongoing Players tradition and set a challenge for other directors during the following decade, which saw productions of Macbeth, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew, The Winter’s Tale, and Much Ado About Nothing. Another production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream rounded the Lanercost Shakespeare series off in 2000.

As well as directing pantomimes and plays, Pat trod the boards herself of course, facing up to challenging roles in plays like Kenneth Horne’s And This Was Odd (1973), Bill Naughton’s Spring and Port Wine (1975) and Priestley’s Laburnum Grove (1978) – but also enjoying down-to-earth cameo roles like those in sketches in the 1980 ‘Leap Year’ Variety Show. In her later years she made a memorable guest appearance on the Carlisle Green Room Stage as a brilliantly characterised Miss Prism in a fine production of Oscar Wilde’s‘ The Importance of Being Earnest’. And even when she was not directly involved in a production, she would always come galloping to the rescue with costumes and materials and sheer ingenuity when it came to helping with wardrobe and props – helped often by her involvement with Age Concern. She was never hesitant about ‘getting stuck in’ – backstage, on stage, and welcoming audiences ‘front-of-house’.

Another great role she played, especially in later years, was behind the scenes as committee member and ultimately President of the Players, always fervently concerned to see the Players survive and progress. She rarely missed a meeting, even as she approached 80, often braving wind and rain on her walk to and from home.

Pat’s Secrets. There were secrets about her that only came to light for most people after her death at 81 in 2005. One was her unusual middle name of ‘Mentiply’. Then there were the parts she played in the Second World War – truly dramatic parts, though not in a stage sense. She joined the Army while still in her teens and served with a radar unit attached to an anti-aircraft battery on the south coast – a prime target for enemy attack. During the German putsch in the Ardennes, she was in Belgium working in a military hospital, cutting away clothing from around the wounds of the injured and helping out in the kitchens. She witnessed war in all its horror and later saw at first hand the liberation of a German concentration camp.

As the war ended, she was with the occupying forces in war-torn Germany. Now working as secretary to a lawyer at the Nuremberg war crime trials, she saw at close quarters defendants like Hermann Goering and Julius Streicher. She also helped with the tracing of family members and personal property in a Europe full of ‘displaced persons’.

Pat’s greatest secret – kept well hidden from her fellow Players until after her death – was her wonderful gift to them: the ownership of the Brampton Playhouse itself. By the 1960s, the Players were struggling to raise enough funds from productions to pay even the very modest rent being charged by the company which owned it. In 1971, the company asked the Players to buy the theatre but the sum being sought, though modest by today’s standards, was beyond what a small struggling amateur dramatics society could raise. It was at this point that an ‘anonymous well-wisher’ – to use Revd. Arthur Penn’s phrase – came forward with an offer to meet the full purchase price. Who was the mysterious benefactor ? For most of us the truth only emerged when Pat’s obituary was published in the ‘Cumberland News’ in 2005.

We owe so much to Patricia Mentiply Julier – for bringing youth onto our stage, for so many shows and such fine performances, for her tireless work behind the scenes and as our President, for her remarkable selfless generosity in giving us our own theatre, and for being a friend and fellow enthusiast for keeping theatre alive here in Brampton.