The final curtain call

David Gillies, Spittal Variety Group
David Gillies, Spittal Variety Group

A longstanding member of Spittal Variety Group has retired from performing after appearing in musicals and pantomimes for 44 years.

Vice President, Dave Gillies, has decided to hang up his dancing shoes after being with the group since he was 28.

Dave joined the group when he moved from Edinburgh to Berwick in 1974 to work and wanted to make some friends and socialise.

“When I moved to Berwick I asked some of the locals, ‘what do people do in Berwick?’ and Spittal Variety was one of the things that was mentioned.” Dave said. “I’d been in plays and shows before so I thought I should go along and try it out and I absolutely loved it.”

The first pantomime Dave performed in was Babes in the Wood where he played the Sheriff of Nottingham and never looked back.

He explained, “I made a lot of friends there that have stayed with me for life and we have had some laughs between us.”

Over the years, Dave has played many different roles but his top three include delivering the funny lines and stiff upper lip of Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady, picking pockets on the streets of London as Fagin in Oliver Twist and winning the heart of the Duchess as Sir John in Me and My Girl.

Although Dave has retired from the stage he continuing his important backstage role as an honorary Vice President of the committee and be involved in some of the running of Spittal Variety Group.

Dave added: “I’m going to be 72 on my next birthday and I look very old now compared to the younger members of the group but that doesn’t mean I can’t help contribute in other ways.”

Part of the fun of being involved in a group like Spittal Variety is the social side of things which Dave is more than happy to continue attending.

“Tuesday night’s will always be rehearsal nights and even though I won’t be performing any more, I’m still quite happy to go for a pint afterwards with anyone who’s still willing.”

Taking a seat in the audience for the SVG pantomime, Aladdin, will be an odd experience for Dave this year after so many years on stage.

He said, “It will definitely be sad at times and I think I’m going to be extremely critical sitting on the other side of the stage but for all the right reasons. I’ve not really had a chance to watch a whole production of ours properly so I’m looking forward to that.”

Marian Pringle, the SVG President said that he has given so much of his time to the group.

She said, “He’s been devoted, loyal and a dedicated member of Spittal Variety. He was once Chairman of the group and were all going to miss him dearly. He will forever be remembered as the best Fagin.”

After seeing the group go from strength to strength Dave said they could always do with new members.

“We’re not like The X Factor, we’re not looking for the next superstar. What we need are people that are willing to just go and try it out and fit in as part of the team.

“It’s all about team work with Spittal Variety and who is best suited for the parts. You could get a principle role in a pantomine one year and then be in the chorus for the musical after that and thats fine with everyone.”

Dave was presented with some lovely leaving gifts at the last AGM including an engraved glass plaque and a photo album with pictures Dave was involved in over the years.