The Arcadians take to the stage

The Chorus of the Brighouse Amateur Oeratic andf Dramatic Society without names - The Arcadians - 1932
The Chorus of the Brighouse Amateur Oeratic andf Dramatic Society without names - The Arcadians - 1932

It is often those little bits of what some people call useless information that I and many other people find the most interesting.

Take for example how many of you musicians and singers knew that The Arcadians, the 1909 musical play, was part written by a former Bridge End lad who used the pseudonym of Mark Ambient.

It was June 20, 1860, when Harold Harley, the eldest son of the Reverend Robert Harley, minister of Bridge End Church, was born at Castle Hill in Rastrick.

The Reverend Harley served at Bridge End Congregational Church for fourteen years from August 1854.

Harold was educated at Mill Hill School where his father Robert became vice-master in 1872 not long after leaving Brighouse.

He later attended University College, London, and then King’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated with honours in mathematics. Surprisingly he took the stage as his chosen career and in his early days played in a number of minor roles but will be better remembered as a moderately prolific playright.

One of his earliest successes was the comedy theatre farce A Little Ray of Sunshine which even played at the Wallack’s Theatre on Broadway.

His real claim to fame came after he conceived and wrote the first act of what became known as The Arcadians.

Once the first act was complete he took it along to Robert Courtneidge who, together with Alexander M Thompson, finished it off and produced it into a smash stage success with 809 performances - a record run for the time.

The Arcadians was composed by Mark Ambient and Alexander M Thompson in 1909, the lyrics were by Arthur Wimperis and the music by Lionel Monkton and Howard Talbot.

The name of Harold Harley does not appear, only that of Mark Ambient, which he used in his early career as his stage name.

During his later years he lived in Brighton where, in 1937 aged 76, he died in a private nursing home.

In 1932 The Arcadians was performed by the Brighouse St James Amateur Operatic Society at the Parish Hall.

It was never mentioned to either the participants of the performance nor the audience that the lines were written originally by a man who had been born and brought up in Rastrick.

It was not until his death that such personal details as to where he was born were revealed to anyone other than his family and close friends.

This photograph taken behind the Parish Hall in Church Lane is the chorus line from that 1932 production.

It includes: (Back row left to right) Mr J. Booth; Misses S. Spittlehouse; W. Booth; A. Redfearn; N. Fisher; A. Needham; M. B. Pilling; and Mr H. Stocks. Second row: Mrs H. Barrett; Misses E. Martin; W. Ellis; M. Sykes; Mr H. Wade; Misses M. Inman; M. Nortcliffe; C. Martin and E. Stirk. Front row: Mr E. Denham; Misses E. Livsey; O. Wells; M. Thompson; S. Smith; A. Bottomley; C. Owen; M. Walls and F. Jenkinson.