Clarkies ice skating rink to music hall

The building when it was a skating rink
The building when it was a skating rink

Further to Stephen Calder asking about the theatre on Hanover Street, I can provide a bit more information on the subject.

The Electric Theatre (latterly known the Palace Theatre) was owned and run by James Clark, known universally as ‘Clarkie’.

The Music Hall shown at the top of the picture looking down onto Chapel Street.

The Music Hall shown at the top of the picture looking down onto Chapel Street.

Mr Clark was a prominent Peterhead businessman who ran a successful ironmongery business.

He bought the old cattle mart building in Hanover Street around 1900 and opened a roller skating rink. This in turn became a music hall, and then finally was transformed into a theatre.

Stephen is correct in the fact that Harry Gordon appeared there, as did Dr Walford Bodie ‘The Electric Wizard of Macduff’ greatly admired by no less a personage than Harry Houdini himself !

Silent movies were shown at the Palace Theatre for many years, until the advent of talking pictures, at which point the Palace had to compete with Aubreys Picture House in the Old Music Hall.

The Palace was basically just a large shed, with no heating and couldn’t compete with Aubreys in the end. So, Mr Clark sold the Palace in 1926.

The new owner tried his best to make a success of it but to no avail, and the building was eventually sold to Crosse & Blackwells and then demolished after the war, when a new warehouse was built.

The picture on the right shows the building when it was a skating rink. It’s hard to imagine that this imposing building stood in Hanover Street ! If anyone needs more detailed information I have a lists of most of the films and performers who appeared at the theatre over the years.

Many of you will now be aware of the skating rink that used to stand in Hanover Street but very few people will be aware of the extraordinary entrepreneur who owned it.

Clarkie was a prototype Richard Branson, the first man in Peterhead to own a motor car and the owner of various businesses and residential premises in the town.

His main business was Clarks Ironmongery shop in Marischal Street. The big building you see here was originally used as a cattle storage shed for the nearby railway station and James Clark saw an opportunity to start a roller skating rink because it was a craze that was sweeping America at the time. When the attraction faded Clarkie turned it into a Music Hall featuring all the greats of the day like Harry Gordon, Harry Lauder and Dr Walford Bodie, The Electric Wizard. Again when the Music Hall fad faded, Clarkie turned the building into a silent film venue which became “Clarkie’s Picture Palace”.

It was said that it was absolutely freezing inside in winter and it wasn’t uncommon for the whole audience to sit through the film with all their outdoor gear on to keep warm. It was also said that the odd rat was sometimes spotted in the rafters!

James Clark lived at no 19 Cairntrodlie and was often seen walking around the town handing out money to the poor and destitute.

A keen observer of the stock market, he was a regular at the telegraph office posting off telegrams to various stockbrokers to buy and sell his various holdings.

Clarkie died in 1940 and is buried in the Constitution Street cemetery.

*In reference to an earlier story regarding the castle at Keith Inch, there have been many discussions about castles in the town.

The Keith Inch castle is not the first the town had - a Motte & Bailey-type castle (the original Inverugie Castle) once stood at the mouth of the Ugie, one of the castles of Ralph Le Neym, a Norman who was granted the lands of Buchan by William the Conquerer.

The remains of it could still be seen in the 18th century as there are reports of peat being gathered from around the ruins of the foundations.

There was also a pseudo castle in Brook Lane called Yokieshill Castle, but that was nothing more than a glorified town house.