Dramatic spotlight on Borders mill workers

The Derners
The Derners

A group of seven women working in a Galashiels mill in 1953 are the stars of ‘The Derners’ written in 1992 and performed on a regular basis ever since.

East Lothian amateur dramatic group Stenton Footlights first performed it in 1995 and for their 30th anniversary they decided to repeat their favourite play - ‘The Derners’.

Written by former Galashiels mill worker Mary Strathie, who was a derner – a darner – herself in the 1950s, the gritty comedy is regarded as a piece of social history which focuses on the lives and loves of the seven ‘derners’, as they prepare for the Braw Lads’ Day celebrations in the town.

Mary’s play was first performed by Galashiels Dramateurs, in the Volunteer Hall, Galashiels in 1993, Mary picking up her pen and writing the script after the amateur dramatic group were at a loss about how to follow their recent production of ‘The Steamie’.

Prompted by her years in the mill, experiences, friendships and heartaches, Mary’s story of mill life struck a chord with her audiences and the play proved to be a hit. The Rideout Theatre Company went on to perform it in 16 towns and villages across the Borders in 1994.

It’s success started to spread beyond the Borders and for East Lothian amateur dramatic group Stenton Footlights it became one of their favourite performances.

“Stenton Footlights’ first performance of the play was in 1995 and Mary Strathie gave us great support and help,” said a group spokesperson.

“Here we are 20 years later and Mary has given us her blessing to perform and indeed she is attending one of the performances herself!

“We hope to do the play, past derners and the serious and moving ceremony of the Mixing of the Roses, justice.”

Performances are on March 16-19 at 7.30pm in Stenton Hall. Tickets, available from Janette Macdonald on 01368 850665, include wine and locally made scotch pies.