Marjorie Gullan: Speech Teacher, Lecturer, Public Reader, and Pioneer in Choral Speaking (Scotland, England) [thesis]

Ronald Shields
but rich in spiritual devotion, respect for education, and passion for the spoken word. fter reading in philosophy and logic at the University, James Campbell Gullan traveled to London and completed his ministerial studies at the English Presbyterian Divinity Hall. He was later ordained in 1864 and entered his first pastorate in the English town of Swansea,0 where he met his future wife, Christina, the daughter of John Matthew Voss, a prominent solicitor and civic leader in that town.^ They
more » ... married in 1868 and in 1878 accepted a church in Reading, England, where they lived for the next six years. In 1884 James Campbell Gullan agreed to fill the pastorate at the Augustine Free Church in Glasgow, Scotland, returning after O nearly twenty-five years to his birthplace. This time he entered the city without the sack of oats, carrying instead the greater burden of a growing family of six little girls, the youngest of whom was named Margaret Isabel Morton Gullan, born in 1879 and called Marjorie by her close family.*M arjorie Gullan was four years old when she was taken to Scotland, but her older sisters were ready to enter the upper grades in school. It is probable that her father, familiar with the excellent church and endowed schools in Glasgow, accepted the pastorate so that his children could complete their education in the finest schools in Scotland.^ As a child, Marjorie Gullan was exposed to good role models in spoken English. She often recalled "hearing her 4 father speaking aloud passages from the Bible, Milton, or Browning, as he paced up and down in his study.M^ Gullan also credited her grandmother with instilling in her the family heritage for the appreciation for clear diction. She later recalled: My own recollection of my first impression of good clear speech is very vivid. I can see my grandmother, at this very moment, as well as if she were alive, sitting very erect in a high-backed chair by the fireside, repeating to us such jingles as 'Hey diddle, the cat and the fiddle, The cow jumped over the moon,' with beautiful precision of speech and clearness of tone. She never believed in talking to her grandchildren in baby language and as soon as they were able to speak the words after her, she expected those words to be said with accuracy and clearness. I mention this, because I have realised on looking back, how" much these early impressions have meant to me in later life, and it helps me to understand how much the child absorbs in the way of good or bad speech in his earliest years. This absorption is taking place as we know, side by side with his own attempts and experiments in speech, and his speech will be more or less formed for life from the models he has to c o p y . 12 Gullan's earliest dramatic work sprang from many child hood hours spent in producing and staging stories and plays, original compositions made with her beloved younger brother, Campbell.1^ These plays were often presented in her home as private entertainments for her father's local parishioners.^ It is ironic that James Campbell Gullan encouraged these childish exploits in dramatics, since he later viewed his son's professional career as a stage actor and director as a bitter disgrace to the family. Tragically, the rift between father and son was so deep over this issue that neither of them spoke to the other until James Campbell's death in 1911 made reconciliation in this life impossible.^ This spirit of social reformation through education exhibited at Hutchesons1 and certainly reinforced from James Campbell Gullan's Free Church pulpit must have made a lasting impression on the young Marjorie Gullan, for it was never absent from her later writings, and at times served as the central goal of her speech training method. In 1926 Gullan wrote these words in defense of her method: Marked deviations from what is known as well educated speech constitute one of the most serious stumbling blocks to the winning of a place in the sun for those who up till noxv have in many cases known nothing but the darkest s h a d e . 26 C. Gullan's Formal Speech Training After leaving the Hutchesons' Grammar School with Higher Learning Certificates in French, German, English, and arithmeticMarjorie Gullan traveled to London and studied elocution with Marion Terry, sister to the popular P 8 stage personality, Ellen Terry. Despite her sister's greater popularity as an actress, Marion Terry had a dis tinguished career in her own right. She made her stage debut as Ophelia in Hamlet at the Theatre Royal in Manchester, England, on July 21, 1873, and was featured in productions at many important London theatres, including the Haymarket and the Prince of Wales. She also played Portia and Rosalind in productions of The Merchant of Venice and As You Like It at Stratford-on-Avon in 1900 and was later selected by Sir Henry Irving to play Marguerite in his O Q production of Faust. 9 Besides elocution lessons from Marion Terry, Marjorie Gullan enrolled in voice production classes from Kate Behnke, widow of Emil Behnke.° During his lifetime Emil Behnke taught many professional speakers and singers, including S. S. Curry. Behnke also wrote numerous books on vocal production and anatomy, including a special study on speech training for children co-authored with Lennox Browne. After his death his wife, known as Madame Behnke by her students, continued to teach private voice, using her husband's vocal method.T o expand her command of phonetics, Gullan also registered for classes at Oxford University under Dr. Henry Sweet and at the University College in London under Ida Ward."^ Ward was noted for her command of material dealing with dialect. Sweet, aside from his academic reputation, received unusual notoriety through George Bernard Shaw, who fashioned the character of Dr. Higgins in the play Pygmalion after the Oxford professor. Shaw wrote concerning Dr. Sweet, a recognized pioneer phonetician: His great ability as a phonetician (he was, I think, the best of them all at his job) would have entitled him to high official recognition, and perhaps enabled him to popularize his subject, but for his Satanic contempt for all academic dignitaries and persons in general who thought more of Greek than of phonetics. . . . He was, I believe, not in the least an ill-natured man: very much the opposite, I should say; but he would not suffer fools gladly.35 Despite Sweet's formidable reputation and the physically-taxing journeys from Glasgow to England, Gullan, 10 accompanied by her brother, traveled by train to attend her lessons. To please her father, they had to travel all night through the English and Scottish countryside in order to arrive in time to fill the family pew at the Augustine Church on Sunday morning. Marjorie Gullan also took elocution lessons from Mr. Harrower in Glasgow during the early 1900's. Harrower, a "very correct literary man who was grooming himself for the 'chair' of speech," taught private and group elocution lessons. Gullan's association with Harrower was short-lived, since Harrower did not believe that Gullan possessed abundant talent as a performer. Hilda Black, a student of Gullan during the 1920's, recalled: My mother and Miss Gullan were pupils of Harrower. My mother said, as I remember, that Marjorie Gullan was no use as a performer. She overdid everything. She never worked with Harrower at recitals for that reason.37 Undeterred by Harrower's doubts about her abilities, Marjorie Gullan announced on August 31, 1900, in the Glasgow Herald that she would instruct group and private classes in elocution. With this simple advertisement Gullan embarked on a professional career lasting over fifty years and influencing speech training on four continents. D. Marjorie Gullan, Speech Teacher Gullan's first elocution students came to her home at 97 Albert R o a d , ^ or if desired, she would go out to the mansions in Glasgow to teach the daughters of affluent 11 40 families in their residences. As early as 1902, Gillian and her students were available for readings at public concerts, private home gatherings, or parties, providing either complete recitals or selected sketches for entertain ment.4Î n 1904 Gullan established her "School of Elocution" 42 upstairs in Albany Chambers at 534 Sauchiehall Street in 43 Glasgow. By 1906 the school, now called "The School of Elocution and Physical Culture," was sufficiently popular that she could expand the course offerings and hire -assistants to help her teach the increased number of students.44 The name of the school was changed in 1909 to the ' ' West-End School of Elocution and Dramatic Art," and Gullan advertised that the "study texts" for that year would include Charles Reade's two-act comedy entitled Masks and Faces.4Î mmediately after the declaration of the first World War in August of 1914, Gullan raised money for war funds by organizing public recitals and performances in hospitals and convalescent homes in which her students would perform.4 fter the war, Gullan's school continued to flourish. The institution had grown during its first sixteen years of existence, and by 1920 courses included special instruction for teachers, children's classes, fencing, free movement, and acting.4Ĥ ilda Black, a student of Gullan's at the school during the post-war period, attended classes in vocal production and free movement. Black recalled: 'It must have a good story running through it,' said Millie. 'And it must have enough people in it.' 'Why?' 'To make the talk interesting,' I was told. 'And the people must do things as well as say things,' said someone else. After the stories were gathered, each girl told her tale to the class, and Gullan shared a story entitled "Goblin Market." Then, eager to test the children's dramatic sense, she urged the class to evaluate each tale in light of the requirements for an exciting play that they had already established. Gullan describes the class session as follows: 'What does Pandora say after her little companion leaves her and she is alone with the box?' 'She doesn't say anything. She just longs to open the box.' 'Is there anyone for her to talk to about it?' I pursued. 'No. ' 'Is there any excitement?' 'Yes, once, when the spirits come out of the box. But it is dull the rest of the time, because you can't hear her thinking!' volunteered a voice. 'Then,' I said, 'if we look at our four requirements we shall find that it does not fit any of them!1 After this process of elimination, the only stories remaining that provided the proper mixture of excitement, action, and opportunities for characterization were "Goblin Market" and "Lord Ullin's Daughter." Both stories were accepted by the class as suitable choices for "dramatisation." They later decided to begin with "Goblin Market" as their first play because of the great flexibility the story offered in casting. During the rest of the class period, Gullan required the children to describe the essential action that 16 must take place for the story to advance. Gullan reported the children's suggestions: 'In a glen, beside a stream,' 'Laura and Lizzie are sitting among the rushes,' 'Suddenly, breaking the silence, there is a weird cry,' 'Come buy, come, buy,' were some of the suggestions which came from the class. 'Anything else?' I asked. 'Yes, the goblins are coming on from behind!' 'I like Mollie's idea of the silence before the goblins' cry is heard. A silence is sometimes more exciting than a noise, especially when we know something is going to happen!' During the next lesson Gullan began the process of adapting the story. When she asked the children if they could remember the details of the narrative, she was pleased to find that the children could fully describe the plot and setting. In fact, the note-taking process had "enabled them to visualize the story" in great detail. Gullan then led the children through the adaptation process. Following Gullan's careful suggestions, the class transformed the rambling narrative into three scenes by telescoping much of the action and eliminating non-essential characters and repetitious events. After the narrative was adapted, Gullan appointed one child to be the director "on the understanding that everyone should help when called for." By asking appropriate questions, Gullan helped the children visualize the stage action in the proper setting: 'Where are Laura and Lizzie to sit, and where are the goblins to come on?' 'Where is the audience, and where does the stage face?' were some of the questions I asked the producer. There was a good deal of discussion as to whether the stream should run from left to right, or
doi:10.31390/gradschool_disstheses.3908 fatcat:henrjjanjjbqha267kzdm34qba