It is with great sorrow that we report the death of Gordon T Blackburn, on 9 January 2017. Gordon was a stalwart of Edinburgh’s amateur theatre scene for many years, a director and back-stage guru who was generous with his time and advice.
Gordon was a long time member of the Edinburgh Gang Show, joining in 1961 and performing with such enthusiasm that he was recognised by Ralph Reader. After being appointed director in 1988 he led the Gang as AAC (Gang Show) until he was made Honorary Life President.
Gordon on the evening of the presentation of his NODA 50 year service medal in June 2016, pointing out the poster for the first show he appeared in: Cub Capers at the Edinburgh Empire.
In a life full of fun and adventure, much of it based around Scouting and the theatre. Gordon gave much of his time and energy to emerging and established theatre companies and to people involved in amateur theatre. This commitment made him the natural person to be appointed NODA Region 6 Rep and then NODA Scotland Councillor, a position of which he was extremely proud.
Gordon was born on 13 February 1948 in the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion, Edinburgh. A pupil at Leith Walk Primary he then went on Norton Park Secondary. On leaving school he gained an apprenticeship at Portobello Power Station and took his qualifications on day-release at Ramsay Technical College.
He was never married or had children but very much influenced the upbringing of his nephew Crawford, the son of his sister Moira, to whom he was very much a father figure.
Most of Gordon’s non amateur theatre time was spent reading autobiographies and watching old black and white films. But the majority of his life was spent very close to the theatre world.
Gordon’s scouting life began when he joined the the 16th Leith group as Cub and then Scout. He became an assistant leader and Akela at the 104th Inverleith. More recently he was Assistant Area Commissioner for Gang Show and received the Medal of Merit for services to Scouting.
His exploits on the stage started with Cub Capers in the old Empire Theatre, now the Festival Theatre. Too young to join the Edinburgh Gang Show in 1960, he went to see it as a young scout and joined the show the following year in 1961.
A horse and Boy Scouts trying to get in to the pass door at the back of the stage of the King’s in 1961. Gordon is in middle looking out towards camera. This was for a Holiday Camp item.
It was at this point he met one of his lifelong friends, David Clayton. In the years that followed David and Gordon worked together as a production team for many companies – including the Gang Show. In 1988 David handed the role of Director of the Edinburgh Gang Show over to Gordon. It was in that year that Gordon took the Gang to perform on the stage of the ‘World Famous’ London Palladium. In the early 1960s Gordon was described by Ralph Reader as a “A boy with Gang Show traits”.
Gordon spent many years working with the London Gang Show Fellowship to piece together the history of the London Gang Show. He spent many hours of his own time researching and restoring the many sketches and songs that Ralph wrote along with photos, press cuttings and memorabilia associated with the shows.
From the Sixties to the Eighties, Gordon was involved with the technical side of Edinburgh People’s Theatre and Edinburgh Youth Theatre. He joined the Southern Light Opera Company in 1974 as Company Stage Manager.
In his time, he directed many companies in Scotland including The Bohemians Lyric Opera Company, Stirling & Bridge of Allan Operatic Society and Dundee Operatic Society. He directed his favourite musical, Showboat, on two occasions.
Having started work as an apprentice with Portobello Power Station, Gordon soon moved to work as an electrician at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh.
Gordon was an employee of Northern Light from it’s early days in the 70s and remained with the company as Hire Manager until he retired in 2012.
Gordon T Blackburn
Born 13 February 1948, died 9 January 2017.
Our thanks to Gordon’s nephew, Crawford Moyes, for help with the facts of Gordon’s life and to Scott Walker for his help with the images.