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VIDEO: Play premiere celebrates unsung ‘local hero’

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale

A NEW play, outlining the 'amazing' life of a 'local hero,' could help see him emerge from the twilight zone of Scottish history.

Playwright, actor, producer and academic Dave Dewar will be bringing his Argyll-based Cultural Connections theatre group for two performances as part of Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival.

BANKER hero BA 2

Mr Dewar, who lives near Dunoon and has been researching the play since last year, expressed surprise at the lack of awareness about Duncan and his contribution in his home country.

He said: “I learned how he founded the first savings bank during a chance holiday visit with my wife to the museum at Ruthwell but when I’ve delved more into his life-story I soon realised what an incredible person he was and how much more he achieved.

“I was surprised Henry Duncan had never been the subject of a play before. He had packed a great deal into his life and contributed so much to helping poor people improve their lot in this country and beyond.”

Mr Dewar — pictured at the Ruthwell Cross — expressed the hope that the play, together with the TSB Bank, which is promoting historical links with the first savings bank, will help Duncan emerge from the shadows of history.

The production, entitled ‘The Banker who Cared,’ reveals that £10 was required in 1810 to open an account with major banks which was impossible for poor people.

His village savings bank, established that year, required only six pence to open an account and paid four-per-cent interest. It was immediately popular heralding the global savings bank movement.

GLOBAL PIONEER . . . Rev. Dr. Henry Duncan

But Duncan — pictured — was far more than a clergyman and a banker. He was also a social reformer, writer, artist, geologist, philanthropist, founder of two newspapers including the Dumfries and Galloway Courier, forerunner of today’s Courier, and restorer of the historic Ruthwell Cross.

He was also involved towards the end of his life in one of the most traumatic, and dramatic, chapters of Church of Scotland history when there was a major split, dubbed ‘the Disruption,’ which created the breakaway Free Church of Scotland.

A cast of four professional actors and musicians will play Duncan,  his wife and other parts in the production, which includes original accompanying music.

The premiere will be at Ruthwell Kirk next Thursday evening, May 26, and The Catstrand Art Centre, New Galloway, the following evening. Two further performances have been arranged at Innellan Hall, near Dunoon, on Thursday June 2 and Loudoun Hall, Ayr on June 3.


HISTORIC . . .  Ruthwell Parish Church



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