WADDELL, Roberta Johanna (Bertha), MBE, born Uddingston 17 June 1907, died Cambuslang 17 August 1980. Theatre writer, actor, director and manager; WADDELL, Janet Jane (Jenny), born Uddingston 13 August 1905, died Uddingston 7 January 1984. Theatre director and costume designer, musical accompanist. Daughters of Jean Leadbetter Swan, primary headmistress, and John Jeffrey Waddell, architect.
The Waddell sisters' parents were profoundly interested in the arts. As youngsters, the sisters saw Anna Pavlova dance and Forbes Robertson and Ellen Terry act. Governess-educated, they learned dance, singing and piano, later attending drama and speech classes in Glasgow. Both joined local amateur companies and then the Scottish National Players. Bertha Waddell played, aged 15, a lead role at the Athenaeum in Glasgow, going on to become LRAM. Meantime, Jenny Waddell developed as a musical accompanist. Complementary talents helped them establish the first professional company specifically for children, launched in 1927 in the McLellan Galleries, Glasgow, as the Scottish Children's Theatre (later The Children's Theatre, Bertha Waddell's Children's Theatre). Positive reactions to their first performances led to their beginning to tour, initially to Bearsden, Hamilton and Stirling. Directors of Education noticed them and, beginning with Lanarkshire, they were invited to perform in schools during the day, an important recognition. In 1930, CUKT awarded them £300. Their touring developed on a seasonal basis into schools and public halls throughout Scotland and sometimes beyond. They often spoke of being invited to perform for Princesses Elizabeth and *Margaret (see Snowdon) at Glamis in 1933 and 1935 and at Buckingham Palace in 1937, and for new royal children in 1953, 1955 and 1967. The SAC supported their company, and by their retirement in 1968, which they spent in the family home near Blantyre, whole generations of Scottish children had enjoyed their work.
Bertha Waddell took the lead and, with her sister, developed a very particular style. Shows began with a sound effect and Bertha's head appearing through the curtains, announcing 'Item Number One'. Each performance comprised some dozen or more individually introduced scenes, usually based on folk tales or nursery rhymes. Some used mime or puppets, and music and song were central to the aesthetic. Design was simple, suited to touring constraints. In the 1950s, children's drama began to involve children themselves, engaging them with social and educational issues, and the Waddells' themes and modes came to seem old-fashioned. Bertha Waddell, while defending