Sharing memories from her 30 years as Wardrobe Mistress at the Dragon, Sarah McClelland (née Plummer) (OD 1967, Current Staff), with the help of Gay Sturt, Archivist, bringing her words to life with photos from Dragon days gone by.
Days in the Dungeon
Sarah McClelland (née Plummer), Dragon Wardrobe
I was born in No 6 Bardwell Road and was the fourth member of the Plummer family to become a Dragon. I was lucky as my parents, running this Boarding House, had a passion for theatre. My father was an expert in transforming faces into characters, and so, as I grew up, I began to help him. Gilbert & Sullivan’s musicals were very popular and complemented the Shakespeare that Skipper had made the focus of the Dragon drama repertoire. I particularly remember the 1966 ‘HMS Pinafore’ performance when I was also on stage.
By 1986, Peter, my husband, and I were running our own Boarding House, No 28 Bardwell Road, and I became a part of the make-up team for the plays.
Down some steps beneath the Lynam Hall is the Dungeon where costumes made in-House were stored with some basic props which remain still to this day. In Skipper’s time, the costumes were hired along with the wigs to turn boys into long-haired girls.
From 1998 I took on the wardrobe of costumes; under the direction of several talented and enthusiastic colleagues, we created a tradition of high standards. As the pupils grew through the School, so the performances became more elaborate. Working with the costumes for a play there are often some critical moments: stitching coming undone just as the child was going on stage, or needing a safety pin or some Velcro kept in my pocket. Quick changes were often essential — the fastest one took under a minute to transform an urchin into a bride. Usually, in a cast of 70 pupils, there would be about 120 costumes prepared. Many of the children remember the ‘aroma’ down in the Dungeon … I shall certainly not forget it! Around this time, the first Staff Panto was produced. Their costumes were self-created from the Dungeon, but the staff were always far pickier than the pupils!
“A lasting memory while I was working as School Secretary, was a boy dashing into the Lodge: “Ma, please may I have the key to the Dungeon?” Naturally, the prospective parents, waiting for a tour in reception, were slightly startled. The then HM appeared to reassure them amid much laughter.”
There is a long list of actors who have taken their first steps onto a Dragon stage and they cover many genres. We believe that taking part in a play is an important part of the maturation process for children. We hope to offer such opportunities to all the pupils. Much of the background work is done by pupils, moving props, and helping with lighting and sound.
Many years full of wonderful memories of the Dungeon! Here’s to many more to be created with the dedication of staff and the support the School gives to each and every production.