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1936: The Mercators are born... or how the maidens went looking for men

During the early 1930's, a drama group for former pupils of Mary Erskine School for Girls in Edinburgh performed various plays. Mary Erskine was one of four fee-paying schools run by the Merchant Company of Edinburgh - a wealthy organisation of merchants, bankers and businessmen.  
The Merchant Maidens drama group entered plays in the annual competitive drama festival run by the Scottish Community Drama Association. After being criticised by one adjudicator for "extending into adult life the common school practice of casting women in men's parts", they invited former pupils of other Merchant Company schools to join them, especially gentlemen from the boys' colleges!
Thus the Mercators were founded in the autumn of 1936. The name "Mercator" is the Latin for a Merchant and the club's logo (Left) came from our link with the Merchant Company - historically a company that traded worldwide in sailing ships.
The new club gave their first public performance in the hall of George Watson's Boys' College (described as "an intimidating cavern that could seat a thousand schoolboys") on the 11th of March, 1937 with performances of two plays; a curtain-raiser comedy (as was the fashion on those days) Heaven on Earth by Philip Johnson, followed by a three act comedy She Passed Through Lorraine by Lionel Hale.(see newspaper photo). In January of the following year, they returned to George Watson's College with a production of Dodie Smith's comedy, Call it a Day, then moved to the Mary Erskine School Hall in Queen Street in April to present a programme of four one act plays, a formula repeated in December with another four one act plays.        

Despite the dark clouds hanging over Europe, 1939 began with the club's first entry into the Edinburgh round of the SCDA One Act Festival. In those halcyon days, the festival had 21 entries playing over 7 nights, whereas the present Edinburgh round struggles to fill three nights!  In March they returned to George Watson's College to perform another double bill of curtain raiser followed by a three act play, Noël Coward's Hay Fever. But future plans by the Mercators were dramatically changed by events elsewhere on the world stage...

Mercators Logo Newspaper photo of 1937 production

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