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Johnny Bogan

The following extract is taken from a thoroughly entertaining book entitled “The Life and Times of THE BOGAN” by John Urquhart ©. It is available locally from good booksellers and in libraries.

A review on the back cover says it all.

“Johnny Bogan is a comedian of a vanishing breed, the experienced front-cloth men of the great variety era. He comes on in grossly baggy suit or in ridiculously short kilt and delivers gag routines of topical Highland hue in a perfectly timed slow and gentle way and the lilting accent of the Highlander, one of the purest English speech forms. He is marvellously effective and funny and so easily understood”.


In his book he talks with affection about the Highland Cabaret.


“I joined a show called the Highland Cabaret which was every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from May till the end of September. The manager of the Strathpeffer pavilion at that time was Steve Shepherd and he was the one who came up with the idea to put a show on for the tourist. To begin with the audiences were quite small and depended on the people staying in the hotels but gradually the locals got to hear about it and started to bring their friends along who were on holiday.  In the beginning we had a catwalk stage which I loved, it brought you right in amongst the audience but as more people came crowding in the catwalk had to go to make room for more seats. The show was pure undiluted Highland entertainment, bright and colourful and fast moving, good Scottish songs, the best of Scottish Dance music, Highland dancing accompanied by the piper, it had everything for the tourist. Was it a success? I was there eighteen years. I’ve been asked many times if the same style of show would be successful today, yes it would, what’s wrong with singing our own Scottish songs, dancing our own dances, playing our own Scottish dance music, having a laugh at good Highland humour, and what’s wrong with wearing the Highland dress, after all we are Scots, and should be proud of it”.


John goes on to add a comment, or two, about the dances on Friday and Saturday nights.

“At that time the Strathpeffer Pavilion was the mecca of entertainment in the north, buses brought people from all over the north to the dances in the Pavilion on a Friday night. You either danced or got drunk, getting drunk wasn’t too difficult, the drams were all poured out ready in those small glasses leaving no room for water or lemonade. What kind of whisky? I don’t think anyone knew or cared. It wasn’t unusual to meet somebody next day who was limping or with an arm in a sling, only to be told they fell down the steps in front of the Pavilion. Finding your bus to take you home at the end of the dance could be tricky if you had a few drams, for all the buses looked the same when you have a drink in, and there were plenty to choose from. There could be up to ten buses waiting to take the dancers home, it was not unusual for somebody going to Inverness to end up in Tain. There was one bus that everyone went on at some time, and that was Archie’s bus. His bus did the run to the Black-Isle and as his bus was the last to leave every straggler in the place climbed on board the already crowded bus. If you happened to be going to Dingwall and you were buried amongst the bodies in the back of the bus, you would be lucky if you got off the bus four miles past your stop. With people hanging out the door and with very little room for Archie to change gear, he would set off down the Strath road, occasionally stopping not to let people off but to pick someone up who was thumbing a lift.

Packed in like herring in a barrel there was never any trouble, the only fighting was the lassies fighting off the boys. The big attraction of the dances in Strathpeffer were all the well known Scottish Dance bands who played there, Jack Forsyth’s Band, Hawthorn Accordion Band, Jim Cameron’s Scottish Dance Band, just three of the many bands that attracted up to a thousand dancers to the Strath on a Friday night. When their popularity started to fade the Irish Show Bands took their place, and they were every bit as popular as the Scottish dance bands”.

A year before he died in 2006 John's efforts in entertaining generations of Highlanders were recognised when he was named Citizen of the Year at the Ross and Cromarty Community Awards.