The New Blue Plaque and the play Ruby!

Discussion about Ruby Murray.
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Gerald Lawrence
Posts: 688
Joined: Sat Feb 12, 2005 2:48 am
Location: Kenilworth, UK

The New Blue Plaque and the play Ruby!

Post by Gerald Lawrence »

On Friday 15th February 2019 I visited Belfast to represent the UK Ruby fans at these two special events.

After years of pressure and effort by Bernie and Michael Cameron, the Ulster History Circle managed to secure funding from the Belfast City Council to erect a Blue Plaque in remembrance of the amazing achievements of a local girl. The plaque is placed on the wall of number 337 Donegall Road, which is where The Greater Village Regeneration Trust is located. This is a charity organisation which looks after the people living in the same area where Ruby used to live. As neither of the two homes in Moltke Street and Benburb Street where she lived is still standing, the Ulster History Circle decided to place the plaque in the Donegall Road and indeed this is quite a busy road so it should be noticed by lots of passers by.

Tim and Julie (Ruby and Bernie's son and daughter) were there and shared the honours of unveiling the plaque by each pulling on a draw cord. Tim also made a short speech to the many onlookers who had gathered there for the event. After the short ceremony, we were invited into a room where refreshments were served. We were entertained by Duke Special, who as a Belfast singer has performed several of Ruby's songs in his act. He sang and played the keyboard, and some films were shown of Ruby herself singing and talking. Also included that afternoon were various tributes given to Ruby's life.

This plaque is in addition to the one unveiled several years ago outside the Ulster Hall, and which is now located inside for better protection. I think there cannot be too many people from Belfast who have the honour of both a brown plaque and a blue plaque in the city!

I was then invited by Michael Cameron to join him at a matinée performance of the play he has scripted, which was currently running at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. As all the evening performances had sold out soon after opening day, extra matinée performances were added to cater for the demand. I have to say that there was not a spare seat at the one which I was fortunate to attend. The play is a one act, one actress monologue with Ruby played by Libby Smyth, and her words are interspersed with extracts from Ruby's most famous records. Libby gives a powerful, dramatic performance of the events in Ruby's life, both happy and tragic ones. I was told in advance that the play starts with Ruby near the sad end of her life, sitting in the nursing home waiting for Bernie to visit her. I will admit to not being too enthusiastic at the thought of this! However, very soon Libby starts relating the events of Ruby's life, thankfully in the order in which they occurred, as Ruby remembers her life. When they are happy events, Libby plays a happy person, and when they are sad she acts accordingly. The music in a very subtle fashion echoes the story at the moment, for example the meeting with Bernie is followed by a short extract of Ruby singing Mr Wonderful. Libby does not attempt to impersonate Ruby in speaking and does not attempt to sing her songs. Of course we all realised that the play is a drama not a documentary, so the words she speaks are those which Ruby is likely to have spoken given the events that were happening at the time. But they are fashioned in a brilliant way which serves to portray all the ups and downs in our dear Ruby's life.

I was very moved by the performance, which lasts over an hour with no interval. Afterwards I was able to speak with Michael and with Libby and they were so pleased that someone other than family or local people had been able to attend the day's events. Michael has been to most if not all of the performances, and he felt that the audience of that Friday afternoon was the most understanding he had seen, getting all the humour and then falling silent as the words told of a tragic moment.

I wish to record here my very grateful thanks to Michael Cameron for not only doing what he has done in a careful and sensitive way, and for giving the public the opportunity to recognise Ruby's achievements, but also for the kind way he looked after me during my short visit to Belfast.

I have used the opportunity of this visit to introduce a change of Home Page to this website. The basis of it has been seen before, when Bernie kindly gave me some transparencies he had found, taken when Ruby was having a holiday in the South of France. To this I have added the scan of the programme for the play, and a photograph I took after the Blue Plaque had been unveiled. I also have some video taken, and given time I may be able to put some of this into our library to give a better idea of how the unveiling went.

Posts: 113
Joined: Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:09 am

Re: The New Blue Plaque and the play Ruby!

Post by 1952mgyb »

Brilliant review

Bernie Burgess
Posts: 1051
Joined: Sun Feb 13, 2005 12:45 am
Location: Sutton Coldfield

Re: The New Blue Plaque and the play Ruby!

Post by Bernie Burgess »

I sent an email to Graham Bunn ( a Ruby Murray fan from the outset).in which I go into detail about the play, and the gathering before and after the show. For those fans who would like to know about the details I will upload a copy of my description. . .

ABOUT THE PLAY - 'RUBY'. . . . . Michael Cameron - a Belfast Writer- came to Sutton Coldfield to meet me. He told me that he had read my book 3 times and that it inspired him to try to get finance to make a documentary - or a film. When he struggled to raise finance he decided to write a play. He came to Sutton Coldfield twice armed with a tape recorder and taped a huge number of stories that l related to him with facts, figures, dates, places. He took away an enormous amount of material and he then started to write a play. He sent me loads of 'drafts' for me to read. The drafts kept coming and he asked me for comments. I did offer a few suggestions. At this stage he contacted a well known figure in Belfast - Sam MacCready, a man who was immersed in theatre business in Belfast and he also had considerable influence in the theatre world. . Sam liked the idea and wanted to Direct the play when it was completed. Sam divided his time between Belfast and Baltimore in America. Sadly, soon after he was taken ill in Baltimore and very soon he sadly passed away.. Belfast seems to have a wealth of Producers and Directors and one stepped forward to Direct the play. His name is Richard Orr, he has a wealth of experience in both Theatre and Television. Michael contacted me to tell me that it was decided - perhaps by Sam MacCready- that it should be a one act play with one actress playing the role as Ruby. A 'Reading' was arranged in Belfast and an actress, Libby Smyth, was chosen and she did the 'Reading'. Michael telephoned me to tell me that the actress received a standing ovation at the end of the 'Reading'.

At this time I couldn't see how the Ruby Murray Story, which in my opinion is an enormous story, could be told in a one act play with just one actress playing the role as Ruby but I went along with his ideas., A Theatre was booked and an opening date was set. At this time I was on my Winter Break in Spain. Michael asked if I would be present and be his 'Guest' at the opening night and I confirmed that I would fly from Malaga to Belfast. Gerald also arranged flights to enable him to see the play. Prior to seeing the play he went along to the unveiling of the Blue Plaque and represented the fans who were unable to be present at the unveiling.

I arrived at the Lyric Theatre and was directed to a gathering in a foyer area where a crowd were waiting to go into the auditorium.I was introduced to many local Belfast people. At show time I was directed to a seat just 3 rows back from the stage.. The show opened with a scene that was supposedly Ruby's bedroom in the Nursing Home.when she was at the end of her life On stage was a solitary armchair and Libby Smyth was discovered on stage seated in the armchair. As the show progressed I became enthralled by Libby's Portrayal as Ruby, she was acting BRILLIANTLY. I followed the plot as best as I could, with my hearing problems, and to my amazement, despite my doubts about a one act play with one actress playing the role as Ruby, it was all working out wonderfully well. At the end of the play the audience stood up and gave the show and Libby Smyth a justifiable standing ovation

In conclusion I must add that only a small part of Ruby's life was portrayed in the play so perhaps there might still be a possibility in future that maybe a documentary or a film of The Ruby Murray Story might still be told in full. If so, it would be wonderful if Richard Orr could Direct it. In my opinion the show was enhanced tremendously when he was engaged to Direct. As Director he carried out some editing and added some of his own ideas which transformed the entire show, he did a tremendous job of Directing. I can't praise him enough because in my opinion the entire show took on a different look when he arrived on the scene. At the end of the night it was obvious that Michael Cameron had a 'HIT' on his hands.

All praise must go to Libby Smyth, she was on stage alone for well over an hour and she acted briliantly. She came and sorted me out from the crowd after the show and this gave me the opportunity to praise her personally.

My very best wishes . . . . Bernie.


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