Memories flood back for Selkirk veteran Agnes

Agnes Mitchell with medal for 55 years service to Selkirk Amateur Operatic Society.
Agnes Mitchell with medal for 55 years service to Selkirk Amateur Operatic Society.

SELKIRK Operatic Society has honoured Agnes Mitchell, who, along with husband David, have provided more than 100 years of service to the company.

Agnes received an award from the National Operatic and Dramatic Association for 55 years as part of the society, while David has spent 47 years taking photographs and video footage.

“I always loved music and was part of the St Mary’s Church choir,” said Agnes, 74.

As a result, the Souter joined the opera in 1956 and made her debut on stage at the age of 18 the following year as a leading dancer in Annie Get Your Gun.

Agnes told us: “It was very strict at the beginning – if you did not attend rehearsals three times you were told not to come back.

“Back then you had to audition for dancing and singing, and we had professional directors from Edinburgh come down, such as Callum Mills and Teddy Horton.”

Agnes was soon to enjoy one of her operatic society highlights when the Duchess of Buccleuch was introduced to her after Agnes’s performance as a leading dancer in South Pacific in 1959.

While mainly known for her dancing skills, Agnes has also been Fluma Sarah in Fiddler on the Roof and Nanny in Bless The Bride, and contributed to other memorable shows.

She said: “I played Gladys in The Pyjama Game in 1978.

“I was dancing with slippers on, and when I performed a kick one of them flew into the third row.

“The hall was in stitches before the slipper was thrown back on stage.

“I remember in 1980 I was Gretchen opposite Graham Coulson in White Horse Inn and I had to speak with a lisp – I was quite good at it.”

She also fondly recalls appearing on stage beside daughter Karen D’Agrosa, who was leading lady in Oklahoma in 2005.

Karen, her husband Raymond and Agnes’ other daughter Yvonne Mitchell are opera regulars and all starred in this year’s production Me and My Girl, but husband David has only made one appearance on stage, in The King and I in 1961.

As for the future of the society, Agnes says: “We could do with more patrons to keep us going. It is so expensive to use the Victoria Halls, even though it belongs to the people of Selkirk.

“We could do with more support from the town. In Galashiels, they turn out whatever the show is, whereas it can be a bit slower in Selkirk.

“But we did have a full house last Saturday, and it was a lovely atmosphere.”

And reflecting on her award, Agnes added: “I really want to thank the committee and company for presenting me with this award.

“If there is an opera next year, I will be there.”