Wed | Aug 23, 2017

A rum nephew's gift

Published:Friday | May 26, 2017 | 5:00 AM

Col Charles James Ward built and gave the Ward Theatre to the city of Kingston in 1912, custos of Kingston when he handed over the theatre to the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) for public use on December 16, 1912, Ward is the 'nephew' of the company J. Wray & Nephew, which funded the construction.

Opening two days after the handing over was the theatre's first production, Gilbert & Sullivan's comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance or The Slave of Duty. An advertisement in The Gleaner reported that it was "being placed on the Kingston stage at great labour and without regard to expense" and, in many respects, equalled the best of London theatre fare.

The third theatre to stand on the North Parade site since the 1770s, the Ward was preceded by the Kingston Theatre, which was destroyed by fire, and the Theatre Royal, which was destroyed in the 1907 earthquake.

In 1982, the KSAC closed the theatre for structural repairs and in 1986 signed a lease agreement with the then newly formed Ward Theatre Foundation for it to operate and manage the theatre for 25 years. The theatre was declared a national monument in January 2000, which mandates that it be kept in good condition.

- M. R.