The character that was ‘Palace Jack’

In the early stages of my research, two characters stuck in my mind – I had met them when I was a very small child and they made an impression on me – Auntie Cath and Uncle Jack – Catherine (nee CALDER) and Jack Paterson. I tracked down most of their children OK – Irwin, Laurel, Blanche, Dennis, Jackie (M) and Marjory. Three I could not name.

It was really the father, Jack (or John as no doubt he would officially be named) that fascinated me. My mother Jean (CALDER) had told me many things and I struggled to find out more about him.

All I knew was that he ran the local cinema and was an accomplished artist who liked to create murals. He also had a Stradivarius violin which he played, sort of! He was also reportedly of Russian descent which only added to his mystique!

After posting a request for information online I found his full name was John W A Paterson and so I was able to order his death notice. Not only did Graeme Wilson, Local Heritage Officer at The Moray Council send me the notice but he went the extra mile (thanks again Graeme) and looked him up in the 18 July 1970 edition of Banffshire Herald and found the an article and poem:

‘Palace Jack’ – A grand Old Personality, Pioneer of cinema at Huntly

Mr Jack Paterson, a grand old personality known in the pioneering days of the cinema in Huntly as “Palace Jack”, and still affectionately remembered as such by many of his and later generations, has passed on.

It goes on to describe him as ‘many things besides, not least a philosopher, artist and racontuer’.

From Mr G Connell, chemist, of Duke Street, Huntly, has come this appreciation of Mr Paterson:


This was a man who had Huntly at heart

And the Little Grey Toon in his soul;

This was a man who by word and by art

Made a mountain a hill from a mole.

This was a man who cold make walls live;

By the flick of an old batter brush;

This was a man who horizons could give,

To the mob in the “Tippenny Rush”.


This was a man could connive, and convince,

That each of us was twenty feet tall;

His foresight and vision, he never would mince

Till you felt that this life was a Ball,


He’s only offstage, but I’m sure that he’ll feel

He’s only aside in the wings;

And I’m sure that by now, up there, he’ll reveal

It’s about time they were changing round things!

Having spent his life at the Palace at Huntly then at the Keith Playhouse, what changes Jack must have seen – from the pioneering days where people needed convincing of the medium’s merits to the introduction of sound then colour up to the wonders of Technicolour!

jack, agnes & cath
Jack Paterson, Agnes Calder and Cath Paterson


Calder sisters and Jack Paterson
Jack Paterson, Nan Calder, Majorie Calder, Polly Calder and Cath Calder
Huntley Picture House
Residence and picture house run by Cath Calder and Jack Paterson

Huntly Palace

2 thoughts on “The character that was ‘Palace Jack’”

  1. Hi fiona, i have come across alot of your posts as i am doing a family tree. My name is elisha paull and i live in austalia my great grandparents are catherine and john paterson. I would love to hear from you for further information 🙂


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