A penny geggie, or just a geggie, was a travelling show usually held under canvas and is described in the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) as:
"A travelling theatrical show of a rather crude type, generally held in a tent; any portable theatre thrown up on a waste piece of ground”.
In the Story of the Scots Stage by R Lawson (1917) there is a reference to
“That historical institution, beloved of our Grandsires, Mumford’s Geggie ”,
which seems to suggest that by this time the geggies (or gaggies) were being viewed in an historical context.
In the following example, from A J Cronin’s Hatter’s Castle (1931), it is not clear whether the content of a particular penny geggie was bad, or if the set-up was unsanitary:
“This is the first night of Levenford Fair. I saw the start o’ the stinking geggies on my way home”.
Does the term still survive even as a collective memory? Only just. An article in the Scotsman in October 2010, discussing the origins of Will Fyffe (a comedian of the early twentieth century, whose signature song was “I belong to Glasgow”), noted that:
“… the celebrated musical hall comedian and film actor was born in the city of jam, jute and journalism in 1885 and was steeped in theatre from his earliest days, as his father ran a penny geggie or cheap touring theatre”.
This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel. Visit DSL Online at https://dsl.ac.uk.