Rita enjoys tour of King's Theatre where parents met in 1916

IT has been more than 100 years since Rita's mother danced on its stage, dazzling the audience so much that her future husband fell in love with her on the spot.

Tuesday, 16th January 2018, 10:31 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th January 2018, 10:57 am
Rita Campling sitting in her dedicated seat at the King's Theatre

Now 90-year-old Rita Campling has made a special pilgrimage to the Capital’s King’s Theatre to see for herself the exact place where her mother performed all the way back during the First World 
War.

Louisa Johanna Conlin – who danced under the name of Peggy Lang – took to the stage in 1916 after her family moved from Germany to live in 
Edinburgh.

It was around the same time that John Wells – known to family and friends as Dan – visited the city during his breaks from military duty and when he saw Peggy on stage, it was love at first sight.

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Rita on the stage at the King's. Picture: Alistair Linford

The pair went on to marry and the rest, as they say, is 
history – so much so that with the passing of time the start of their romantic story gradually faded into the distance.

Little could the couple have known that more than a century later it would be brought back to life following a chance decision by their great grandson to move to Edinburgh.

While Sam Parfitt knew his family had history in the Capital, it was only after he spoke about the city to Rita – known to her family members as Grangran – that her parents’ touching story came to light.

Sam, 27, had moved to the Capital to embark on a Masters and said he was amazed when he discovered his links to the theatre – especially given he was at one stage passing it every day on the bus.

Louisa Johanna Conlin

And thanks to his recent Edinburgh nuptials with new wife Cloie, he was able to help arrange a very special visit to show Rita exactly where her parents were brought together.

With the help of the King’s Theatre team, Rita was given her very own tour of the historic venue, which dates back to 1906 when it was built as a rival to the Royal Lyceum.

Rita, who now lives in Norfolk, said it had been “amazing” to see the theatre, adding it had been even better than she expected.

Meanwhile Sam, who was joined at the venue by his wife Cloie, mum Imogen and twin sister Georgina, said it had been “fantastic” to give his grandma the chance to have a first-hand look at her parents’ past.

Rita sitting in her dedicated seat, with Sam and Cloie Parfitt on left, his mum Imogen and sister Georgina Parfitt behind with chief exec Duncan Hendry

He said: “It was really amazing when I realised. When I was about to go to Edinburgh I told Grangran and she mentioned the King’s Theatre.

“I told her I pass it every day for work so it was really cool. I’d always look out of the bus and think what that meant and how I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the building.

“It’s fantastic – Grangran means so much to us. We have so many amazing memories, we are just very close so it’s really lovely to be able to do something for her because she’s done so much for us.

“I’m a big history buff and I really enjoy thinking about what things were like then, the fact they would have met with such extreme events going on and the fact that there’s some sort of solid place that we can go and see that even today is pretty amazing.

Rita on the stage at the King's. Picture: Alistair Linford

“The last year or two have been quite difficult so this is really quite an important thing for her to do.”

The visit also gave Rita and her family the chance to see a special seat dedication, which they gave her last June as a 90th birthday present.

The dedication, which can be found on seat N30 in the stalls, reads: “Celebrating Rita’s 90th: Where John Wells watched ‘Peggy Lang’ during WWI.”

Chief executive Duncan Hendry said the theatre was delighted Rita had been able to make the pilgrimage and see the stage where her mother performed.

He said: “It’s wonderful 
stories like this that make the King’s such a special place in people’s hearts. We’re working towards a major renovation project at the King’s that will preserve the King’s for generations to come, so as part of that project, it’s important for us to capture these stories and the happy memories people have of the King’s.”

Louisa Johanna Conlin
Rita sitting in her dedicated seat, with Sam and Cloie Parfitt on left, his mum Imogen and sister Georgina Parfitt behind with chief exec Duncan Hendry