The demise of the Literary Society in the early 1920s didn't see the end of cultural activities in the district.
These were kept alive by informal evenings at the homes of various local people. It is more than probable that the idea to form a more formal organisation for the expression of musical, literary and dramatic art had its beginnings in these private homes, particularly that of the Parker's at Hillandale'. When in 1932, the annual festival of music and dramatic competitions, under the auspices of the South Suburban Musical and Elocutionary Society was established, Mary Knuckey (nee Parker) undoubtedly sensed the challenge these competitions could provide. Mary was a woman of exceptional musical talent and versatility with a keen desire to see cultural activities promoted and encouraged and certainly it would have seemed to her that this competitive festival would be the ideal vehicle by which the considerable talents and capabilities of Roleystone residents could be fostered and developed.
The formation of the Roleystone Choral and Dramatic Society was unquestionably due to the efforts, interest and enthusiasm of Mrs Knuckey and the South Suburban Musical and Elocutionary Society's annual festival was the catalyst; thus in October, 1933 the recently formed Roleystone Musical and Dramatic Society enthusiastically competed for the first time in the annual festival at the Public Hall at Gosnells. The young society's efforts were to meet with outstanding success despite its inexperience, much to the surprise of competitors from other participating districts.
THE FORMATIVE YEARS.During the 1930s the activities of the Roleystone Choral and Dramatic Society were to be determined in the main by the requirements of these annual festival competitions. The outbreak of World War II in 1939 brought about their curtailment. The initial success the Society had in 1933, where members managed to win 12 sections of the competitions, was to be maintained throughout the remainder of that decade. In 1934 the Society competed under a slightly altered title, the term Choral being substituted for the original Musical and during the festival, which took place on 6 nights during the period between the 19th and 27th of October, achieved considerable success. A highlight of this particular festival was winning the section "Selection from Light Opera", with a rather ambitious production of excerpts from 'H.M.S. Pinafore.
In 1937, after winning the District Choir competition for 3 consecutive years at these festivals, Roleystone was awarded permanent ownership of the prestigious R. S. Sampson cup. The Choir's training and conducting was carried out by Mary Knuckey but on occasions this duty was ably taken over by her husband Richard, of considerable musical talent too.
The running of the Society and the programmes and activities carried out were in the capable hands of Mary Knuckey but she received considerable support from her brother and sister-in-law Ted and Ivy Parker. Mary was in charge of the musical
MARY KNUCKEYFounder 1890 - 1969
Born in London, eldest daughter of Joseph and Mary Parker who settled in Roleystone in 1911. Mary was a trained teacher and in 1922 she married Richard Knuckey, local orchardist and blacksmith.
Roleystone Theatre life member, Margaret Bettenay, who herself came into the district as a young teacher in 1947 wrote the following about this exceptional woman.
'Mary Knuckey always seemed to me to be a remarkable and memorable character from the days when I first saw her tall figure striding round Roleystone and marvelled at the breadth and depth of her involvement in community affairs, to the time in later years when I came to know and respect her for her humanity and for the selflessness with which she shared her special gifts with all those who loved and appreciated music in all its forms.'
As a district music teacher she trained numerous children in a wide range of musical instruments - there were very few she could not play herself and she was always ready to teach others what she knew. She organised concerts, choirs, orchestral socials, musical evenings and surprise parties with boundless enthusiasm, played the organ at church meetings and the trombone in the Armadale Brass Band. Obvious to the whims of fashion her tall form, clad in a 'no nonsense' evening gown with the inevitable sturdy walking shoes on her feet, became a familiar figure at the South Suburban Eisteddfods where for many years she was competitor, accompaniste and choir conductor - and always she was the 'master mind' of the choral society, planning, accompanying, taking part in one entertainment after another.
In later life, when planning a new musical, she wrote the following to her niece, Verna Mundy;
'I have my doubts this will work but what does it matter so long as we are doing it ourselves, taking part, instead of being merely onlookers.'