27 Nov

Fascinating Characters and Biographies.

Archive, Norman Mowatt








From the first moments we started looking through the Picture House archive it was clear that people and their stories were the main thing that caught the interest of many members of the group of volunteer archivists. The share certificates book, the share ledger, accounts books, and newspaper adverts and articles have all inspired. Given the level of interest in people, their life stories, and the social history that would emerge we decided early on to compile some biographies including the original directors, early shareholders, and then expanding that list to include the characters who came to Campbeltown to perform before a permanent cinema was established.

In several of the published blog articles you may have read about some of the people we have researched. In this article I thought it might be an idea to show a researched biography document and at the same time share the story of another fascinating character in the history of performers who came to Campbeltown and who featured largely in the early days of cinema too. When I saw this particular advert from the Campbeltown Courier I had no idea what a famous person and interesting life story I would find when I researched Prince Bendon…

Biography File: People of Campbeltown Picture House

Full Name

William John Turpin

Maiden name / other names

Prince Bendon

Birth date


Birth place: Stoke Damerel, Devon, England

Death date

13th December 1943

Death place: Glasgow

Father’s full name

Samuel John Turpin (Blacksmith)

Mother’s full name
(maiden name in brackets)

Elizabeth Ann Turpin (Niles)


Mary Craig (born 1860 Glasgow)


Wiliam Turpin b 1888 England

Samuel Turpin b 1889 Govan

Elizabeth Turpin b 1891 Glasgow

Places of residence

Stoke Damerel, Devon, England

3 Burndyke Street, Govan, Glasgow

Crown Street, Govan, Glasgow

1 Battlefield Crescent, Glasgow

Occupation history

Joiner – Glasgow

Ventriloquist – Touring Company

Bioscope – Touring Company

Film Maker and Renter – Glasgow

Relationship with Picture House / Rex Cinema

Campbeltown Courier 1908_09_19 advert

Victoria Halls. Prince Bendon’s High Class Bioscope and Touring Company

Life story in a paragraph (summary of above)

William John Turpin, ake Prince Bendon lived in Devon, England before his family moved to Glasgow in 1871. A gifted ventriloquist, he took to the stage during the 1880s. Using the stage name “Prince Bendon”, he toured the concert and music halls often appearing in programmes with some of Scotland’s best known entertainers such as Sir Harry Lauder, W.F. Frame and J.M. Hamilton. Bendon was intrigued by all things mechanical and even made his own ventriloquist dolls which enthralled audiences by winking and smoking cigarettes.

After travelling to London in 1897 to make inquiries about the cinematograph Bendon introduced “Bendon’s Bioscope”, a series of half hour animated picture shows into his concert programme. Although known to have made films to incorporate into his act, it was in film renting that Bendon became most influential. At this time exhibitors had to either buy or produce their own films for show. With rising costs due to the increasing length of films, Bendon saw an opening in the market and established the first renting company in Scotland. The Bendon Trading Company advertised itself as “Kinematograph Specialisers, Film Publishers and General Traders.”

Both George Green and J.J. Bennell hired from Bendon before setting up their own renting services. Much of Bendon’s business was based around American imported films and he often secured films for screening in Scotland before their London premieres. One such film Tragedy in Toyland led the various English agencies of the four major transatlantic renting companies, Selig, Essannay, Biograph and Lubin to accuse Bendon of duping films. The case against Bendon was ill founded when after a long-winded battle and scientific investigation it was proved that Bendon’s copy of the film had been processed in the same bath as the other American copies. It turned out that Bendon’s suppliers in America often sent film as part payment. Besides renting, Bendon did produce films such as the promotional Peacemaker Whisky and a topical film in 1909 of Wishaw Co-operative Society’s Gala Day.

A year later in 1910, Bendon founded Scotland’s first film studio at Rouken Glen, based in a disused tramway depot. The studio’s first two films were unsuccessful, but in 1911 the three reeler Rob Roy, starring the well known tenor John Clyde was made there. In 1919, a transport workers strike meant that film renters had to make alternative arrangements to get their films to exhibitors across Scotland. As a result of the camaraderie of the various renters and exhibitors during the strike Bendon suggested the establishment of the Glasgow Cinema Club – the first of its kind in Britain. Bendon was elected, as it’s first President in 1919. In 1923 he became the Honorary Life President following the death of J.J. Bennell, the club’s first Honorary President.

Bendon retired in 1937 and his sons Bill and Sam took over the running of the business. The company was bought over by United Artists, Bill junior being installed as manager. Bendon was active in pursuits outside cinema, especially cycling and motor boat racing on Loch Lomond, where he was a member of the Scottish Motor Boat Racing Club and the A.A.A. He was also President of the Royal Clyde Motor Yacht Club and of the Scottish Kinematograph Renters Society. A respected and much hailed contributor to Scottish film exhibition Bendon died at his home in Glasgow, aged 83 on 13 December 1943.


Researcher: Eamonn Butler

National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive


Contact with family established (details)?


External source references (e.g. census, BMD, valuation rolls, probate index, wills, parish records etc.) include ref. numbers

England and Wales Birth Registration Index –

Volume 5B, Page 287 Line Number 38

Scotland’s People – deaths (WJF ref 644/18 851, MCT ref 644/24 792)

William John Turpin’s death certificate in folder

Census returns 1871 to 1911 (1871 to 1901 in folder)

1911 census Ref 560/ 8/ 1

National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive


CPH archive or object collection reference

Campbeltown Courier 1908_09_19 advert

Victoria Halls. Prince Bendon’s High Class Bioscope and Touring Company

Other notes

Lived in Devon before his family moved to Glasgow in 1871. Using the stage name of Prince Bendon, he began as a ventriloquist touring with such luminaries as Harry Lauder and W.F. Frame. Introduced ‘Bendon’s Bisocope’ to his shows as early as 1897, and by 1905 he was billed as ‘Bendon’s Animated Pictures and Grand Ventriloquial Concert Party’. He became a pioneer of film renting and, before they became major renters themselves, both George Green and J.J. Bennell originally rented their films from the Bendon Trading Company, advertising itself as “Kinematograph Specialisers, Film Publishers and General Trader”. Bendon suggested the formation of the Glasgow Cinema Club, and became its first president in 1919. Bendon retired in 1937 and his company was eventually bought over by United Artists.

http://earlycinema.gla.ac.uk/person/53/William \’Prince\’ Bendon

The Sunday Post, September 16th, 1928

Read These Racy Recollections of Prince Bendon, Man of Many Talents

The Life Story of a Scottish Variety Star – by Prince Bendon

from a boxout …

Today Prince Bendon has much that is interesting and amusing to tell regarding Glasgow’s old music halls.

He pawkily describes some of the organisers of the one time famed “soiree, concert, and ball”, and gives a graphic description of a Spiritualistic seance at Govan in which he took the part of meduim.

From a series of feature articles in the Sunday Post.


Norman Mowatt

Creation Date: 29th May 2017

Updated: 4th July 2017

3 pages

1.) Prince Bendon’s High Class Bioscope (19th September 1908) © Campbeltown Courier

2.) Prince Bendon portrait © National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive

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