Has Andrew Knox cast a shadow on Bill Waters?

Bill Waters has a look at the portrait of Andrew Knox in Prehen House
Bill Waters has a look at the portrait of Andrew Knox in Prehen House

He’s the great Scot who’s not afraid to don tights for a leading role on the stage.

And that’s not all Bill Waters is prepared to do.

He’s had a few spooky encounters since playing the role of Andrew Knox in Stan McGowan’s true life tale ‘The Wood of the Crows.’

And, as Bill prepares for the opening night of the play on Tuesday - he wonders if the great Knox family are looking down on

the cast after a creepy shadow was found across picture of Bill taken at Prehen House.

It’s a far cry from the days when Bill worked the length and breadth of Scotland as a sales director for a drinks company.

However life was to change forever two years ago when Bill was made redundant and decide to moved to Derry to be with fiancee Sharon Morgan - who he met while volunteering in Lourdes.

But his stage career had started years before then when he volunteered as a set designer for the Woodland Players.

“The director asked me to read for a role,” he explained. “When they offered me the part I refused explaining I’d only come along with a hammer and paintbrush to do my bit.

“But they talked me into it and I took a role in the ‘Chorus of Disapproval’ and then JB Priestly’s ‘When we are married.’ It was then I got that first buzz on stage, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. If I could bottle that feeling ....”

Bill’s first step on to the local acting stage came when he went for an audition at panto.

“I can sing ok, but my problem is I’ve got three left feet,” he explained. “I did get to sing ‘Master of the House’ though. I love Les Miserables and have seen it 63 times. It didn’t matter that I didn’t get the part. I had fulfilled a lifetime achievement singing that on stage and could have died happy that day.”

What did happen that day is that Bill Waters met local director Jonathan Burgess.

“I got the role of the fat man in the first Maiden City festival and then the stonemason in Noose or Necklace. I then went on the History Boys where we received two standing ovations.

“It was during rehearsals that I heard about the Wood of the Crows and decided to audition. It was there I met Stan McGowan. After a month I hadn’t heard anything, I thought I had no chance. I decided that even if I didn’t get a role I would do anything to work with Stan, He’s such a perfectionist who has worked with the likes of John Hurt. And it was one day when I was standing in the wings that Pauline Ross came and told me I’d got the part of Andrew Knox.

“I’d been intrigued with the McNaghten story since I saw a programme on telly about Northern Ireland’s Greatest Haunts where they believed they had recorded Andrew Knox’s voice. When I moved here I knew that Prehen House was near but was never quite sure where. The first time I went was when the cast did a site visit.

“We took a tour of the room and quietly I asked Knox for his help. In Prehen House they have some sketches of the Knoxes but only one portrait - of Andrew. One of the girls took a picture of me looking at the portrait and a shadow fell over it. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. There was a feeling about the place. There’s even talk of me staying the night there.”

For the role of Andrew, Bill will be sporting a wig, tights and an outfit he likens to his granny’s curtains.

He says his hair longer now than it was when he was 14 adding that the Playhouse’s Pauline Ross shook her head disapprovingly as his pony tail which he’d grown specially for the role and insisted he wore a wig saying; “Bill - you’re playing an MP, not a rock star.”

“The show opens on Tuesday night - and Bill says he’ll be shaking like a leaf.

“It’ll be a great buzz,” he says.

For his next role Bill will finally be able to put his Scottish accent which is fiercely proud of, to good use.

“I had always dreamed of playing Braveheart or Rob Roy,” he said, “But guess what - I’ve got the role of Shrek in the Ness Santa trail - I can’t wait!

The Wood of the Crows runs next week from Tuesday to Friday at the Playhouse - tickets are available by ringing 028 71268027