Conacher Opus 1739 – Ex Regal Rotherham

Designed by Hull architects Blackmore & Sykes, Rotherham’s Regal Cinema was
built by local exhibitor Thomas Wade and became part of the County Cinemas
Circuit. An 1800+ seater, with stage, three dressing rooms and cafe/restaurant, it
opened on 22nd December 1934 with Leslie Howard in “Girls Please”. Sandy
Powell, the comedian, attended opening night.
Conacher Opus 1739, a 3/9 with Marshall & Rose Grand Piano and Illuminated
Surround, was installed on a lift in the centre of the Orchestra Pit and opened by
Thomas Dando.

As built, the organ contained the following ranks: Diapason, Violin, Violin Celeste,
Flute, Tibia Clausa, Trumpet, Tuba, Oboe and Vox Humana.
The following extracts are from the builder’s specification:

“The console to be of neat design. Keyboards to be inclined and keys covered
with super thick Ivories. Sharps of Ebony. Pedals to be of Birch, noiseless in
action, to latest radiating and concave design. Stop Keys of high grade synthetic
Ivory that will not discolour with age, coloured for different tonal effects, and
engraved with block lettering. Piston Action to be noiseless, all switches to be
accessible for easy combination changes.

Modern single-rise, tri-pallet Regulators to be used. All framework for ribs to be of
pine, a ventil to cut the wind to chests to be incorporated. Chests made of pine, of
the latest Roosevelt type with primary action, upper-boards to be bedded and
glued, gasket board hinged.

Swell Shutters of 8” pine, of graduated design allowing 16 distinct movements,
ensuring smooth crescendo and diminuendo. Centres to be of the ball thrust
bearing type.

Contacts to be of hard drawn silver. Keys and Pedals to have a silver faced
contact plate. The Main Cable from Console to Organ to be 36 gauge D.C.C.
copper wire with two wrappings of fire proof tape. Interior cables to be of waxed 28
gauge D.C.C. copper wire. All cables to be hand-spun.

Stops to be voiced to produce the tone essential in a modern Cinema Organ.
Pipes throughout to be scaled to suit the building. The Metal to be of sterling
quality, containing only pure refined English Tin and Virgin Lead.

All percussions to be of finest quality. The Snare Drum to be mounted near the
shutters. Vibraphone fans to be controlled electro-pneumatically to eliminate fire
hazards. Chrysoglott Stop to operate Vibraphone.
The wind to be provided by a Rotary Organ Blower driven by an Electric Motor
wound for the current available through direct coupling.

Along with the following guarantees, Conacher provided this for £2,112.0.0:

All parts to be fully insured against fire by the Builders whilst the organ is being
built in our factory, and also during erection in the Cinema. We hereby guarantee
that the above organ would be made of sound materials and of scientific design
throughout. Should any part or parts prove defective within five years from date of
completion we hereby offer to replace or make good such part or parts, free of
charge, damage from Fire, Water, Damp, Structural accidents, and fair wear and
tear excepted, and also provided the instrument remains in our care until the
terms of the guarantee expire.”

Once opened, the Conacher fell into routine operation with Thomas Dando
broadcasting seven times between April 1935 and February 1936. Charles
Randolph was at the console in 1939. It eventually fell into disuse but enjoyed a
renaissance in the 1980s when it was partly restored and featured in a number of
concerts. Organists included Howard Beaumont, Doreen Chadwick, Ronald
Curtis, Phil Kelsall, David Lowe, Eddie Ruhier and Geoff Stephenson, who
broadcast it on Radio Sheffield. Two compilation CDs were issued which included
tracks by Thomas Dando and John Madin and a Cassette Tape featuring David
Lowe was also produced. It was occasionally featured in Radio 2’s ‘The Organist
Entertains’ and Damon Cox has aired it in ‘The Organist Encores’.

In the early 1990s, Opus 1739 enjoyed the accolade of being the last remaining
Conacher Unit Organ in a cinema. However, that changed in 1993 when the organ
was acquired and removed to premises in Audley, near Alsager. It featured briefly
in some YouTube extracts but once again fell into disuse. At some point it lost its
Piano and Maker’s Plate.

In January 2021, Carl and the Technical Team put ‘Operation Dando’ into effect
and removed the Conacher, transporting it to safe storage at the New Forum
where it will be fully restored, having been reunited with Opus 1740 for the first
time since leaving Springwood Works almost 90 years ago.

As for the cinema, in 1946 County was absorbed into the Odeon circuit and the
Regal was re-named. It was sold by Rank to an independent operator in 1975 and
renamed Scala by 1981, using the circle only. It closed on 23rd September 1983,
with the film “Porky’s”, to become a bingo hall, initially named Ritz, but now
Mecca. On 20th February 2020 the building was put up for sale by auction at an
asking price of £600,000+, but failed to sell. Mecca bingo continues, albeit
temporarily closed during the Pandemic.