John Bannerman Milne
- Born: 1902, Dundee, Forfarshire
- Died: 24 Sep 1968, Ruthven House, Meigle, Forfarshire aged 66 527
- Buried: 26 Sep 1968, Dundee Crematorium 527
John Milne owned a string of cinemas in Scotland from the 1920s/30? onwards. He had nothing when he started and bought his first cinema with his sister, Lizzie. This was successful and he bought out Lizzie's share.
In time he expanded the business to own a large string of cinemas. He bought a country estate (Ruthven House, in Meigle, Angus). My mum (Margaret Fisher) worked there on holidays from university as an assistant. He wanted her to get involved in running the business, but this didn't work out (mum thought it would have been a bad idea anyway).
She had her first driving lesson in a Rolls Royce in a field on the Estate!
At one point he told mum that he had so much money that he wasn't even able to spend the interest he was earning on his money!
From the web . . . with a few bits added in by me . . .
"John Bannerman Milne was born one of three sons of Charles Milne, a Dundee coalmerchant, in 1902. When he was nine, he bought his first violin. By the age of sixteen, he was working at Dura Works (a jute mill) from 5.30am to 6.00pm, teaching the violin from 6.00pm to 8.00pm and then playing in a dance hall until midnight.
His first entertainment job was at the Variety Theatre, Dundee, as a 19 shillins a week "musical director and cleaner". He eventually bought the theatre in 1925 for £360 (actually with his sister, Lizzie, though this is not mentioned on the web - my mum told me this!), installed "talkies", and never looked back. Within ten years he . . . presided over a theatre, cinema and bingo empire that stretched from Stornaway to Galashiels . . .
The dance was devised by Angus Fitchet who dedicated it to J.B. Milne as "the man who gave him his start in his show business career".
Some other stuff - he bought Lizzie out at some point early on and then expanded his "empire" - he died in 1968 - never married and lived in Ruthven Hall, near Meigle. He taught my mum to drive in a Rolls Royce in a field on his estate and also once told her in conversation that he had more money than he knew what to do with - he couldn't even manage to spend the interest on his money, no matter how hard he tried! JB left the money to his nephews (sons of his brother Charlie), although not to his niece (Charlie's daughter). He left Ruthven to Mabel Easton, his housekeeper, for the duration of her life - on her death it was to revert to his nephews.
There had been various stories linking JB to his housekeeper and other women. He was incapable of fathering children after an earlier accident. There are rumours that he had an "illegitimate" son - I have no evidence to confirm or deny the above, not knowing when this accident occurred.
JB invited my grandfather (Joe Fisher) to Ruthven after Joe had suffered a serious heart attack, in order to recuperate and in this period the men got to know each other well. This is the source of the story regarding JBs accident and its consequences (Above).
From the Dundee Courier and Advertiser of 25 September 1968
Mr J B Milne dies at age 66
Mr J B Milne, who was a millboy with ambition, died yesterday at his home,
Ruthven House, Meigle, aged 66, as head of Scotland?s largest private cinema
He had been ill for some time.
His first cinema was the Palladium, Dundee, where he once played the violin
and washed floors. When he died he controlled 34 cinemas and bingo halls.
John Bannerman Milne was one of three sons of the late Mr Charles Milne, a
Dundee coal merchant.
When he was nine he bought his first violin and by the age of 16 he was
working in Dura Works from 5.30 am to 6 pm, teaching the violin from 6 pm to
8 pm, then playing in a dance hall until midnight.
Mr Milne became an apprentice engineer, but his future lay in the
His first entertainment job was at the Variety Theatre, later the Palladium,
and later the Rex, until it was demolished.
He was a 19s a week ?musical director and cleaner?. His savings were
invested in a motor hire business, which he sold for £360 to found his
In 1928 Mr Milne bought the hall where he once worked. He had the vision to
install talkies and never looked back.
Within 10 years, he had the largest cinema chain under private ownership in
Scotland. Mr Milne recognised the potential of bingo and introduced it. Some
of his halls remained cinemas, some became bingo halls, some combined the
Mr Milne bought Ruthven House, a 32-room Adam-designed manor, complete with
its furnishings in 1946. A 1500-acre estate went with it.
But he did not forget his home town, where he had his offices at Bannerman
House, South Tay Street. In 1961, he presented his ?Citizen of the Year?
award to Dundee Corporation for annual presentation.
Mr Milne?s interests ranged from Stornoway to Galashiels. He, at one time,
owned the Kinnaird and the Capitol, Dundee.
The cinemas and bingo halls he owned include ?
Royalty, Ritz, State, Broadway, Victoria in Dundee; Regal, Broughty Ferry;
Palace and Picture House, Arbroath; King?s and Playhouse, Montrose; Picture
House, Cowdenbeath; Opera House, Lochgelly; Palace and Imperial, Methil;
Troxy and Regent, Leven; Regal, Blairgowrie; Scala, Cupar and County,
He also owned the Picture House, Tayport; Regal, Auchterarder; Regal, East
Wemyss and the Globe, Buckhaven, which are now closed.
So, that settles the question of his full name, then ? John Bannerman Milne?
Almost, but the official intimation of his death in the same day?s paper
Milne, at Ruthven House, Meigle on Thursday September 24 1968, John McLeod
Bannerman, eldest son of Mr & Mrs Charles Milne. Service in Dundee
Crematorium September 26, 1968 at 2 pm to which all friends are respectfully
invited. No flowers or letters please.
Noted events in his life were:
• Occupation: Entrepreneur (owned a string of cinemas). See notes.