In December 2020, our Designations team were updating the listed building record of the Bodie Fountain in Macduff and uncovered an electric and magical tale!

The Bodie Fountain

The Bodie Fountain in Macduff commemorates Jeannie Bodie. She died in 1909 at the age of 18. Jeannie was the daughter of Walford Bodie.

Photo of the Jeannie Bodie Memorial fountain

© Courtesy of A Taylor.

Walford Bodie was a Scottish magician and music hall entertainer. He was once among the most famous and highly paid entertainers of his era and a friend of the great Harry Houdini. Bodie was known as the Electrical Wizard of the North and was even imitated by Charlie Chaplin.

An old blavk and white portrait photo of Jeannie Bodie

Jeannie Bodie (daughter) © Courtesy of Aberdeen City Libraries/The Silver City Vault.

Jeannie was her father’s assistant in his illusion, ventriloquism, hypnotism and electrical trick shows.

Walford Bodie – the makings of a magician

Samuel Murphy Bodie, professionally known as Walford Bodie, was born in Aberdeen in 1869. He began his working life at age 14 as an apprentice at The National Telephone Company. However, by his late teens was performing magic shows across Aberdeenshire.

An old photo of Walford Bodie looking at the camera with his arms crossed in front of his chest.

Walford Bodie and his impressive waxed moustache, around 1900.
© Courtesy of Aberdeen City Libraries/The Silver City Vault.

The Henry sisters

He married Jeannie Henry, who performed alongside Walford as an illusionist and mind-reader, with the stage name ‘Princess Rubie’. A number of Jeannie’s sisters also performed in ‘The Bodie Show’, including Isabella and Mary.

Electricity was still a rarity at this time. The general public believed it to be a strange force that could kill, revive the dead or do any number of mysterious things. So, it was this cryptic force that Walford Bodie first used in his show at Stonehaven in 1884.

In his act, Bodie would often strap himself into an electric chair, assisted by his sister-in-law, ‘La Belle Electra’, and seemingly pass 30,000 volts through his body. ‘La Belle Electra’ would also face ‘death by electric chair’ with arc lights emitting from her fingertips.

A black and white photo showing Walford Bodie hypnotising a person in the famous electric chair.

© Glasgow University Library. Licensor

Doctor Walford Bodie MD will see you now

By around 1900, Bodie was advertising himself as a ‘bloodless surgeon’, curing people of whatever ailed them. He also adopted the prefix Doctor and added the letters ‘MD’ after his name. However, this angered the medical profession who called him a quack, and he was taken to court in 1905.

Bodie lost the case and was told he had to stop using the MD. But he did continue to refer to himself as Dr Walford Bodie. In addition to that, he signed a sponsorship deal. This resulted in The Bodie Electric Drug Company of London, which produced cure-all ‘medicines’ including ‘Dr Bodie’s Famous Electric Liniment’ and ‘Dr Bodie’s Renowned Electric Life Pills’.

An archive photo of the advert clipping.

Electric Liniment produced by The Bodie Electric Drug Company, advert from the Evening Express 2nd June, 1907.
© Courtesy of Aberdeen City Libraries/The Silver City Vault.

‘The Bodie Show’ played in venues, large and small, across the UK, making Bodie nationally and internationally famous. Charlie Chaplin impersonated Walford Bodie with a travelling company called Casey’s Court Circus in the early 1900s. Later, in Hollywood, he revived this act on film. Bodie’s friend, Harry Houdini, gave him a ghoulish present in the form of the electric chair used in the first execution-by-chair at Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York.

The Bodie residence

At the height of fame, Walford and his family settled in Macduff. They commissioned the architect Alexander Marshall Mackenzie to design a new house along Skene Street. The Manor House was built in 1905.

A black and white photo of Walford Bodie in a car with a dog jumping in.

Walford Bodie and his chauffeur outside the Manor House, Skene Street, around 1905
© Glasgow University Library. Licensor

The Bodie Fountain in Macduff was listed in 1990. At the time of listing the fountain was located along Duff Street, parallel to Skene Street. The fountain was moved in 2009 to the Maritime Garden on Crook O’Ness Street, close to Macduff harbour. The listed building record was updated to reflect this move in December 2020.

A picture of the Manor House

The Manor House in 2007 (listed at category C).

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About Author

Rachael Bowen

Rachael works as a Designations Officer within the Heritage Directorate. She has master’s degrees in Heritage Management and History and has spent the last 10 years working in a number of wacky and wonderful heritage sites. She is happiest looking at maps and buried in books.