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Plays by Alan Richardson


A Tale o’ Twa Undertakers
One Act “Black” Comedy

  • First performed by Windsor Players of Edinburgh. December 1974
  • Winner of the SCDA playwriting competition
  • 25 Productions in the UK
  • Published by Brown, Son & Ferguson

Characters (4m 3f)

Tam Borthwick:  An Undertaker
Maggie Borthwick:  His wife
Jock:  Tam's apprentice
William Borthwick:  Tam's brother, also an Undertaker
Isa Borthwick:  William's wife
Betty:  William's maidservant
Herbert Purves:  An Officer of the Sheriff Court

The Setting:  Tam Borthwick's Funeral Parlour  Period - 1896
Running Time: 40 minutes


In Victorian Edinburgh, two brothers run rival funeral parlours in the same street. While William Borthwick runs a successful business, his brother, Tam, is heavily in debt and is reduced to hunting for prospective customers at the local hospital.

A partnership would seem a sensible arrangement, but the men prefer to squabble, much to the dismay of their wives, who have been, unknown to their husbands, good friends for some time. Despite stern warnings, the women have continued their clandestine meetings.


During one eventful morning, the women have met at Tam’s parlour, where Tam’s apprentice has also been entertaining William’s maid in secret. When Tam returns earlier than expected, a game of hide and seek ensues, featuring some very unusual hiding places.


The chaos is further complicated by a visit from William – who has come to gloat at his brother’s misfortune. To add to Tam’s woes, an officer from the sheriff court arrives in pursuit of long outstanding debts.


A triumphant William offers to buy Tam’s parlour at half his previous offer, but fate plays a sudden hand that reverses the fortunes of the brothers. Now Tam has the only funeral parlour in the street, but the two wives are determined to have the last word.


This S.C.D.A. Playwriting Competition winning play offers, not surprisingly considering the setting, many opportunities for black comedy.

"A tale of great humour, with vividly drawn characters" - Amateur Stage

"Offers plenty of scope for laughter. The dialogue is crisp. Excellent comedy lines and situations" - SCDA Scene

I enjoyed this play very much” - The Shetland Times