Old Glasgow Club
Minutes of an Ordinary Meeting of the Old Glasgow Club
Held at Adelaides, 209 Bath Street
On Thursday 11th October at 7.30pm
Ms Sannachan (President)
Ms Sannachan welcomed everyone (old and new) to the meeting and explained the housekeeping
Of fire drill procedures and requested all mobile phone to be put on silent or off.
There were no apologies given.
The minutes of the last ordinary meeting, held on Thursday 13th September were approved, proposed by Stuart Little
and seconded by Margaret Thom. There were no amendments or matters arising.
Ms Sannachan told everyone that the point of contact should they be concerned about weather conditions was,
Adelaide’s on 0141 248 4970 or on the Old Glasgow Club web page.
Ms Sannachan said that it was great to see so many faces and have such a strong turnout and that the club membership
currently stands at , 13 life members, 96 re-subscribed members and 20 new members.
A big thank you was given to Liz Smith for bringing George Square to our attention regarding the proposed removal
of the statues.
The Club have written a letter to the Lord Provost which Ms Sannachan read out to everyone as well as a copy that
was shown on the projection screen. Copies and further information were available to look at on a table at the front
If further information was required then Ms Sannachan encouraged members who had internet access to visit the web page
Ms McNae reminded everyone , if they hadn’t already done so, to pick up their Welcome packs from Sam Gordon at
the front door. The Welcome Packs contain information, agenda and copies of the Club constitution.
Peter Mortimer has been booked for the next session to give a new talk on Parkhead. This will be very fitting given
that a lot of the Commonwealth Games 2014 will be taking place there as well as it being home to the athletes village.
Ms McNae hoped that members who had taken advantage of the Doors Open on the 15th and 16th of September had enjoyed themselves.
The Hunterian Art Gallery and The Mackintosh House re-opened their doors on the 15th of September to coincide with
The Doors Open weekend. To celebrate their opening is a must-see exhibition called Rembrandt and the Passion. This
will run from 15th September – 2nd December 2012. Admission charge is £5 (£3 concession).
There is a Creative Mackintosh Festival which runs from 15th – 28th October. This is the first year of this festival and will
include walking tours, The Big Draw at The Mackintosh Church at Queen’s Cross, Unbuilt Mackintosh and a Mackintosh
Concert in Bellahouston Park. More information can be had at The Lighthouse or online at www.glasgowmackintosh.com
Moira Robertson from The Govan Stones has asked if anyone would be interested in becoming a volunteer guide. More
Information can be found on their website, www.thegovanstones.org.
Ms McNae told members that there were hand sized maps and a new restaurant guide at the OGC shop and that Glasgow
Calendars were now on sale for £4.
A Glasgow Cathedral Walk will take place on Saturday 24th November. A small donation is requested from members
who take part in the walk, this will be passed on to The Glasgow Cathedral Fund.
Please give names to Margaret Thom.
Ms Sannachan introduced Judith Bowers who will give a talk called “Laugh? I nearly …..The History of the Britannia
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, Britannia Panopticon, World’s Oldest Surviving Music Hall. The house of the devil
Founded in 1857 on the Trongate, Glasgow. It opened to the call of the working classes that had moved to the East End
of Glasgow. Up until then, Trongate had been a posh street where common people were not allowed to walk on the
It was built by Thomas Gildard and H M McFarlane, who were contemporaries of Alexander Greek Thompson.
The area was an 1/8th of a mile of deniquity, brothels and shebeens. There were four brothels alone at 49 Trongate.
The Church was also housed in the same close.
1500 people were crammed into a space which had seating for 880. Boys, aged 9-13 years stood in one particular corner
where they could see from behind, look at the ladies breasts and wee over the edge of the balcony. The boys also liked to
lob horse manure at the acts, along with the men who threw rivets and the ladies (when at a later date were allowed in)
who threw fish heads and guts, etc.
Once you were packed in upstairs there was no chance of moving or getting to the loo, so, when in the Music Hall you
just weed where you stood.
1500 people, no plumbing, no underarm, pee, fish heads, horse manure and thick,, thick tobacco smoke which meant you
could hardly see the stage. It was a stinky, stinky place.
Glasgow City Council decided that the amount of nudity to be found in The Britannia was contributing to the moral decay
in the East End of Glasgow. To combat this they policed the Music Halls to make sure what was taking place on the stage
was morally decent. The Music Hall got round this by posting a boy downstairs who looked out for policemen, the boy
would promptly tell the Manager. The Manager would promptly whip the bawdy act off and replace with a child act
that was always on standby
They wanted to be the best Music Hall in Glasgow and wanted to encourage ladies to attend since it was difficult to
entice the ladies through the door. It was hoped by encouraging ladies that it would help control the audiences behaviour. Although “no ladies to come in unless accompanied by a gentleman” was the rule.
London acts were now being attracted because of the guaranteed, packed 1500 people per day. Dan Leno was billed as
the Greatest World Champion clog dancer because his London humour. Clog dancing was hugely important to the
working class Glaswegians. The Britannia attracted all types of variety acts, Charles Coburn, Harry Champion, a very young
Mhairi Lloyd. And, of course, my favourite, Dan Leno, King of the Music Hall and jester to Edward VII.
By 1881, the Britannia was the oldest Music Hall in Glasgow and starting to get very run down, people started going
to the new, up and coming Music Halls, like the Scotia. The Scotia had upholstered seats so, in a bid to compete, the
management put strips of velvet across the bench seats.
The biggest change came in 1896 when electricity was installed in The Britannia.
Much publicity was given to the electricity and the new fangled cinema. The manager at this time, James Anderson,
decided to put on a film for one week because he had concerns that the public wouldn’t like it. Films such as, The
Blacksmiths Forge, Buffalo Bill and The Prismatic Skirt Dance were shown to sell out audiences. It was such a success
that 1000’s queued for weeks to see them. It is also one of the oldest cinemas in the world.
All Music Halls were now showing moving pictures, The Britannia couldn’t compete with the next wave of new builds,
like The King’s, Coliseum, variety theatres with carpets, seats and toilets.
By 1905 numbers had declined so dramatically that a young man, called A. E. Pickard took over management of
The Britannia. He re-opened it as The Britannia and Grand Panopticon. The name Panopticon meant to view everything.
It became known locally as Pots and Pans because people had difficulty pronouncing it.
Pickard’s vision was for uses in the attic, waxworks, rooftop carnival and freak show and charge one entry to see all.
The wax works, had such exhibits as the Royal family and the latest executee from the local jail ( their clothes purchased from
the executioner.The freak shows were revolutionary and very popular. Pickard had the world’s smallest man, called Tom
Thumb. World’s tallest man, called Andre Copt. Lucy Moore, world’s fattest girl, weighed 44 stone when she arrived and
46 stone when she left the freak museum. Ida Campbell, billed as “the human trunk”, no legs and one arm. Ida would
demonstrate how to operate a sewing machine with only one arm. She was one of the most successful freaks and was
earning the equivalent of £23,000 per week. Ida had the best of jewels and was married with children.
After the First World War freak shows were banned because many soldiers were returning from the war with horrendous
Pickard also excavated the basement and billed it as “Noah’s Ark”. The Ark contained a monkey house, bird house,
reptile house and a Russian bear. The bear famously escaped twice and Mr Pickard shot a publicity film about when
the bear escaped. The film was called “Mr Pickard Goes Hunting”. You have to wonder at all these animals being in a
basement, the highest ceiling point being 6 foot 9 inches. The smell from the basement was so strong that the people three
floors above complained about it.
One of the most famous debuts made here in early 1906 was by Arthur Stanley Jefferson (his father managed a rival
music hall on Stockwell St, the Mettropole). A month after his 16th birthday he asked to perform at the Friday night
amateur night. He had cut up his Dad’s suit and beat up a hat to create a costume. He sang a Dan Leno song and told a
joke that he had bought for a penny. The audience booed him, peed on him and threw rivets at him. At that point, he
looked up and saw his father standing in the stalls with Mr Pickard. He panicked, fumbled, dropped the hat into the
orchestra pit, has a real comedy face on. A lady tries to help retrieve the hat and falls flat on her face. The audience love
this and think it is hilarious, part of the act. Arthur Stanley Jefferson showed a natural talent for physical comedy.
He sailed for America, was an understudy for Charlie Chaplin and then, more famously became the partner to Oliver Hardy.
Jack Buchanan also debuted here, he was a stunning looking man, a song and dance man. The audience jeered him, and
he thought that they hated him but the manager told him otherwise as “they didn’t throw anything”.
A 19 year old set painter called Archie Leach also performed here as an acrobatic dancer and entered amateur night to
win a prize. He went on to be known as the film star Cary Grant.
A young Harry Lauder performed at The Britannia but hated it so much that he never performed here again.
As new and purpose built theatre and picture halls thrived, the Britannia Ponopticon became old and decrepit and fell
into a state of disrepair. Finally, after the depression of the 1930’s, Pickard sold it in early 1938 to his tailors. The balcony
was sealed off and a false ceiling was erected above the stalls to make a factory and warehouse and the Trongate entrance
was removed and replaced with windows.
In 1997 I was desperate to get in, went for a nosey and have been there for the last 15 years.
Thanks to the Mitchell family who own the building, fundraising and Historic Scotland, the building now has a new roof,
facade and the west elevation is now completed. In 2013 we have a new entrance and temporary disabled access.
Please check out our website www.britanniapanopticon.org where you can sign up for our monthly newsletter. We also
have a charity shop at 49 High Street. All are welcome.
At the end of the show it is traditional to have a sing song, lets sing “Keep right on to the end of the road”. Let’s raise
the roof and gie it laldy.
Q. You mentioned ghosts, are there lots ?
A. You can feel them from when you come in, there is an atmosphere. Solomon the monkey. The BBC were recording
and all they picked up were angry Chimp noises. A regular occurrence is a soldier from the Boer war, he really only
appears when a lady is singing. There is also a lady in black who walks across the balcony door. There are also children
whistling. When we have Police dogs in they run around as if a ball is being thrown for them. The ghosts are not scary,
they give the building a warm feeling.
Q. Not very much was said about Harry Lauder?
A. Everyone talks about Harry Lauder, because he is so popular, I tend not to talk about him. I have an entire chapter
dedicated to him in my book.
Q. A few years ago there were shows on with no admission charge?
A. Once a month there is a free performance. Last weekend of the month, May – October as it is by volunteers.
Q. Do you have a shop?
A. 49 High Street is where our Charity Shop is – it’s fabulous. Lots of wonderful things – cheap as chips.
Vote of thanks
Mr Sam Gordon thanked Judith Bowers. Mr Gordon said that he had heard Judith speak 4 times and that she has so much
to tell us, each talk has been different. He thanked Judith for a “really, really, great evening” and is looking forward to
hearing her speak 5,6,7 and 8 times as you apparently only retain 1/8th of what you are told.
Where would you find Old Father Time – answer – Charing Cross Mansions.
Won by Karen Turner.
Next Directors Meeting – Thursday 1st November
Next Ordinary Meeting - Thursday 8th November
Ms Sannachan wished all a safe journey home and to please remember about the George Square Contact and to call
Adelaide’s should the weather be of concern.