Minutes of an Ordinary Meeting of the Old Glasgow Club

Held at Adelaides, 209 Bath Street

On Thursday 12th December 2013 at 7.30pm



71 people


Ms Petrina Cairns (President)


Ms Cairns welcomed members and visitors to the December meeting. Ms Cairns explained fire drill procedures, housekeeping rules and also requested that all mobile phones be put to silent or switched off.


May Arnott, Jim O'Kane, Isabel Haddow, Anna Forrest and Margaret Thom.


The minutes of the last ordinary meeting, held on Thursday 14th November were approved and proposed by Joyce McNae and seconded by Brian D Henderson. There were no amendments or matters arising.

President's Report

Ms Cairns said that " the dreadful events of the 29th November at the Clutha Vaults where 10 lives were lost in such random, shocking and tragic circumstances have left us reeling. I, and I am sure many others are still in a state of disbelief.

Our thought and sympathies go out to everyone affected by the horror, and, I'd like to propose we have a minutes silence to show our sorrow and support.

It will take a long time for the city to rise above the tragedy. Glasgow has faced many disasters in the past with reverence and honour, and, this, I'm sure will be no different".

Clutha Vaults minutes silence.

Ms Cairns said that on another sad note, Mr David Sanderson, a member of the club, passed away on 25th November. Our condolences go out to his family.

Ms Cairns said that she would like to thank Jill Scott and Bill Hicks for their talk last month on the Grand Central Hotel which was very good, and, very well received. It was given in an unusual format which worked well. Ms Cairns said that she would definitely look out for their Sunday Post talk. 

Ms Cairns told us that on the 23rd of November she had popped along to the launch of Govan's Hidden Histories. The weekend was highlighting 4 new heritage walks in and around the Riverside Museum and Govan. The walks are themed on Shipbuilding, Quest for 13 Treasures of Govan, Entertaining Govan and Characters of Govan.

Ms Cairns went on 13 Treasures of Govan, which took the form of a guided treasure hunt. It started at Riverside, taking in the riverside at Partick, a ferry over to Govan, Water Row, Govan Old, Fairfields, then finishing at Elder Park. The walk would be good for both children and adults.

In the evening there was a talk by author Tim Clarkson on the Dark Age / Medieval History of Dumbarton Rock, Govan Old and Doomster Hill. This was followed by the artist Matt Baker who has several sculptures along Harland Way, using material from the old yards. And, finally, Liam Paterson from National Libraries Scotland who showed some films from the Scottish Screen Archive of Govan Fair in 1947 and 1952. 

Ms Cairns said that congratulations were in order to the South Rotunda, selected to host a 'pop up' arts event by the Tin Forest puppet group during the Commonwealth Games. Ms Cairns said that perhaps this will be enough to attract some serious attention to the property and wouldn't it be good if access to the pedestrian tunnel was opened up in some way. 

Ms Cairns also congratulated Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust who has secured nearly 200,000 of funding from the Big Lottery Fund as part of a 4 year Investing in Communities programme. 

Secretary's Report

Mrs McNae apologised for the mix up regarding the meeting date printed on the Club Membership Card. She said that the ordinary meeting is always the second Thursday in the month.

Mrs McNae reminded members that in the event of adverse weather on the day of an ordinary meeting that members should phone Adelaides on 0141 248 4970 or, alternatively check for a post on the Old Glasgow Club website and Facebook page.

Mrs McNae reminded members that Old Glasgow Club had a page on Facebook that is updated by Ms Cairns most days with interesting photographs and archive stories about Glasgow. Mrs McNae said that the page now has 15 members and that if anyone was on Facebook but hadn't seen it to take a look.

Mrs McNae asked if members had visited the club merchandise at the back of the hall for the Glasgow Calendars, for sale at 4. Also, that the new Old Glasgow Club logo pens were now available for 1 each.

Mrs McNae also asked if members had bought their tickets for the Christmas Raffle which would be drawn at the end of the evening.

Mrs McNae mentioned that there were lots of interesting exhibitions taking place at Glasgow Museums over the Christmas period.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery - Jack Vettriano - A Retrospective. On until 23rd February 2014.

St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art - Peter Howson's Crucifixion. On display until 31st December 2013.

Peoples Palace - Red Road : Past, Present, Future. On until 10th February 2014.

The Burrell Collection - Burrell's Masters of Impression. On until 5th January 2014.

Information on current and upcoming exhibitions is available at www.glasgowlife.org.uk


Ms Cairns introduced Dr Paul Maloney who is the Research Fellow on the Arts and Humanities Research Council  funded project Pantomime in Scotland. He has recently completed a PhD on the Britannia Music Hall and the development of urban popular entertainments. Dr Maloney is going to give a talk on Scottish Pantomime.

Dr Maloney thanked everyone for coming along to hear him talk about Pantomime in Scotland. 'Your other national theatre' was a three year research project undertaken at the School of Culture and Creative Arts Department, Glasgow University. It started in October 2007 and was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and explores and celebrates all aspects of pantomime in Scotland. Dr Maloney said that his field is popular theatre, music hall and particularly pantomime. The project looked at history, cultural and social influences in Scottish Pantomime.

"The national theatre of Scotland is pantomime" - actor/director Lewis Casson, speaking in the 1920s.

After Reformation theatre was frowned upon by the Church. The only type of regular theatre around at this time was provided by fairground theatres , they cost a penny and were more like singing comedy.

Another important influence on pantomime were the national drama/stage dramatisations of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns. These were big romantic stories with Scottish characters like Tam O'Shanter and lots of tartan and Highland imagery. These plays had lots of comedy and comic characters that spoke in vernacular Scots.

Why Pantomime ? "It is now the only example of the annual 'big theatre' experience which appeals to all ages and generations. It's appeal lies in it's familiarity - the ritual of going every year, often to the same theatre as your parents, and seeing favourite performers, a well known story, and all the familiar gags and routines. It feels like it should be out of time, but in fact is vigorously contemporary in it's range". 

If the pantomime is taking place in a small, subsidised theatre, then this is perhaps the only time of year that they are filled to capacity.

Pantomime has a long theatrical history in Scotland dating back to classical theatre, and is developed partly from the 16th century Comedia dell'arte tradition of Italy ( a form of theatre characterised by masked characters). Another important part of the pantomime, until the late 19th century was the harlequinade. Harlequinade is described as "that part of a pantomime in which the harlequin and clown play the principal parts". It was originally a slapstick variant of the Commedia dell'arte.

The story of the Harlequinade revolves around a comic incident in the lives of it's five main characters : Harlequin, who loves Columbine; Columbine's greedy father Pantaloon, who tries to separate the lovers in league with the mischievous Clown and the servant Pierrot, usually involving chaotic chase scenes with a policeman.

Present day Pantomime for the most part still incorporates five main characters, like Harlequinade did. There is the Panto Dame, normally the hero's mother and traditionally a man in drag. Principal Boy, the main character in the pantomime and traditionally a young, attractive woman in 'male' attire. Co-principal Girl, normally the hero's love interest and played by a girl. Comic lead, does the physical comedy and relates to the audience. He often has a phrase that he repeats several times and the audience call out the opposite in response. The Villain, the pantomime baddy, often a wicked witch or wizard and is played by a man or a woman.

The Pantomime is normally based on a fairy story or a nursery rhyme. The audience get really involved and it's about habit and comic routines that are as old as the hills. It's fine that the formula repeats itself year after year. It's traditional but it can also be topical and the jokes will be current, you can bet on it that 'selfies' will be incorporated in some way this year.

This is all a comparatively late development:

1850s and Harlequinade is at the heart of a Victorian Pantomime along with some Comeia dell'arte (Punch and Judy)

1850s onwards and the Pantomime stories centre on more human stories, like Jack and the Beanstalk and lasted longer and longer. 1912 and the Harlequinade part of the Pantomime made up about 20mins of the story, it was dying out.

By 1895 it was estimated that around 60,000 people a week went to Panto and another 25,000 went to the Circus etc.      

From the 1860s some of the Pantomimes became stories from Scottish history. These pantomimes were satirical, tongue in cheek. There was Tam O'Shanter 'The Mornin eftir' that premiered at the Opera House Kilmarnock. 'Mr Robert Roy', a burlesque panto at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1880 (exactly where Cowcaddens Station is now), essentially a send up of Rob Roy. He's always avoiding the fight and is staying in to mind the bairns.

These satirical pantomimes enjoyed huge success in their times. They were distinctive in their style and distinctive in the way they were enjoyed in Scotland. The impact of the Music Hall which was the popular theatre form of the Industrial Revolution, enjoyed by the working classes and hugely popular.

In the legitimate theatre of the 1880s and 1890s, the Managers were jealous of the success of the back room productions so they started employing comedians for star rolls.

Harry Lauder stars in the 1905 Aladdin at the Theatre Royal. He had several songs in the show, the big hit being 'I Love a Lassie'. It was the most impressive visual treat with ballets, gauzes depicting from the bottom of the sea to above the clouds and then they come back and discover that they are in Cowcadens. It was all about fantasy and at the end of each scene the scene painter would come forward for audience adoration.

What the Music Hall influence did was bring in the interaction between the cast and the audience that wasn't there before in serious theatre. Harry Lauder set a fashion here for leading Scottish comedians, especially with middle class people in serious theatre. Lauder was a new style of star, his name was in electric lights across Hope Street.

In 1921, Fred Collins introduced twice nightly productions at the Pavilion Theatre with a production of Mother Goose that was set in Glasgow Central Station.

The inter war years of the 1930s and 40s  were regarded as many as the great days of Glasgow Pantomime. It was the period of long running pantos, they ran from December until April and could have as many as 275 consecutive performances.

Cast lists included such names as Dave Willis, Harry Gordon and Will Fyffe. Harry Gordon was famous for his Dames, and his partnership with Will Fyffe, as the male comic at the Alhambra Theatre is legendary. Harry Gordon played at the Alhambra for 17 years.

George West was the stalwart at the Princess's pantos (now Citizens) and did Panto here for around 20 years, until the pantos stopped. The Princess's pantos were really more like fantasy review than pantos, the titles of which (like Tammie Twister) always contained 13 letters. Robert Macleod, who was Music Director between 1913 and 45 and put their popularity down to the fact that they ran for 4 hours and gave good value for money.

Down the road at The Queen's Theatre, Glasgow Cross where Frank and Doris Droy were the stars, there was a rather more risqu show that combined traditional panto with modern day scenes in Glasgow. They had housewives settling tradesmen bills with sexual favours. The Queen's at times overstepped the mark and they got into trouble with The Lord Chamberlin's Office in London where each script had to be sent to for approval. They were fined 5 for their innuendo panto and for inappropriate content.

In the 1960s the Alhambra made a departure from traditional titles when under the management of Howard and Wyndham. The series of Jamie Pantomimes (A Wish For Jamie, A Love for Jamie and The World of Jamie), were all Scottish, tartan draped extravaganzas. "A Wish for Jamie opened at the Alhambra on 9th December 1960 with Kenneth McKellar as Jamie, Rikki Fulton as the Dame (with a gorgeous thistle dress), Reg Varney as Percy the English farm-hand and Russell Hunter as the King of the Frogs. The audience loved it, the house was packed night after night, a profit of over 16,000 was made in 11 weeks, and the following year over 240,000 people saw the show".

By the end of the 60s theatre and panto were changing. As theatres like the Alhambra closed and commercial theatre changed.

Citizens Theatre (formerly Princess's Theatre) came up with pantomimes that were imaginative childrens plays. The Citizens Theatre is considered to be one of the most avant garde theatres in Europe.

Spectacle and humour are still the key elements in modern day Pantomime. It is still immensely popular and attract television actors such as Elaine C Smith, Allan Stewart, Michelle McManus, The Krankies and John Barrowman to star in them.

Dr Maloney finishes his wonderful talk by showing us a piece of unique, archived film.

It stars George West in a short movie of Tammie Shanter that played at The Royal Princess's Theatre Glasgow, 1934-35.

The story has nothing to do with Tam O'Shanter but has something to do with a diamond !

Q  Am I correct in thinking that Jack Milroy made his debut at the Queens Theatre ?

A  Yes, that's correct. He made his debut there after WWII.

Q  I think the humour at the Citizens Theatre that you described as Scottish humour, I would describe as Glasgow humour. Death, toilet humour.

A  Yes, I would agree, I call it gallows humour. Glasgow is the centre of comedy, most of the comedians come from Glasgow.

Q  You talked about Scottish themes, tartan etc. The thistle always stands out for me because one of the Jamie pantos was my first panto. I remember Ricky Fulton coming out in a black negligee with a lit up bottom.

A  Yes, the more outrageous the costume the better. When Johhny Beattie took over he wanted his costume to be a fish tea.

Vote of Thanks

Ms Sannachan thanked Dr Maloney for coming along and taking us on the Pantomime journey at this seasonal time of year. Ms Sannachan said how privileged we were to see such wonderful old photographs and film.


Raffle tickets were drawn by Dr Maloney.


Ms Cairns gave us some preliminary dates for out diaries.

Members night in February would be 'A Day in the Calton', where members would be able to view the digitised slides of The Calton.

Summer outing, will be the second Saturday in June and is to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott.

More details to follow in 2014.

Next Directors Meeting - Thursday 16th January 2014

Next Ordinary Meeting  - Thursday 9th January 2014

Miss Cairns wished everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and a safe journey home.


                                                                                                                             Shona Crozer, Recording Secretary