Old Glasgow Club

Minutes of an Ordinary meeting of the Old Glasgow Club held at Adelaide’s, 209 Bath Street on Thursday 13th September 2012 at 7.30pm





Ms Sannachan (President)


Ms Sannachan welcomed old and new faces to the first meeting of the new session and explained the fire drill procedures. She requested that all mobiles be silenced.


There were apologies from Brian Henderson, Jim Gibson and Shona Crozer.


The minutes of the last ordinary meeting held on Thursday 12th April were approved, proposed by Margaret Thom and seconded by Gaynor MacKinnon. There were no amendments.

Matters Arising

Ms Sannachan reported that a meeting had taken place between Mrs Thom and Mr Jim Gibson regarding the reporting of OSCR compliant accounts. This would be available to any member who wished to view it. She thanked them both for their time and effort.

President’s Report- No Report

Secretary’s Report

Mrs McNae welcomed everyone to the meeting and hoped that everyone had picked up their welcome pack from Mr Gordon. This contained their membership card, constitution and a short history of the club.

Mrs McNae encouraged those present to visit the noticeboard and pick up any interesting leaflets. There are copies of the Doors Open Day Booklets should anyone require them.

Victoria Park will be celebrating its 125th birthday with a Victorian themed event on 15th September.

Mrs McNae encouraged the audience to visit the Riverside Museums exhibit commemorating 50 years since the last Glasgow tram journey in 1962.

Mrs McNae finished by confirming next month’s speaker as Mrs Judith Bowers who will speak on the History of the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall.


Ms Sannachan introduced Mr Gordon Barr, Heritage Development Officer for Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust and co-editor of the Scottish Cinemas and Theatres website who will speak on “Glasgow’s Historic Cinemas”.

Early Glaswegian cinema goers were treated to a “peep-show” type presentation of looped images courtesy of Edison’s Kinetoscope (invented in 1894) which were mostly shown as carnival side shows in tents in such places like Glasgow Green. Prominent travelling families such as the Greens, Kemps and Pools were well known on the circuit often using fancy tents to entice the audience into basic barns and sheds. Later purpose built buildings such as the Coliseum on Jamaica St (now the Classic Grand) were utilised as venues.

After the Lumiere Brothers pioneered their Cinematograph in 1896, cinemas as we would recognise them today were being built. The first purpose built cinema in Glasgow (in 1910) was the Electric Circus on Sauchiehall St in what was once Henglers Circus. The Britannia Panopticon was also an early cinema in one of its many incarnations.

The early films were highly flammable and fires were commonplace in wooden clad rooms. The Cinematograph Act of 1909 stated that separate fireproof projection rooms were necessary resulting in many halls closing and the construction of purpose built cinemas. Traditionally the pictures were perceived as a working class form of entertainment. The period from 1912-1915 saw a change in marketing which is reflected in the quality and grandeur of the cinemas built at the time. Cinemas were re-invented to be safe places for ladies to frequent and for groups of young and old people to meet. They became respectable and acceptable places to socialise.

The 6 oldest surviving cinema’s in Scotland are i) The Picturehouse Campbeltown (1913), designed in the Art Nouveau style, is still in use and is an A-listed building; ii) The Hippodrome Bo’ness (1912), which has been recently refurbished and will be taking part in the Doors Open Day weekend in the Central Lowlands; iii) Green’s Picturedrome Irvine (1912), now a nightclub; iv) Empire Electric/La Scala Grangemouth (1913), currently unused; v) The Salon Hillhead (1913), now a restaurant and vi) La Scala Helensburgh (1913), now a pub.

Many of the old cinemas of Glasgow are still there in some form behind modern façades e.g. the Salon in Sauchiehall St was built in 1913 and is situated behind The Works bookshop. In the roofspace there is still evidence of the original cornicing and upper stalls.

The Odeon chain started off in Glasgow by buying several existing cinemas although there were plans for building others e.g. a supercinema on Dumbarton Road these never went beyond the planning stage.

Mr Barr separated some of the old cinemas into distinct categories

1)       Eccentric Experiments which had extravagant facades or unusual design themes e.g. The Seamore (opened 1914 by A. E. Pickard), the Dreamland (now the Q-Ball), Kelvin Cinema, Toledo Muirend and Orient Bridgeton.

2)       Back-court cinemas in the middle of residential areas e.g. the Rosevale in Partick (now the British Heart Foundation shop which still has a significant amount of the cinema remaining in the upper floors).

3)       Super cinemas. Constructed in the 1930’s when cinema going was hugely popular e.g. Green’s Playhouse (the largest cinema in Europe, now Cineworld. In its heyday Green’s one screen could hold 4,368 people more than the entire Cineworld 18 screen complex now). The Odeon on Renfield St and the Govan Lyceum are other examples.

4)       Post-War. An austere period with understandably fewer constructions. Notable cinemas include the Coliseum on Eglinton St which was built to accommodate Cinerama. In 1967 the ABC2 was built on Sauchiehall St. This was a departure from the fancy façade type construct and was a typically plain grey design typical of the architectural period. Many existing cinemas were expanded to 2 or 3 screen buildings at this time.

5)       Modern e.g. G12 Gilmorehill, IMAX at the Science Centre, the Quay and the Medicinema at Yorkhill.

Sadly many of the old cinemas are long gone and others are earmarked for demolition. The huge Odeon complex on Renfield St is rumoured to be demolished for flats/offices just leaving the front façade. The building housing the Salon on Sauchiehall St is rumoured to be coming down. Recently the Hamilton La Scala was demolished although Mr Barr had managed to gain access and take photographs before its destruction. Others soon to be lost include the Rex in Stonehouse, which was furbished with the fittings from the White Star Line ship HMS Homeric; the Palace in Burntisland; Govanhill Picture house and the Broadway in Prestwick. Luckily the Olympia in Bridgeton has been bought by the local Regeneration agency and the façade will be kept with a modern interior housing the local library and some offices. The façade will reflect what the building looked like when it was a music hall.

Many “small town” cinemas have been saved from extinction by local efforts. Leven, Aberfeldy and Oban have been saved by running as community cinemas. Perhaps the best success stories are the Bo’ness Hippodrome with its recent refurbishment and our own Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT) formerly the Cosmo which has embraced digital technology. For further reading please visit www.scottish cinemas.org.

Q. Could the Odeon features be restored rather than lost?

A. Possibly, the O2 Academy and the Grosvenor in Hillhead have had sympathetic conversions but it is likely that most of the Odeon interior will be lost.

Q. The Salon building on Sauchiehall St should be listed – will it still be demolished?

A. Sadly it looks like the demolition is a certainty.

Q. The Premier in Bridgeton was known as the Geggie, any idea why?

A. Could be from the “penny geggies” or the peep shows in the early days. There is also Geggie Gate near Glasgow Green- which could be named from the travelling shows that pitched up there.

Q. The GFT has survived – why?

A. It adapted and changed with the times. It split into 2 screens at the right time. It also showed tv programmes like the Coronation. Now it is aimed at the Arthouse market. Its smaller size also made it easier to maintain and fill.

Vote of Thanks

Mr Stuart Little thanked Mr Barr for his talk, remarking that he was sure many of the cinemas discussed were familiar bygone haunts of members of the audience.


The picture quiz was won by Mr Ian Frame.


Mrs Liz Smith asked how the Club would react to the proposal of the City Council to remove the statues in George Square in order to enlarge the area of the square. Ms Sannachan replied that since this was a piece of breaking news the Directors would discuss this at their next meeting and an appropriate response be communicated at the next Ordinary meeting.


Next Directors Meeting-    Thursday 4th October 2012

Next Ordinary Meeting-    Thursday 11th October 2012


Ms Sannachan wished all a safe journey home.

P. Cairns, Acting Recording Secretary.