Old Glasgow Club


Minutes of ordinary meeting of Club held at Adelaide’s, 209 Bath Street on Thursday 13th November 2008 at 7.30pm






Mr Gordon (for President)



Mr Gordon welcomed members and visitors to the meeting.



There were apologies from Anna Forrest, Alison Sannachan, Janette Knox, Maida Gibson, Jim Gibson, Jean Aitken, Sharon Macey and Elizabeth Marriott.



The minutes of the last ordinary meeting held on 9th October had been circulated. The minutes were approved, proposed by Mrs Thom and seconded by Mrs Sneddon. There were no matters arising.


President’s report

There was no President’s report.

On behalf of Mrs Forrest, Mr Gordon announced that unfortunately Ms Elizabeth Marriott was unable to speak tonight on the subject “Uncapping the Ladywell” however she has agreed to give the talk at a later date. Mr Gordon was delighted to announce that Mr Graeme Smith, an Old Glasgow Club member has recently published a book on the Theatre Royal and very kindly agreed to talk to the club on the history of the theatre.


Secretary’s report

Glasgow’s Christmas lights in George Square would be switched on at 16.30 on Sunday 16th November.

Attention was drawn to the merchandise table where there were Glasgow calendars, prints and playing cards available, as well as a photo competition.

Mr Graeme Smith’s book “The Theatre Royal – Entertaining a Nation” would also be available. Mr Smith agreed to sign copies of the book for club members and visitors.

There will be a free talk on “Glasgow Smells” by Michael Meighan at the Mitchell Library 2.00-3.00pm on Tuesday 18th November.

HMS Dragon will be launched from BAE systems on Monday 17th November.

Scottish Opera will hold an open day on Sat 6th December. See Mrs Sneddon for details.

Mrs McNae announced that the theme of Members Night in January 2009 will be “Tea at Miss Cranston’s”, comprising a short talk on Miss Cranston’s enterprises followed by tea and entertainment.

Mrs McNae finished by thanking Mr Graeme Smith for agreeing to talk to the club at short notice.



Mr Gordon introduced Mr Graeme Smith who talked to the club on the Theatre Royal.

Before World War II there were 20 large theatres in Glasgow, now there are only 4 - the Theatre Royal, Pavilion, Kings and the Citizens. The Clyde auditorium is the most recent addition to the list.

The Theatre Royal was once the largest theatre in Glasgow and Scotland. When it was built Glasgow was the 6th largest city in Europe and the auditorium was built to reflect this. Originally it had a capacity for 3000 people, with standing room for 1000 people. The current Theatre Royal seats 1500 people. The success of the initial theatre resulted in the construction of the Kings Theatre which was owned by the same company.

The theatre was built in 1867 by James and Christina Baylis to a design by Charles Phipps. James Baylis started his career as a waiter and eventually managed the Coliseum in Cowcaddens and the Scotia Music Hall in Stockwell St before buying land and building the Theatre Royal. The Theatre benefited from its proximity to Cowcaddens, which was highly populated and a busy mercantile centre. Baylis let the Theatre Royal out to William Glover to manage. Many of Glovers’ employees moved to America to work on early Hollywood productions.

The original theatre burnt down on 2nd February 1879 and was rebuilt comprising an extra seating gallery. Ownership then passed to Michael Simons, a local fruit merchant and philanthropist. Simons employed Howard & Wyndham Ltd as managers of the theatre, a company who went on to become the largest theatre company in the UK. At this point major box office attractions included Marie Tempest, Marie Loftus and Sarah Bernhardt. Mr Simons promoted affordable entertainment and musical evenings for poorer families and regularly arranged events such as the East End Exhibition (with the Buffalo Bill Wild West show), and the development of the People’s Palace and Kelvingrove Galleries.

In 1905 Harry Lauder appeared in the pantomime Aladdin at the Theatre Royal for £200 per week, a huge sum in those days and a reflection of how popular an entertainer he was. The panto ran for 13 weeks. He premiered “I love a Lassie” during the performance.

Other prominent popular performers over the years included Gladys Cooper, Will Fyffe, Dave Willis, Marjorie Robertson (better known as Dame Anna Neagle) and Stanley Baxter. The theatre was also equipped as a cinema, showing 2 to 3 big films per month with a full orchestra providing the score at one point. The Half Past 8 show was also hugely popular and turned into the longest running summer review show in Britain.

In August 1957 Roy Thompson started Scottish Television and the Theatre Royal became the Scottish Television Theatre. The advent of television was the death knell for many theatres but ironically saved the Theatre Royal. The 1 o’ Clock Gang ran for 6 years, broadcasting 6 days a week and was one of the most popular TV shows of its day. In 1969 the studios were used to test colour television during a performance by the Alexander Brothers. The theatre is now owned by Scottish Opera & Ballet.


Vote of thanks

Mrs Sneddon thanked Mr Smith for his highly entertaining and enthusiastic talk, very much in keeping with “the show must go on”. Mrs Sneddon pointed out that history of the Theatre Royal reflected the history of Scottish entertainment.



Mr Gordon announced that the location of the “Spot the Photograph” competition was the Angel building at Paisley Road Toll.

He advised that the next directors’ meeting would be directly after this Ordinary meeting and that the next Ordinary meeting would take place on 11th December 2008.



Mr Gordon wished all a safe journey home.


PM Cairns

Acting Recording Secretary