Minutes of an Ordinary Meeting of the
Old Glasgow Club
Held at Adelaides, 209 Bath Street
On Thursday 14th November 2013 at
Petrina Cairns (President)
Cairns welcomed members and visitors to the November meeting. Ms Cairns
explained fire drill procedures, housekeeping rules and also requested
that all mobile phones be switched off or to silent.
were apologies from Jane Collie and Anna Forrest.
minutes of the last ordinary meeting, held on Thursday 10th October were
approved and proposed by Stuart Little and seconded by Sallie Marshall.
There were no amendments or matters arising.
Cairns said that firstly, she had some sad news to announce.
Reverend Dr William Morris, Minister Emeritus of Glasgow Cathedral and
life member of the Old Glasgow Club passed away on October 31st. He was
minister of Glasgow Cathedral from 1967 to 2005. Dr Morris' funeral was
on Tuesday. The club will pass on their condolences to his son, David.
Cathedral's St Andrew's Day Service is taking place on Saturday 30th
November at 11am.
Cairns said that she would like to thank Joy Blair for her excellent
talk 'Sail to Port Eglinton on the Ardrossan Canal'. As ever, it's
always a treat to listen to one of Joy's talk and Ms Cairns hoped that
all present enjoyed it as much as she did. Ms Cairns said that she went
for a wander around Paisley after the talk and thought that it was
amazing to see how many remnants of the canal are still there once you
know what you're looking at.
Cairns reported on the club visit to the Govan Stones, in Govan Old
Parish Church that took place on Saturday 26th October. Ms Cairns
thanked club member Moira Robertson and Frazer Capie for an excellent
afternoon and also thanked Anne White who was another font of knowledge.
Ms Cairns suggested that if club members haven't been then to please go
as it is amazing history in a beautiful setting. Ms Cairns is going to
arrange another visit in Spring 2014 for members who hadn't been able to
make the October visit.
Cairns said that if you couldn't wait that long, on 23rd November as
part of Govan's Hidden Histories Project launch there will be a weekend
of guided walks in and around Govan. These walks will include a History
of Shipbuilding Walk, Celebrating Strong Women of Govan Walk (including
Isabella Elder) and a Quest for the 13 Treasures of Govan Walk. There
will also be talks taking place in Govan Old Parish Church. Ms Cairns
has further details if anyone is interested.
Scotland thanked us for raising
from the sale of poppies at the last meeting.
Cairns urged members to check out the Old Glasgow Club page on Facebook.
Ms Cairns has been updating it most days with articles of news that she
thinks would be of interest to the club. Ms Cairns asked member to pass
on any information for inclusion if they heard of anything.
Cairns said The Previously....... Scotland's Festival of History started
yesterday. Most of the events are in Edinburgh but there are a few in
Glasgow that are tying in with Glasgow Libraries Archive Awareness Week.
STORIES OUR HISTORY : SHOW AND TELL EVENING
November 2013 - The Mitchell Library 6.00-7.45pm. Free
treasures do you keep in your Family History Kist and what do they mean
to you? Share your stories and enjoy other people's family history.
Contact beforehand at
if you have a story to tell. Or just come and listen, share and enjoy.
16th November - 'What Makes Glasgow ; Glasgow - City of Rebellion', The
MItchell Library 2.00-3.30pm. Free
with contributions from Dr Catriona MacDonald, Elspeth King, Arthur
McIver and Dr William Kenefick.
Cairns said that brings us neatly onto the Duke Wellington and his
headline making cone. Ms Cairns said that she didn't think the Duke had
been in the headlines this frequently since Waterloo. Some great
headlines though, with Ms Cairns favourite being "Cone No Dae That".
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
McNae asked if members had visited the club merchandise at the back of
the hall for the Glasgow Calendars which are on sale for
Mrs McNae also reminded members to take part in the club quiz for this
McNae said that in keeping with the upcoming Glasgow Libraries Archive
Awareness week that past president of the Old Glasgow Club, Peter
Mortimer had written a new book called 'The Gorbals in the 70s. The book
is due out on the 15th November.
reminder from the Cumbernauld Historical Society that all members of the
Old Glasgow Club are welcome to come along to their meetings.
McNae mentioned that there were lots of interesting exhibitions on in
Glasgow Museums at the moment :
Kelvingrove Art Gallery - Jack Vettriano : A Retrospective. On until
23rd February 2014
Museum of Religious Life and Art - Peter Howson's Crucifixion. On
display until 31st December 2013
Palace - Red Road : Past, Present, Future. On until 10th February 2014
Burrell Collection - Burrell's Masters of Impressionism. On until 5th
Information on current and upcoming exhibitions is available at
McNae reminded members that there would be a Christmas Raffle at the
December ordinary meeting.
December talk is being given by Dr Paul Maloney and is titled 'Scottish
Cairns introduced Jill Scott and Bill Hicks, former journalists at The
Sunday Post who wrote a book about The Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow to
coincide with it's
million pound facelift.
started the talk by saying how lovely it was for Bill and herself to be
here tonight. Here, to talk about the history of one of Glasgow's most
famous hotels, The Grand Central. Jill asked how many of the members had
been in the original Malmaison restaurant ? (there was a huge show of
said how lucky Bill and herself had been when asked to write the book
about the hotel and what a lot of things the hotel had witnessed. The
hotel was 130 years old this year and has seen 5 Monarchs, 2 World Wars,
countless Prime Ministers and women getting the vote.
hoped that in telling a little bit about the hotel that it would evoke
memories. Bill and herself were going to give the talk in the form of an
interview and would ask each other alternate questions.
asks Bill - How did this book come about ?
us, Jill and I had 75 years as journalists at The Sunday Post. Back in
2010 I was asked to write a feature on the Central Hotel, about the
million pound facelift. When I went down it was still a building site. I
was introduced to Laurie Nicol who was General Manager. "I'd only ever
walked through her doors once and at that point she was a shadow of her
former self". When being shown around, I could see just how fabulous it
was to become.
before Jill and I were asked, very nicely, to leave The Sunday Post,
Laurie called and asked me to write a book on The Grand Central Hotel.
Initially I wasn't too keen after 40 years of journalism, but, Laurie
was very persuasive regarding the book. In formative talks with the
publishers it was to be approximately 96 pages long and more of a
publicity book to be given to guests. When Laurie arrived at the
meeting, she said that she had good news and that it had been given the
go ahead to become 160 pages long. There was, however a drawback, it had
to be done in the same amount of time. It was obvious that I needed help
and this is where Jill stepped in.
had to be interesting, history of the hotel, guests, famous guests and
staff over the years.
asks Jill - Jill, go back to the hotel's Victorian origins, why was the
hotel that size?
to go right back to The Caledonian Railway Company. They had set their
sight on building a station in the centre of Glasgow. There was a
village here already, called Grahamston. There were around 600
residents, Gaelic church etc. Residents were asked if they would like to
be relocated, only 42 wanted to move out !!! Regardless, the station
went ahead. There were unfinished offices when the station was opened,
these were what became the hotel. The hotel and station were designed by
architect Sir Robert Rowan Anderson in Queen Anne style. I got a lot of
this information from the new owners, Principal Hayley. I also got
information in the Caledonian Railway Association archives within
Glasgow University Archives. More information came from the Mitchell
Library and the Glasgow Herald.
hotel was big because Glasgow now had a bustling city centre and a
population of some 511,415. There were ships coming from all over and
Central Hotel (as she was called then) was closest to the Broomielaw.
city was prospering, bustling with its own people, visiting businessmen
and travellers. Train was the quickest and easiest way to journey
between towns and cities, but, having arrived at their destinations,
travellers needed accommodation, preferably as near to the station as
possible. The well-to-do of the city were also seeking elegant venues in
which to hold lunches, parties, birthday celebrations and dances".
original hotel opened in 1883 but was extended, along with the station,
was designed by James Miller and re-opened April, 1907.
asks Bill - How did you go about collecting the memories and stories
from past guests and staff?
met James Murphy who had returned as executive chef to Grand Central
Hotel, had originally worked there in the 1970s. He had lots of old
menus and memorabilia from that period.The Glasgow Herald also ran
pieces about the book,
resulting in lots of letters and pictures from readers. We even got an
original copy of Roy Rodgers leading Trigger up the stairs. We had been
given the use of a room in the hotel where we stored all the
information. Wee Des, who was a bellboy at the hotel when Roy Rogers
stayed there was a mine of information. He told me who gave the best
tips, the distribution of tips from the manager to the bellboy.
stories were wonderful. He recalled when the singer, Billy Daniels was
staying at the hotel. Billy approached Des and asked him to take him to
a record shop to buy one of his own records. Des thought it was a
strange request, also, it was a Sunday and all the shops at that time
were closed on a Sunday apart from the Barras. Des took Billy Daniels
there and he was mobbed, but he did get his records.
asks Jill - What brought the stars to Glasgow?
the prolific amount of theatres that brought the stars to Glasgow.
Especially The Alhambra and Empire theatres, they were the ones with
kudos. Also, the proximity of the theatres to the hotel were another
attraction, especially with the dreich Scottish weather.
who was anyone stayed here - farthest back was the Vaudeville actress,
Sophie Tucker, Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardener, Mae West in 1947, Danny
Kaye, Jerry Lee Lewis, Nat King Cole, Gene Kelly in 1953 (when looking
for a location for Brigadoon), Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, Cilla Black,
David Wilkie, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Hope who hosted
charity events in the hotel.
interjects that many sporting stars have stayed over the years. In 1960
when a European Cup Final was taking place, George Best stayed. As far
back as 1887, John L Sullivan, bare knuckled boxing world champion
stayed. John L Sullivan liked the place so much that he honeymooned
here. Boxers Peter Keenan, Benny Lynch and Victor McLaglen also stayed.
Apart from the sporting stars that interested me, there were high
profile names like J F Kennedy, Winston Churchill (he lunched at the
hotel on 2 occasions).
John Logie Baird transmitted the first long distance television signal
from London to a television in the hotel. If you're wondering why was
the Central Hotel chosen - John Logie Baird's son Malcolm said that it
was the easiest place to transport a television to from the London
asks Jill - Tell us about the Malmaison restaurant.
original Malmaison restaurant served it's first diners in 1927 and had 2
entrances,1 through the hotel and the other from Hope Street. "The name
was not chosen for its translation from the French which means 'sick or
bad house' - rather a strange choice for a restaurant aiming to win
customers over with gastronomic delights - but for its link to one of
the greatest love stories in history, that of Napoleon and Josephine
Bonaparte and their association with the Chateau de Malmaison, a
magnificent country house in a lovely setting about 7 miles from the
centre of Paris. Bought by Josephine in 1799 for her husband, it was the
place where they felt most at home".
"Glaswegians and visitors to the city fell in love with the Mal. The
restaurant, with heavy red drapes over the windows facing onto Hope
Street, was for special occasions, anniversaries and celebrations.
Celebrities ate there - it was the place to see and be seen. While
diners savoured every mouthful, live music played from a small balcony
my favourite stories regards a young man, who, much to his father's
horror had taken a job as a waiter. He had been employed by M. Etienne
Vacher, French Hotel Manager between 1934 and 1955. He ruled with a rod
of iron, but under his influence the Malmaison flourished. The man
recalled that he worked for 4 months as a waiter before he was allowed
to speak to a customer. His first words to a customer were "would Madam
a wee lady in the picture we have of the chefs, called Anna. Anna worked
in the kitchens until she was 77. She mothered the boys, her boys and
loved her work. The first job she was given in the kitchen was to make
fruit salad for 1000. One of her other tasks was to put potatoes in a
rumbler, a thing that peeled the potatoes! Anna loved her boys so much,
if they had been out on the raz the night before she would line up
glasses of water and give them Alka Seltzer.
asks Bill - Which parts of the hotel do you like best?
to the 1960s and 70s when Glasgow City Council pulled down buildings
willy nilly, like St Enoch's Hotel. The Central Hotel had its own form
of vandalism. Things had been boarded up and painted over, and, when the
renovations were started builders found lots of original features. Like
the Champagne Bar, bar originally planned to be put in the centre of the
room but when they lifted up 3 or 4 layers of carpet and found the
original black and white tiled floor the bar plans were changed.
favourites are floors 5, 6 and 7 which haven't been renovated, although
I think they may have started or be about to start floor 5. This is
where the staff lived, it's like time stood still here and a wee bit
eerie. When the 5th floor is renovated it will give the hotel another
told me that he had heard that if you slipped the Concierge some money
that he would let you have a bath in the staff quarters. Whether this is
true or not, the baths are still there because it is a listed building.
asks Jill - What is your favourite story from the book ?
doing research for the book, I answered a phone call and an American
voice said that they were looking for me. Her name was Michelle, her
father was Rolf Steiner. "Steiner was a name that was legendary in
hairdressing circles and if you had an appointment in their Glasgow
salon, located inside the Central Hotel, then you knew you had made it
in Glasgow Society". Michelle has happy memories of her visits to the
hotel and recalls hot cross buns at breakfast on Good Friday morning.
Her and her brothers meals were always taken in their parents suite,
which also had a grand piano for Francis to practice on.
John Nelson got the managers job. He brought his family of 2 wee boys.
It was a great place to stay but there was nowhere for them to play.
Their Mum let them play football and ride their bike in the ballroom
when their Dad was out. The upside of living in a hotel was that they
went to St Aloysius and when they got home from school, they and their
friends would have afternoon tea sent up to their room. They also got to
know when famous people were staying as the floor managers would tell
them. When Brendan (one of the boys) heard we were doing a book on the
hotel, he said, that his father would have been ashamed. But, when he
read the book, he said that his father would have been proud.
asks Bill - What was your favourite story from the book ?
favourite is about Margaret Innes, Central Hotel switchboard operator
during World War I. She was ideal for the job - polite, courteous and
discreet. Margaret regularly received flowers from visiting officers and
the military elite for her work.
Great War raged across Europe between 1914 and 1915, hundreds of
thousands of military personnel passed through Central Station. Making
their way to and from battle, it is not hard to imagine the scenes as
loved ones bade them farewell, wondering if they would ever welcome them
behind the substantial sandstone of the Central Hotel the military elite
were living in the lap of luxury. Hotel staff attended to their every
whim as their men slept on the concrete concourse of Central Station,
kit bags under their heads, waiting for their trains".
I were very lucky to have been asked to write the book and are very
proud that the R.N.I.B have transcribed our book onto audio and into
braille. We hope that you enjoyed our trip down memory lane.
has taken me down memory lane. 60 years ago I was entertaining a
customer at Malmaison, where we had an
account. I saw something on the menu that I wasn't familiar with called
tournedos rossini and had to ask, the
formidable Signor Luigi what it was. I had been embarrassed to ask but
he said "if you come and see something you
not know, I will be very pleased to tell you".
there any ghosts?
Quite surprisingly, I have only been asked about ghosts once.
Personally, I don't believe (Bill), but if there were to be
it would be more likely on floors 5, 6, and 7. In 1999 there was a
ghoulish sort of art exhibition on the 7th floor.
man, Walter was sat at a desk there, it was his job for 6 days from 11
until 2am in the morning. The whole point of
exhibition was to scare you. His only job was to say, "there are rooms
to the left of you and rooms to the right of
you". In a room on the 7th floor, in an empty room overlooking the
station there was a melancholy poem which made
think that somebody had taken their life. It turns out that it was part
of the exhibition.
Another, of what was thought at the time to have been somebody jumping
out of a room window, taking their own life
turned out to have been somebody that had been drunk.
Q I was
told that there was a swimming pool in the building. Has it been
there is a pool there but it is not operational. I'm not really sure
what the long term plans are, the drains
underneath are 130 years old and not suitable for a swimming pool.
you tell me about La Fourchette?
was next door to Malmaison, thought to be cheaper and a little less
formal. The story goes that if the chips in the
Malmaison didn't come up to scratch they were sent to La Fourchette.
is the average room rate tariff?
no idea what they are. I quite often see deals for the Tempus restaurant
which used to be Malmaison.
Q I was
once in an hotel where the Central Hotel was in a brochure. I said to
the lady at reception that I had a complaint,
that there was an hotel advertised in my room that wasn't opened. I had
visions of unsuspecting tourists turning up
finding it closed for business.
have no idea, maybe it was a transport owned hotel brochure that hadn't
thanked Bill Hicks and Jill Scott for their wonderful talk.
history is astonishing, the building is fascinating and it would
probably be better to say who hadn't stayed there, than who has stayed
there. The pictures of marching off to war. There was a poignant picture
of a soldier looking up at the hotel and you wonder what happened to
him. If walls could speak, what stories they would tell, and, the next
best thing is to read a book written by yourselves.
headgear is missing from this statue ?
winner is Norma Gourlay, who correctly answered that it was the Duke of
Wellington, minus his cone.
Directors Meeting -
28th November 2013
Next Ordinary Meeting -
12th December 2013
Cairns thanked everyone for coming and wished all a safe journey home.