Scottish Music Hall & Variety Theatre Society

The glorious days of Scottish Music Hall and Variety Theatre

SHOWMAN OR CHARLATAN?

BY Brian Freeland

Intrigued by the references  to "the successful music hall entertainer Dr Watford Bodie" uncovered during a brief visit to Macduff, I recently spent a happy morning surfing the web and learning more about this extraordinary character.

Samuel Murphy Bodie was born in 1869, in Aberdeen. His parents hoped he would become a minister but, as he later said, "I had a living to make, to put it plainly: there's more money in shocking and terrifying than in edifying".

His first job was with the Scottish National Telephone Company, where he picked up much of the electrical expertise which he would later develop into a variety act seen for the first time in public at Stonehaven Town Hall. His performances utilised comedy, magic, hypnotism, sleight of hand, telepathy, clairvoyance and ventriloquism, but it was his use of electricity which made him famous, and earned him the nickname of The Electrical Wizard of the North.

On stage, he would pass electrical currents of tens of thousands of volts through his body to light lamps and bulbs held in his hands. He would often invite the audience to inspect his apparatus, or pass electricity through the body of a volunteer. As a lady volunteer came on stage he would touch her hand, and make her hair stand on end with static electricity. He would also ask for a couple to kiss on stage and make their lips spark up with electricity.

In 1886 he met Jeannie Henry at a show in Banff: they married, and set up home in Macduff. Jeannie performed with him on stage, as Princess Ruble. Her elder sisters Mary (Mystic Marie) and Isabella (La Belle Electra) also helped in the shows, although both died in their twenties. Jeannie's two younger sisters were also involved, as musical directors.

 

In 1890 Bodie built a replica of the first electric chair, the one in which William Kemmler had been executed at Sing Sing prison. He would stage mock executions in an act he called 'The Man They Could Not Electrocute'. Thirty years later, his great friend, the illusionist Harry Houdini, purchased the original Sing Sing chair.

The two showmen kept up a regular correspondence. In 1897 Bodie became Manager of the Connaught Theatre of Variety in Norwich, but missed the excitement of performing to a live audience. The couple returned to Scotland, building the Manor House in Skene Street, Macduff as a family home. They became active in the Macduff community, building a public swimming pool and public baths.

Samuel Murphy Bodie returned to the stage, adopting his brother-in-law's first name so that it was as Walford Bodie MD that he toured an act called Bodie Electric Drug Company. The (apparently) lame and the sick were allegedly 'cured' with hypnotism and electricity, and with the use of what he called 'Electric Linament, Bodie's Health Spa, and Electric Life Pills'.

 

His shows were popular worldwide, and during a tour of Ireland Bodie was made a Life Governor of the town of Cork.  Returning from a tour of India in 1916 their ship was torpedoed and sunk in the Mediterranean. Both Jeannie and Bodie were rescued, but by different ships, and they were not reunited for several weeks because Bodie's rescue ship was itself torpedoed.

 

The Electrical Wizard was also big in London, where he owned a theatrical club, and a houseboat on the Thames. He worked regularly with Harry Lauder, and had an early influence on the career of Charlie Chaplin. Bodie always dressed smartly, and was easily recognised by his hair and waxed handle-bar moustache, and by his monocle. Chaplin was so fascinated by this flamboyant character that when he got his own first big London break, in a revue with comedian Will Murray, he performed an impersonation of Dr Bodie.

 

What his audiences did not know was that Walford Bodie used static electricity which, although it appeared dangerous and produced lots of sparks, was totally harmless. Medical students would heckle his shows, and throw rotten fruit in an effort to halt his performances - most notably at the Glasgow Coliseum 'Bodie Riot' in 1909. The medical profession disliked his use of the MD and the title `doctor', and took him to court.  In court Bodie claimed that MD stood for Merry Devil, and this got him off the hook, but the negative publicity lost him some work in the major venues.

His daughter died in 1909, aged only 18, and is remembered by a marble fountain in Macduff, on Duff Street. Son Albert, a member of the Royal Society of Illusionists, died in 1915, aged 26. Bodie outlived his wife Jeannie who died in 1931, and - in his sixties - married a 22-year-old dancer, Florie Robertshaw. His career continued until October 1939, when he died, aged 70, at the end of a long summer season at Blackpool's Olympia Theatre.

For years after his death, Macduff mothers would warn their children that if they did not behave they would get a visit from the ghost of Walford Bodie. Adults, frightened by parents during their childhood, crossed the road rather than walk past his old home, the Manor House, which was rumoured to be haunted by his ghost.

In a 1998 edition of The Ballater Eagle, Betty Allan recalled a 1935 Bodie spectacular at the Victoria Hall, Ballater: 

 The handsome Walford Bodie strode on stage in evening' dress, silk hat and cape. Wi his black hair and glitterin dark een, he fair generated pouer and excitement himself. A believe that some o the local worthies wis hypnotised that nicht, but A wis ower young tae tak in aa that. The sheer spectacle wis fit fair ca'd the feet fae me. Bricht lichts o every colour flashed roun the stage, blinkin on and aff sae quick it fair faized me. Noo ye could see something or somebody - then there wis naething there at aa.

We spoke aboot Walford Bodie for Laing aifter that, and A still think o him wi a lot o respeck.  Bodie impressed us as naebody else had ivver deep. He brocht tae oor sheltered, quate village life the thrill o the unknown. Here wis something even oor big fowk didna understand, and we had been privileged tae see it. A still feel privileged. Some fowk ca'd Bodie a charlatan, and some a miracle healer. There's nae doot he wis a byomar kind o mannie. The toon o Macduff should be prood o him".

This article first appeared in  the Scots Thistle. 

Issue 87, Winter 2009. Anne Fields' 61 Years in Scottish Show business By Norman Christie.

NORMAN CHRISTIE LOOKS BACK ON

ANNE FIELDS’ 61 YEARS IN SCOTTISH SHOW BUSINESS

I had never been to the Ayrshire home of Anne Fields, yet as we talked in her garden, it seemed quite familiar. “You’ll recognise it if you saw the film The Flying Scotsman about cyclist Graeme Obree.” she says “The film company shot a number of scenes in the grounds of my garden.”  I could see a tenuous link: Graeme Obree, the man who covered a lot of ground in his short career as a racing cyclist and Anne, who has covered a great deal of ground in the 61 years she has spent as a professional in Scottish show business. 

 

Anne began her career as a singer and then became a comedy feed to numerous Scottish comedians before diversifying into producing and directing shows. She has worked with some of the great names of Scottish variety theatre – Johnny Beattie, Robert Wilson, Tommy Morgan, Jimmy Logan and the double act, Clark and Murray - and has appeared in theatres throughout Scotland and is still performing, mostly in Scottish variety shows. To learn how she started meant looking back to the childhood of a young Jean McKenzie Logan – her name before entering show business.

 

Her father, Frank Logan, was Clifford, one half of a double act Clifford and Clinton who together, blacked up like Al Jolson, and for years, toured the theatres with a song and dance act. “As a child, I could always tell when he was going off to work” says Anne, “because a big blue case would come out the cupboard and into it he would pack neatly ironed shirts, dinner suit, tailed suit, tap shoes, make-up and towels.”

 

“That went on for years but with a growing family to support – brother George and sister Sally were now on the scene - dad thought a full time career in show business was too precarious and took what he called a legitimate job.  He opened three shops in his home town of Rutherglen; a dairy, a grocer’s and a baker’s but continued to do theatre work at the weekends.”

 

The excitement of entertaining rubbed off on Anne and at the age of six, as a pupil at Springfield Road Primary School, she sang at the school concert. “As I was about to leave for the venue with my mother, I threw a tantrum.  Mum had packed my dress in a little bag, but I wouldn’t go unless my things were put into dad’s theatre case. The blue suitcase was as big as me but I humphed it all the way to the hall.  I sang Somewhere over the Rainbow and walking home from the event with the applause still in my head, I knew then what I wanted to do.”

 

But it was a few years before she again appeared on a stage.  As a family, they went on holiday each year to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute and always went to the variety shows at the Winter Gardens.  Towards the end of the war, families were beginning to go out again and to meet the demand, the management of the Winter Gardens put on a potted pantomime as part of their season - even although it was the middle of summer - and they advertised for children to audition for Babes in the Woods.  Anne auditioned and won the role of a babe. This was in 1945.

 

“I remember it well. Jack Short and May Dalziel, also known as Pa and Ma Logan of the Logan family (no relation to Anne’s family), headed the cast.  Also in the show was their son, young Jimmy Logan who sang and played the piano in those days and Aly Wilson was the comic, accompanied by his feed, Harry Niblock.  The panto ran for two weeks and when it finished, my father said ‘I know you loved it, but don’t get any ideas - you’re going back to school!’.”

 

However, by the time the summer panto was over, the seed had been sown. Young Jean Logan began to accompany her dad to his concerts where he encouraged her to sing a couple of numbers. Under his watchful eye, he taught her technique, or as he called it ‘getting her rough edges off.’ “He showed me how to use a microphone, how to walk on stage and how to acknowledge an audience,” says Anne “And all the time I was gaining experience.”

 

On leaving school in 1948, she auditioned for the agent George B Bowie (father of Ross Bowie, who later managed the Alexander Brothers) in the Astoria Ballroom in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street, and was signed to appear at Barrfield’s Pavilion in Largs for the summer season.  Arriving for rehearsals, she was thrilled to see the billboard. Top of the bill was Tommy Lester the comedian and the dancers Elite Six were also billed, but there in bold lettering was the name Anne Fields. 

 

She changed her name to prevent any mix-up with The Logan Family of Ma and Pa Logan and their family members.  The stage name was chosen during a discussion with agent Billy Fields who, at that time, was putting her into Sunday night shows at The Queens Theatre at Glasgow Cross.    “I had no particular name in mind” says Anne “but sitting across from him in his office and seeing his nameplate on the desk, I suggested using his name. ‘We’ll use Jean Fields then,’ he said, but I didn’t like that because it reminded me of a cemetery called Janefields. However, next to Billy’s office was a sign for Anne Mair Tailoring and by amalgamation, I came up with the name Anne Fields.

 

“At the rehearsals in Largs, Mr Bowie said that, in addition to singing, he wanted me to appear in production numbers. I also learned that there was a complete change of programme twice weekly.  The first programme ran on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and a new programme would go out on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  This pattern continued throughout the season and was to cater for the number of families who attended the theatre twice a week during their holiday in the Ayrshire seaside town.”

 

“That meant finding material for 32 changes of programme within the 16 weeks period. In addition to learning new songs for my act and songs for production numbers, I had to rehearse lines for the numerous sketches. As you can imagine, these changes required lots of costumes; so, by the end of the season I owed my father £174 for music and dresses. However, in that first season, I learned a great deal and now had an extensive wardrobe for my act. That was me in show business!”

 

Four weeks later, young Anne Fields went to the Palladium in Edinburgh for the winter season, which in those days extended to anything up to three or four months. “This was before the resurgence of pantomime” says Anne “and these winter productions were variety shows with an extensive cast.”

 

Immediately after that, she moved west for her first appearance in Glasgow’s Empress Theatre at St Georges Cross – the theatre that latterly changed its name and became known as Jimmy Logan’s Metropole.  Aly Wilson – the comedian from Babes In The Wood in Rothesay – was on the same bill.  “It was good to see a face I recognised but this time I didn’t feel so gauche. I was a pro and I felt I was going somewhere!”

 

And she was.  In 1950 Anne appeared in the first of many seasons at the Tivoli Theatre.  “I loved that theatre and loved Aberdeen” she recalls. “The principal comedian was Jimmy Nichol. He was the production comic involved in the sketches.  There was also a front cloth comic whose job it was to work in front of the tabs, cracking gags and singing comedy songs.   In my first year at the Tivoli, the role went to a fresh new face – Jack Milroy.”

 

“A year later when I returned to the Tivoli, Jack was the production comic – a fairly rapid rise to fame which continued and culminated in his most famous role, that of Francie in STV’s show ‘Francie and Josie’.”

 

“I started out as a singer” says Anne “then moved into production and sketches.  In those days, it wasn’t unusual for women to feed comics – Helen Norman worked with Jack Radcliffe; Carr & Vonnie were Lex MacLean’s; Jack Anthony had Bertha Ricardo and Jenny Hogarth worked with Billy Rusk. Now I think there’s probably only me left!” reflected Anne.

 

Acting as feed to numerous comedians meant becoming familiar with their individual techniques and styles - and the material too varied widely. Sometimes, it would be suited to family audiences or it could be topical material and in the case of the two years she appeared on Sunday nights with Hector Nichol at Glasgow’s Ashfield Club, risqué double entendres were the accepted and expected norm. “Some comedians insisted on rigidly adhering to the lines,” recalls Anne, “whilst others enjoyed a degree of variation from the script.  And there were those who didn’t like it if the feed got a laugh.  They would tell you when you came off stage to drop a particularly funny line you’d delivered because they weren’t getting the laugh.  Others, like Johnny Beattie and Jack Milroy, realised that if the show was getting laughs, that’s what mattered most.  With all of them though, timing was the thing.  Irrespective of who you’re feeding, you have to know how to time!”

 

And Anne should know.  She’s fed comedy actors such as Walter Carr and the comedians she’s fed reads like a Who’s Who of Scotland’s funny men: Tommy Lester, Pete Martin, Jimmy Nichol, Billy (See-See Me) Rusk, Glen Daly, Jack Milroy, Jimmy Logan, Denny Willis, Johnny Beattie and also Mr and Mrs Glasgow – Clark and Murray.

 

After a few years at the Tivoli, she spent summer seasons at Glasgow’s Pavilion, appearing now as Anne Fields – Soubrette, in the Tommy Morgan show.  “That was the big time for me. The theatre was always busy and shows were filled with sketches with an established format, usually set in the front room of a family home. Tommy would be the father, Maggie Milne would be mother, Tommy Yorke was usually the neighbour and I would play the daughter. Tommy Morgan was a wonderful man to work with and they were great shows to be in.”

 

But for Anne Fields, the theatre with which she has the longest association is the Gaiety Theatre in Ayr. Her first appearance was in March 1957 when she performed in Robert Wilson’s show The White Heather Group.  Accordionist Will Starr was on the bill, together with The White Heather Girls and again Aly Wilson was the comic, this time fed by Norma Goldie and Artie Maine.  Anne played many seasons in the theatre before appearing in 1961 in her first Gaiety Whirl - the name given to the resident summer variety show that has run annually since the early 1930s. Johnny Beattie was also in the show and this led to a long association acting as feed to the comedian, especially at The Gaiety. “I’ve played the Gaiety more or less since 1957,” she recalls, “probably more than anywhere else.” 

 

To appear at the theatre, meant regular driving between her home in the south side of Glasgow and after a number of years Anne began to consider moving closer to Ayr. However, her husband Ron Robson needed to be in Glasgow on a regular basis.  Ron, formerly one of the Four Jones Boys, a modern harmony quartet, was an announcer on Scottish Television and appeared nightly in STV’s topical news programme Here and Now with Bill Tennant.

 

When Ron died prematurely, there was no longer the need to be based in Glasgow. By this time, sister Sally and her husband Joe Gordon had moved to Galston and Anne decided to leave her Queen’s Park apartment in Glasgow for her present home which is within walking distance of her sister.

 

It’s been a good base; conveniently close to the Gaiety and to the Palace Theatre in neighbouring Kilmarnock.  In the 80s, when Anne extended her talents even further and went on to directing, it was at the Palace. During the summer months she would appear in variety shows throughout the west of Scotland and in the festive season, staged pantomimes with Jimmy Nairn, Jackie Farrell and Denny Willis.  Denny, who had retired from the theatre and settled in England, ‘came out of retirement’ and travelled north to appear in these productions.  To date, she has directed thirteen pantos at that venue.

Directing aside, Anne is still working – in particular, she can be seen every year in Scottish Variety Shows held mainly in Rothesay, Glasgow and Ayr.  With the temporary closure of the Gaiety Theatre, this year’s production in Ayr was staged at the Citadel for the first time and at that venue, Anne sang, appeared in production numbers and acted as comedy feed to Johnny Beattie – demonstrating that she is as versatile as ever.

 

“I probably wouldn’t have been in the business this length of time if I hadn’t diversified and become a comedy feed and gone into directing shows.” she remarks with a sparkle in her eye, and then adds “That’s why I’ve lasted 61 years in the business!” 

You can’t argue with that.

Issue 86, Autumn 2009. Dunfermline Opera House by Bill Gourley

 

DUNFERMLINE OPERA HOUSE

By Bill Gourley.

 

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first set foot in Dunfermline Opera House in 1982 with two friends, Gordon and Marianne Ellis. We were members of Dunfermline Cine Club at the time and had recently formed Talisman Films. The outside of the building certainly wouldn’t have won any awards for it’s architecture, dirty grey coloured stonework it was certainly showing all of it’s 80years. However once you stepped inside you could see what had once been a beautiful theatre, even under the accumulation of over twenty years of dust, sawdust and general debris of the previous occupier, James Bell.  Bell a cabinet maker and French Polisher took over the theatre in 1958, three years after the final curtain.

 

The Opera House certainly had a chequered history over the years, it opened in September 1903 originally as a rather plain looking theatre loosely based on the popular music hall style interior.  In 1920 the then manager of the theatre Mr. John Henry Hare, decided to close it for a major refit, new lighting was installed, space for the fly tower was increased and the decorative interior plasterwork was finished in the Louis XV style.

 

Over the years the Theatre played host to all the big names in the variety and music hall world, Harry Gordon, Dave Willis, Will Fyffe, Harry Lauder, Aly Wilson, Jack Anthony, Tommy Morgan, Johnny Victory and Jimmy Logan.  Ronnie Coburn, Johnny Beattie, Andy Stewart and The Alexander Brothers all played the Opera House very early in their careers and all agree it was a beautiful little theatre to appear in.  When we read in the Dunfermline Press that the Opera House was going to be demolished, we decided to contact the developers Cruden’s with a view to make a photographic record of the Theatre before its final demise.  We were delighted to receive full co-operation from Mr. A. Anderson Cruden Developments Ltd. and received the key from them in April 1982.  We photographed virtually every nook and cranny of the building, the more we explored the more fascinated we became and after several visits we could feel a certain atmosphere in the building, very difficult to describe now, but it was certainly there then.

 

On Saturday the 15 th. May, Gordon and Marianne received a phone call that the Opera House was on fire. As their house was within walking distance to the theatre,  they walked down hoping that it wasn’t too serious.  Several fire engines had attended and there was quite a bit of smoke billowing from the building, the blaze was brought under control with surprisingly little damage. Fortunately the stage, the stalls, virtually all the decorative plasterwork and the hand painted ceiling panel were intact.  Thanks to Henry Hare’s foresight in 1921 when he renovated the theatre, he had stipulated that all flooring and ceiling timbers had to be coated to make them fire-proof.  This, coupled with the fact that the fire station was a few hundred yards along from the Opera House is probably what saved the theatre from being gutted, thankfully.

 

On Monday morning the staff in the warehouse where I worked wondered why I received a visit from the police, I think they had visions of me being hauled away in handcuffs!  As I had the key for the building I suppose I was number one suspect on their list, however I was able to prove that far from being a fire raiser, I was merely trying to record for the future a photographic archive of the theatre along with Gordon and Marianne. They were quite satisfied with my explanation and went away. I never heard if anyone was charged with the break in.  In late 1982 the decorative plasterwork and box fronts were removed from the theatre and stored in a large container at a council yard. At the time we were told that the interior could be rebuilt in another theatre somewhere else.  In January 1983 the shell of the Opera House was demolished and that was the end of the story, so we thought.  We made a Super 8 film in 1984 with a lot of helpful information from Jimmy Logan and locals who had played the Opera House in its heyday. People such as Nettie Dick a Dunfermline actress and producer and George Haldane who was the last drummer to play in the theatre orchestra and was there until it closed in 1955.

 

The film was quite successful, having been entered in various cine club competitions over the central Scotland area and won seven awards including the Pilgrim Trust Award, the first time it had come to Dunfermline.  In February 1986 we received a letter from James Dunbar Nasmith requesting more copies of the photographs we had taken of the Opera House, as he had an interested party who had made enquiries about the theatre.  A few months later Mrs.Elizabeth Lindsay who was a board member of the Asolo Theatre in Sarasota came over to inspect the parts stored in the container. Mrs Lindsay who had trained as an architect was delighted with what she saw and said it was just what they were looking for. It was then shipped to Sarasota, arriving just before Christmas 1986.  Iain Mackintosh, James Dunbar Nasmith along with Leonard Grandison and his son John were all involved in the reconstruction of the interior.

 

The American workmen had a problem with the curve on the front of the dress circle, they just couldn’t get it right at all. It wasn’t until Iain Mackintosh told the men involved “give it a bit more Dolly Parton” that they got the right curve on the balcony! In January 1990 the new theatre had its Gala Opening with Bernard Shaw’s play Man and Superman performed in front of guests including Mrs.Esther M. Mertz and Elizabeth Lindsay from Sarasota, James Cameron Provost of Dunfermline, Timothy Mason Director of the Scottish Arts Council, James Dunbar Nasmith and Iain Mackintosh.

 

My wife and myself decided to go to Sarasota in February 2007, the main reason being, to go and see the rebuilt Opera House in all its glory. I had been in touch with Vic Meyrich, Production Manager at the Asolo Theatre in   Sarasota, he pointed us in the direction of a hotel and also agreed to show us around the theatre when we arrived.  The Asolo Theatre is set in beautiful gardens with plenty of trees and of course parking spaces! A far cry from the rather sad and dingy looking building which had housed the Opera House in Dunfermline.  Stepping inside the main entrance of the theatre complex you are greeted with a light and airy interior with plenty of room to move about in, have a drink or a meal, or visit the craft and gift shop.  We met Vic in his office and he took us downstairs to see the theatre and I must admit I was totally unprepared for what I saw. When I stepped inside the theatre, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, what I saw was what the patrons of the theatre must have seen way back in 1921 after the major refit.

 

The fully restored interior was really superb, it had been painted in similar colours to the original, cream, grey and gold, with rich dark red seats and carpeting, and wood panelling around the bottom part of the walls.  All the light fittings had been reproduced in the same style as the originals, even the stage curtains and proscenium arch had the same pattern on them as the curtains that graced the stage in Dunfermline had.  I took as many photographs and as much video as I could, I really was totally impressed with the way the interior had been totally restored to its original glory.

 

When we got home I raved about the theatre to the rest of our film group and when they saw the photographs and video, they agreed that we would have to make a film about the Opera House finishing with its rebirth in Sarasota.  We started speaking to people who had performed there, attended the theatre as patrons and did extensive research in the local library. We were fortunate enough to obtain grants from Awards for All and Fife Council and the project gained momentum. Over the months we spoke to Ronnie Coburn who was an immense help to us with his ideas and encouragement. Tom Alexander, who, with his brother Jack, played the Opera House very early in their career. Johnny Beattie also told us about his time in the Theatre, again very early in his career.  We were very fortunate to speak to Denise Coffey, who as a young girl had appeared in the Opera House in Macbeth. She very kindly agreed to narrate the film for us and also gave us a couple of stories about when she played there. Some of  the film we had used in our original 1984 production was transferred to video and used in the new video. Film of Jimmy Logan, Nettie Dick and George Haldane, all sadly no longer with us, but was too good to leave out.

 

The story of Dunfermline Opera House was also featured in the Sunday Post a few months ago and caused a lot of interest as it is really quite unique. I can’t think of another theatre that has been closed, had its interior cut up, stored for later use, then restored and rebuilt in America.

 

I can’t help thinking of how proud John Henry Hare would have been, to see his theatre interior restored to its former glory in Sarasota, Florida.

 

The DVD is on sale at Dunfermline Central Library, Abbot House, Dunfermline and at our website www.talismanfilmsscotland.co.uk    

 

 

Alexander McLean Cameron

“Sexy Lexy” Music Hall Legend

 

Alexander ("Lex") McLean Cameron was born in Clydebank in 1908. After leaving school he was, briefly an apprentice in John Brown & Co's Clydebank Shipyard.   His first taste of show business was playing piano in the Clydebank Pavilion Theatre on Kilbowie Road. After successfully entertaining at troop shows, his first entry to the inner circle of show-business came in the 1940s at the Empress Playhouse, Glasgow. He had once earned a modest living as an itinerant musician, playing the clarinet, saxophone and accordion on the streets of Belfast. Back home again, the venues he played ranged from open-air bandstands at holiday towns such as Girvan, Ayrshire, to the many variety halls in central and west Scotland. The job of comedian, while requiring an expertise in music and presentation, was so low in estimation to his own family that he told his mother he was away on business as a commercial traveller.


He toured with variety shows and worked as a feed to other comedians, before embarking on a solo career in 1947.   He achieved full prominence in 1955 when he succeeded Tommy Morgan (1898-1958) at the city centre Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow, winning a steadily increasing following with packed audiences up to 1971. 
Wearing a red cloak and top hat, or a flat cap and baggy trousers, and with a smirk on his face, he would offer comedy lines with a double meaning; "Keep it bright, keep it bright!", he would smile. The media dubbed him "Sexy Lexy", but his material was passed by the Lord Chamberlain and Glaswegians queued in their hundreds to enjoy him. 

 

Away from the Theatre Lex was a very quiet and private man. When Lex was at home he had his 3 main loves, his home which was a beautiful Villa on the sea front in Helensburgh, His boat "Dolphin 2" and his charming wife Grace.  After a show at the Pavilion Lex would dash out of the stage door and run down to Queen street Station to catch the last train home to Helensburgh. When the train arrived at Helensburgh, Lex would get into his car which he always left at the station and drive the few miles from the station to his home. During the day before he would set off to the theatre, he would sit in his rocking chair up on the enclosed balcony in his house which faced onto beautiful views of the River Clyde and write fresh material.

When Lex wasn't doing that he would relax for a few hours on his boat "Dolphin2" and he would regularly go for sails up the Gareloch or the Clyde.

Lex McLean died on March 23, 1975.  www.helensburghheroes.com