is with great sadness that I have to inform all our members and friends
of the passing of our Hon Secretary and dear friend Mr Bob Bain after a
long brave battle with illness. I know that at this time
you will all have Bob’s family very much in your thoughts and we do send
the Deepest Sympathies to Eleanor and all the family at this very sad
Bob was the main stalwart of our Society and will be greatly missed by all the Committee and members of the Society. From Bob joining the Society in 1993 and becoming Secretary in 1995 his wealth of knowledge on the Scottish Variety Theatre was truly an asset to our cause.
Born: April 1, 1938;
Died: December 2, 2019
Bain, who has died aged 81, was a tireless champion and archivist of
Scotland’s variety and music hall culture, sharing his exhaustive
knowledge of the era with passion, charm and a twinkle in his eye to
anyone who listened. Bain’s own extensive collection of memorabilia was a
vast in-road to a bygone age which he helped bring back to life as an
oral historian, tirelessly giving talks and showing films on the
Bob Bain was born in the Gorbals, Glasgow, and developed an interest in the theatre
from an early age after his parents took him to what would become one
of his favourite venues, the old Metropole in Stockwell Street, Glasgow.
still remember walking in,” he told the Evening Times in 2018, “I must
have been seven or eight years old, and seeing the roaring fire and the
old couches where you’d sit and wait until it started. Ever since, I
have loved the theatre.”
parents died within a few months of each other when he was 20, and he
moved to London shortly after, staying for four years. On his return to
Glasgow, he became a patent glazier, working on installing roofing
windows before he was forced to take early retirement after 20 years due
to a back injury.
was then that his interest in theatre blossomed into a passion after he
inherited a box of memorabilia from his wife’s Eleanor’s grandfather,
who had performed around the country in a hand-balancing act called the
Norman Brothers. From this, Bain developed his own collection of flyers
and programmes, tracking down former variety and music hall stars
through Equity to ask for help.
items include a poster advertising Liberace’s appearance at Glasgow
Empire, a fake leg owned by 1960s dance troupe the May Moxon Girls Act
used for a three-legged dance and a set of bagpipes once played by Billy
Crockett for an act that involved a second set that would spray water
on the audience.
also became the stage-door keeper at the Pavilion Theatre in Glasgow,
and, crucially, joined the Scottish Music Hall Society. Bain became
secretary of the society, a role which became much more than a hobby,
but was his life.
fantastic memory, combined with an unbridled enthusiasm, saw him liaise
with numerous institutions to mount talks and exhibitions of variety
and music hall material. This resulted in presentations at Glasgow Royal
Concert Hall, Auld Kirk Museum, Kelvingrove Art Galleries, Motherwell
Heritage Centre, Summerlee Industrial Muse, the Mitchell Library in
Glasgow and Rothesay Pavilion as part of Bute live.
with Society Chair Derek Green, and membership secretary Bill Green,
Bain would tour church halls, guilds and community centres to give
presentations on variety theatre in Glasgow.
also organised speakers to give talks for society members and organised
the society’s annual lunch in Glasgow, at which a Scottish celebrity
would receive an award for their service to Scottish entertainment.
For many years Bain was editor of the Stagedoor Magazine, the society’s
quarterly journal, and, in interviews on TV and radio, became the
public face and voice of the society. Bain’s particular passion was for
the Glasgow Empire, and he made this his personal project, researching
many of the hundreds of acts that appeared there, and travelling the
country with a talk on it which he devised himself.
his tenure as secretary, Bain’s dynamism and enthusiasm made him
instrumental in the society widening its reach to include variety
theatre alongside music hall. The end result of this came in 2003, when
the organisation’s name was changed to the Scottish Music Hall and
Variety Theatre Society, the alliance creating a fitting double act of
near neighbours as it did so. In 2011, Bain received a lifetime
achievement award for his services to the society.
Away from the society, Bain and Eleanor settled in Auchinloch, North Lanarkshire, where he spent time with his family.
Bain attended events and performances presented under the banner of An
Audience With….., a project by choreographer Janice Parker that brings
together dancers from the golden age of variety at Edinburgh’s Festival
Theatre, formerly the Empire. Parker was introduced to Bain by some of
the dancers of An Audience With…, whose ranks include Betty Clarkson of
the Clarkson and Leslie dance duo and former Moxon Girl June Don Murray.
Bain’s encyclopaedic knowledge and passion for keeping such a vital
part of grassroots culture and history alive made a big impression on
the group, who themselves are a part of living history.
spoke of the need for a Scottish entertainment museum, dedicated, not
just to variety and music hall, but to theatre, dance, big bands and
of theatres and institutions have their own archives,” he told the
Evening Times, “so there’s plenty of stuff, but it’s all over the place.
A museum would bring it all together.”
may never have set foot on a stage as a performer himself, but in his
evangelical zeal to keep the music hall and variety flame alive, he
remained a star turn in his own right.
Bain is survived by his wife Eleanor, his daughter Barbara, his step sons Roddy and Stuart and his grandson Josh.