Scottish Music Hall & Variety Theatre Society
Members Gallery - Bob Bain - Hon. Secretary
Many years ago as a young boy brought up in the Gorbals of Glasgow, I was taken by my mother and father, once a week on Friday evenings to the Metropole Theatre in Stockwell Street, Glasgow, for the first house of whatever variety show was playing at the time.
I remember going in to the foyer from the fog and cold outside and seeing the welcoming warmth of a real coal fire. Around the fire were large leather arm chairs and a couch where the patrons could wait for the first house to come out, so they could in turn go in for the second house. I remember how most of the shows, on those long-ago winter nights, featured the Logan Family - Jack Short, May Dalziel, Jimmy Logan with his catch phrase “Sausages is the boys”, brother Buddy and sister Heather.
I also remember popular performers like George Rex, Nicky Kidd, and Jimmy Neil., as well as dancers Benny Garcia, Danny Regan and Irene Campbell, and of course, the May Moxon Young Ladies. I have been going to live theatre, especially variety ever since. In later years after having to give up my work as a roofer due to arthritis I started to collect memorabilia from the great days of the variety theatre. Unbeknown to me at the time I did not know that my wife Eleanor’s grandfather Norman MacLeod had worked for some years on the Scottish Music Hall stage, I only found out when I was given some old posters from the 1890s with Norman MacLeod as one half of a hand balancing act, ‘The Two Normans’. One poster was from the Britannia in Argyle Street dated 1905 and another with Norman MacLeod on the same bill as Harry Lauder. Over the last 20 years my collection has been growing and today I have well over 1800 programmes, a similar number of photographs, 180 posters, and 500 books about the variety theatre and music-hall much of which is used in various exhibitions staged by the Society.
For a few years I had the part time job as stagedoor keeper in the Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow and enjoyed meeting so many of the artistes that I had admired over the years. My favourite theatre has always been the Glasgow Empire where I saw artistes like Frankie Laine, Johnny Ray, Alma Cogan, David Whitfield, Billy Daniels and supporting acts Wilson , Keppel & Betty, Jimmy James, Rob Murray and many, many more.
I have an ongoing project on the Glasgow Empire Theatre which closed in 1963 and I have written and received replies from many of the top American stars and others who have appeared in this great theatre. I now have my own web site on the Glasgow Empire www.freewebs.com/glasgow-empire/ and have received over 1800 visitors with quite a few leaving messages with their memories of visiting or appearing at the Empire. As Secretary of the Society I am kept very busy but love every minute of it, especially when hearing from the many people who have a like interest in the great days of variety theatre.