STAN Laurel’s Glasgow links are well-known here in the city and abroad.
He attended school on the south side, his father ran a Glasgow theatre, and he took his first steps into showbiz on the stage here.
Now, a city tour guide wants a permanent tribute created for the man who was one-half of the world’s most famous comedy duo.
James Scott, who runs guided history tours around the Merchant City, is hoping Times Past readers will support his fundraising campaign to have a blue plaque installed near the site of The Metropole Theatre – now the Scotia Bar – on Stockwell Street.
There is already a plaque to Stan at the Britannia Panopticon, the music hall generally considered to be the venue in which a young Stan Laurel made his dramatic comedy debut.
But James believes it is just as likely Stan appeared firstly at the Metropole, where his father was the manager.
“He certainly worked at the Metropole – or the Scotia, as it was originally known,” says James. “He started as a cashier, taking the tickets. His father, Arthur Jefferson, wrote plays, and Stan appeared in them, and then later, he did his own comedy routine, so it’s possible his earliest stage performances actually took place in his dad’s theatre and not the Panopticon.”
According to Judith Bowers, in ‘Glasgow’s Lost Theatre: The Story Of The Britannia Music Hall’, it was teenage Stan’s hapless performance at the Panopticon in 1906 that set the wheels of his comedy career in motion.
Laurel noticed his disapproving father in the audience, which put him off and, “(he) wanted off stage, so took a bow but fumbled the hat and dropped it,” she writes.
“He stepped forward to pick up the hat. His foot connected with it and kicked it into the orchestra.”
As everyone dissolved into peals of laughter, a comedy genius was born, setting the foundations for Laurel and Hardy’s slapstick genius later on.
James, a lifelong Laurel and Hardy fan, is hoping a plaque on the wall of the Scotia Bar, which stands on the site of the old Metropole, will remind visitors to the city of Stan’s Glasgow connections.
He is planning a celebration on June 18, at 1pm, to remember Stan Laurel and unveil the plaque.
“We’re delighted the historic bar has agreed to have the plague installed there, and we’re really looking forward to the event,” he adds.
“We have singers performing songs from Laurel and Hardy’s famous movies lined up to appear, and hopefully a few more surprises.”
If you would like to support the event and the installation of the plaque, you can donate to James’s GoFundMe page.
Laurel and Hardy visited Glasgow several times over the course of their career, always to great welcomes from huge crowds, desperate to catch a glimpse of their heroes.
Stan and Ollie were massive stars, famous for films such as Unaccustomed As We Are and Pardon Us, and the Oscar-winning The Music Box, which won an Academy Award for Best Short Subject.
Their most eventful visit to Glasgow was in July 1932, when they were met by 8000 adoring fans at Central Station.
As the two men made their way to the concourse, a huge surge from the eager crowd pushed them towards the station’s Hope Street exit.
People were fainting, others scrabbling in panic to avoid the crush, and the terrified stars had to be whisked out of the side door on to the main street.
The Evening Citizen, an early Glasgow evening newspaper, reported: “Suddenly a stone balustrade in Hope Street, skirting the wall of the hotel, collapsed outwards onto the pavement owing to the pressure of the crowd, and a number of persons were knocked over by falling masonry.
“The heap of broken stonework fortunately formed a barricade which protected the surging crowd from falling into a basement seven feet below.
“Three ambulance wagons arrived on the scene, and nine men were removed to the Royal Infirmary.”
The experience left Laurel and Hardy shaken, with ripped clothes, damages shoes and a missing watched (it was pinched from Stan’s wrist in the chaos) but they went ahead with their personal appearance at La Scala Cinema later that day.
It was an emotional evening for Stan, who lived in Langside when he was a child – he attended Queen’s Park School – and he spoke movingly about his fond memories of Glasgow.