Oldest Surviving music hall in Britain
Stan Laurel (1890-1965)
One half of the world's most famous double act started his stage career in the theatres of Glasgow. Stan Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston, Cumbria, in 1890. His parents were both in the theatre business and as they were often on the road Stan was brought up by his grandmother.
In the early 1900s Stan moved to Glasgow to join his parents as his father was the theatre manager at the famous Metropole. At 16, Stan's desire to perform led to his first comedy appearance at the eccentric A. E. Pickard's Panopticon theatre.
His father saw his son's performance by chance and was so impressed he helped him get more work at other theatres in the city. He later changed his name to Laurel because he was superstitious and Stan Jefferson had 13 letters. In 1910 Stan joined a travelling pantomime troupe where he became the understudy to London-born comedian Charles Spencer Chaplin.
Later that year the troupe moved to America but three years later, when the troupe returned to Britain after Chaplin left, Stan decided to remain in America also.
He formed a couple of comedy trio acts and from 1917 started to appear in films. In 1920 he appeared in Lucky Dog. Oliver Hardy also had a part in the film but it wasn't until 1926 that they starred together. The rest of Stan's career is history.
Born June 16, 1890, Ulverston,Cumbria, England
Died February 23, 1965, Santa Monica, California
Albert Ernest Pickard (1874-1964)
The last of Glasgow's great eccentrics was a Yorkshireman, Albert Ernest Pickard Unlimited, as he liked to call himself. Born in Bradford in 1874, he moved to Glasgow in 1904, buying Fell's Waxworks in the Trongate. He added his own American museum. introducing many weird freak shows to the stage and even had a small zoo on the premises. Buying the old Britannia Music Hall above his waxworks. he renamed it 'The Panopticon' because he said there you could see everything. Many performers at his theatre were amateurs and he always claimed part responsibility for one of the most famous comic duos ever. An. unknown comic, Stan Jefferson first performed at the Panopticon, but later the rest of the world would know him as Stan Laurel.
But buying up property made Pickard a millionaire and he eventually owned more buildings than anyone except the council. He claimed after this! that Glasgow belonged to him. But when Will Fyffe started singing his famous song 'I belong to Glasgow', he threatened to sue him in court.
Pickard even stood for Parliament as 'The Independent Millionaire Candidate' for Maryhill, feeling he had a good chance as he owned almost every building in the constituency. He failed miserably but continued to make Glasgow a funnier place in his own eccentric way for 60 years. At the age of 90, during Halloween in 1964, after an amazingly full life, he died in a fire in his own home in Belhaven Terrace in the West End. His ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance within the Western Necropolis.