THE old music hall days of Glasgow’s theatres have long gone – but the magic of Scottish variety lives on in Bob Bain’s attic.

The 80-year-old has been collecting old photographs, programmes, posters and more in a bid to preserve the country’s rich music hall past for generations to come.

Prompted by last week’s Thanks for the Memories feature on the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s archives, Bob – who is secretary of the Scottish Music Hall and Variety Theatre Society - got in touch with an appeal to Evening Times readers.

“Our society is low in numbers, as many of us are getting on in years, and it would be great to hear from younger people interested in getting involved,” he says.

“I have often said we need a Scottish Entertainment Museum, dedicated not just to variety but to theatre, dance, ballet, bands, buskers and more.

“Lots of theatres and institutions have their own archives, so there’s plenty of stuff, but it’s all over the place. A museum would bring it all together.”

Bob, who grew up in the Gorbals, recalls the first time he visited the theatre,

“My mum and dad took me to the Metropole in Stockwell Street, just across the Clyde from where we lived,” he smiles.

“I still remember walking in, 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 all started.

“Ever since, I have loved the theatre.”

Shortly after he retired, Bob inherited a box of memorabilia from his wife’s grandfather, who performed around the country with a hand-balancing act called the Norman Brothers.

“It gave me the idea of starting to collect old flyers and programmes, so I started writing to stars of variety and music hall to ask for their help,” he explains. “I went through the actors’ union, Equity, and tracked down some of the big names who used to perform.

“I got some fantastic replies, and my collection just grew from there.”

The collection is now quite famous in its own right, having been used in television programmes, exhibitions and museum displays over the years.

It has appeared in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, the Auld Kirk Museum in Kirkintilloch and the Mitchell Library, among many other places, and Bob is a familiar figure on TV, talking about Scottish variety theatre.

Bob’s ‘pet project’, he says, is the Empire, Glasgow’s famous venue which had a reputation for fierce audiences.

“There are so many stories from the Empire,” he smiles.

“I have an old poster of Liberace, from when he appeared there.

“The story goes that the first time he performed, he didn’t do the traditional thing of leaving a gratuity for the backstage crew.”

He laughs: “There was quite a slope to the Empire stage, so when Liberace played the piano, he needed a couple of stage hands to hold on to it from below, to stop it rolling away.

“You can guess what happened the second time he played there!

“As revenge for his not leaving a tip, no-one held on to the piano and it moved slowly down the stage while Liberace was playing…..”

Bob’s collection includes posters and ornaments, black and white photos and original bills – and some of the props used on stage by the different acts.

One of the oddest props was a fake leg from the May Moxon Girls Act, a very popular female dance troupe of the 60s.

“Some of the dancers are still alive, although May is no longer with us,” he says.

“The dancers used the fake leg for a three-legged dance. Once, it flew out of the dancer’s hand and smacked someone in the face…”

Bob also owns a set of bagpipes played by Billy Crockett.

“He would play a set in the first half, and come on in the second with a pretend set, which the audience would assume was real,” says Bob.

“It would actually be a tape playing in the background, and the set he was carrying was full of water. As soon as he started playing, he would just spray the audience with water and everyone would get soaked.

“But they loved it and they loved him.”

Bob grins: “It was a mad musical act, but then, Scottish variety was full of daft things.”

If you would like to get involved with the Society, Bob can be contacted by email at or by telephone on 0141 578 4108.