Stan Laurel and Scotland - the country where his career began

Laurel and Hardy go Scotch.  'Glasgow's Lost Theatre: The Story of the Britannia Music Hall

Laurel and Hardy go Scotch. 'Glasgow's Lost Theatre: The Story of the Britannia Music Hall

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STAN laurel’s successful career in comedy began in Scotland and the country influenced much of his work.

Born in Cumbria, England in 1890, Laurel’s family moved to Glasgow when he was still a teenager and his father ran the city’s Metropole Theatre.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy playing with yo-yos backstage at the Empire Theatre in Edinburgh in 1954

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy playing with yo-yos backstage at the Empire Theatre in Edinburgh in 1954

Rejecting his father’s plans for him to run his own theatre, Laurel dreamed of becoming a performer like his actress mother, and had his heart set on comedy.

His father, against the idea as he felt there was no money in the profession, was unaware of his son’s first performance on stage at the Panopticon - when he was just 16.

In 1906, Laurel, who was then known as Stan Jefferson, took to the stage for the first time, stealing his dad’s finest suit.

His jokes got a steely reception from the audience.

'Stan Jefferson in 1906' Picture courtesy of the Laurel and Hardy Museum

'Stan Jefferson in 1906' Picture courtesy of the Laurel and Hardy Museum

Mark Greenhow, owner and curator of the Laurel and Hardy Museum, said: “At 16 Stan made his first appearance at the Panopticon in Glasgow, and the audience were not a generous bunch. Depending on which story you read, people either say it was a great performance, or not so good. It was a rough crowd.”

Mr Greenhow said Laurel had always wanted to be a comedian, despite his father being set against it.

He explained: “The story goes that he spotted his father sitting in the stalls and ran off the stage, tripping over his trousers and got a good laugh - which pleased him, but he still had his father to deal with.

“When he was home his father asked him if he would like to share a whisky, and congratulated him, which made Stan cry with relief. His father realised how much his son wanted to be a comedian and started to support him in his career after that.

Laurel and Hardy - At Empire Theatre, Edinburgh looking at  photographs of entries for Evening Dispatch Lovely Shopgirl competition.

Laurel and Hardy - At Empire Theatre, Edinburgh looking at photographs of entries for Evening Dispatch Lovely Shopgirl competition.

“At 19 he joined Fred Karno’s Army and the rest is history,” he added.

Another tale of the fateful story can be found in Glasgow’s Lost Theatre: The Story of the Britannia Music Hall by Judith Bowers, published by Birlinn.

Judith said: “Stan told his joke and got grief from the audience. But what was upsetting to Stan was that he noticed his dad sitting in the stalls. His dad was furious because he recognised his best suit and what Stan had done to it. Stan wanted off stage, so took a bow but fumbled the hat and dropped it.

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Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (Laurel and Hardy) with a ticket collector at the old Caledonian railway station in Edinburgh 13/4/1954.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (Laurel and Hardy) with a ticket collector at the old Caledonian railway station in Edinburgh 13/4/1954.

“He stepped forward to pick up the hat. His foot connected with it and kicked it into the orchestra. A lady in the orchestra tried to retrieve the hat, tripped, fell on the hat and crushed it. The audience laughed their heads off as Stan tried to get off stage,” she added.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy went on to appear together in more than 120 films and despite being based in America for his later career, his visits to Scotland remained frequent.

The pair would stay at the Central Hotel in Glasgow and visited Gleneagles during their tour of the UK in 1932 and visited throughout the 1940s and 50s.

Laurel and Hardy also made films with Scottish themes, including Bonnie Scotland and some of the duo’s works also featured Scotland.

The 1927 short silent movie Putting Pants on Philip follows Laurel’s kilt-wearing character, who arrives in America from Scotland to stay with an uncle, played by Hardy.

The uncle mistakenly believes his nephew’s Highland dress is a lady’s skirt and the skit was said to be Laurel’s favourite silent film.

Edinburgh University students charity week - even Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy aren't immune in 1954

Edinburgh University students charity week - even Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy aren't immune in 1954

Stan Laurel died in 1965 after suffering problems with his heart.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy playing with yo-yos backstage at the Empire Theatre in Edinburgh in 1954

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy playing with yo-yos backstage at the Empire Theatre in Edinburgh in 1954

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy at the Caledonian railway station in Edinburgh 13/4/1954.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy at the Caledonian railway station in Edinburgh 13/4/1954.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in 1954.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in 1954.

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