IT WAS 50 years ago today the biggest band in the world came to play in Edinburgh.
But the Beatles gig at the ABC Cinema on 29 April 1964 almost never took place and only went ahead thanks to two enterprising 17-year-old girls who petitioned the Liverpudlian group to perform.
Now one of those teenagers, Pat Conner (now Smart) has revealed how she nearly missed out on seeing John, Paul, George and Ringo – despite gathering 8,000 signatures to persuade them to come.
She said: “It was such an exciting time in my life, especially as I was actually a shy and quiet teenager. Looking back it was unreal in a way. After we had collected the signatures and the band agreed to come we were sort of heroines in a way.”
Mrs Smart, whose favourite Beatles song is I Want to Hold Your Hand, said that once a date for the gig had been set she almost missed out on the unforgettable evening because her father refused to let her queue overnight outside the venue to buy tickets.
The campaign to bring the global stars to Edinburgh started after Mrs Smart and her friend Eileen Oliver saw them play in a theatre in Kirkcaldy in 1963.
That year the band had also visited Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, and much of the Highlands, but had missed Edinburgh off their list.
The girls started a petition to try to convince the band, who were selling millions of records around the world, to pay the city a visit and within a few weeks they had collected more than 8,000 signatures.
Mrs Smart, 67, said: “It gathered momentum. We started off with a long scroll of paper, and wrote out our aim – to get the Beatles to come and play in Edinburgh. We also stuck a few pictures of them at the top.”
The two girls, neighbours from Sighthill in Edinburgh, who were pupils at Trinity Academy, spent all their spare time gathering signatures.
“We went to the ice rink, factories, Princes Street Gardens, round schools – people were so keen to add their names,” she said.
The campaign gathered momentum and the girls rang the band’s producer, George Martin.
“We told him how many people had signed our petition, and he said ‘I’m very interested to hear they have so many fans in Edinburgh’. He said he would see what he could do. The next thing we knew the Beatles announced they were coming. We were ecstatic.”
However, both the girls’ fathers banned them from joining thousands of other Beatles fans queuing overnight on Lothian Road for the highly coveted 5,400 tickets.
She said: “My father said there was no way he was letting me stand on the street overnight to get a ticket. I was so disappointed after all the work I’d put in – but that was just how it was back then. He said no and that was it.”
But two 17-year-old boys from Edinburgh managed to secure two extra tickets and offered to take them.
Mrs Smart said: “It was like a dream – but my boyfriend at the time wasn’t best pleased.”
The Beatles fan, who emigrated to South Africa in 1971, said the show was “fantastic”, and after the gig she was introduced to the band.
“They bounced in with lovely shiny hair flopping up and down. George Harrison was my favourite. I remember looking at him thinking how lovely he was,” Mrs Smart said. “And he knew all about our petition.”