Check in at the Grand Central Hotel: From politicians to rock gods and pure Hollywood gold

When the great and the good checked into Glasgow, for decades they usually checked in to the Grand Central Hotel.

The voco® Grand Central  Hotel in Glasgow was built at Central Station as train travel opened up across the country. The hotel has experienced some pretty special comings and goings over time with (from clockwise top right) Mick Jagger, Winston Churchill and Laurel and Hardy among the famous guests who have checked in. PICS: CC.
The voco® Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow was built at Central Station as train travel opened up across the country. The hotel has experienced some pretty special comings and goings over time with (from clockwise top right) Mick Jagger, Winston Churchill and Laurel and Hardy among the famous guests who have checked in. PICS: CC.

Built at the end of the 19th Century by a railway company that set about linking Glasgow to England, the hotel has witnessed some fairly special arrivals and departures over time.

The Grand Central, which was for a time just known as Central Hotel, came to epitomise all the possibilities of glamour, travel and the thrill of a luxurious downtown hotel.

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Frank Sinatra, Winston Churchill, Laurel and Hardy – whose appearance at the hotel ended in a crush and eight people in hospital - and Diego Maradona are amongst those who booked in. The Rolling Stones stayed in 1976 for their gig at the Apollo and The Beatles also lay their hats there when in town.

JFK with Glasgow Lord Provost Patrick Dollan during his visit in 1939, when the then future President of The United States met survivors of the TSS Athenia, a passenger liner that was struck by a German U-Boat off the Outer Hebrides in one of the first acts of World War Two. Mr Kennedy had been dining with his father at the Grand Central Hotel when news of the attack broke. PIC: SWNS.

History was made when television pioneer John Logie Baird used the hotel to make the first long-distance broadcast in May 1927, with pictures transmitted from London to a room on the fourth floor.

The hotel was built over the former village of Grahamtown that was demolished to make way for Central Station as the lure of cross country train travel was heavily invested in.

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The Victorian-era temple to rest, relaxation and a little refined luxury is now part of the Grade A listed complex that includes the rail station.

Laurel and Hardy's visit to the hotel ended in eight people being hospitalised after waiting crowds surged to see the comedy duo. PIC: CC.

Laurel and Hardy visited the hotel several times. Their trip in 1932 resulted in a “wild welcome” from a surging crowd which ended in the collapse of a balustrade and eight people.

“The scene was one of most extraordinary of its kind ever witnessed in Glasgow,” a newspaper report of the day said.

Winston Churchill’s visit on May 20, 1949 drew a crowd of more than 2,000 people ahead of his appearance at Ibrox Stadium for the annual meeting of Scottish Unionist Association. With 22,000 people in the stands, it remains Scotland’s largest political rally.

John F Kennedy was another political heavyweight who crossed the hotel. He was lunching in the Court Lounge with his father, Joseph, the American Ambassador to Great Britain, when news of the sinking of the Clyde-built Athenia liner, which was packed with evacuees, came through.

Frank Sinatra stayed at the Grand Central in 1990 when he played as part of the European City of Culture celebrations. PIC : CC

Sunk without warning 250 miles west of the Outer Hebrides by a German U-boat just hours into the war on September 3, 1939, more than 100 people were killed in an attack that “shocked the world” given the civilian death toll. After rescue boats arrived back on The Clyde, 400 places were reserved at the Grand Central for survivors with JFK later meeting families at another city hotel.

On a lighter note, publicity pulsed around the arrival of Western star Roy Rogers in 1954 with his horse Trigger. Fans and flashbulbs jostled for space as the duo came down the main staircase. The visit coincided with a week long bill of The Roy Rogers Western Package at The Empire, with rumours that the precious Palomino had its own suite at the hotel. But the story turned out to be just a good bit of PR.

The hotel will open as the voco® Grand Central Glasgow on March 22 following a multi-million pound refurbishment almost a year after it closed due to the pandemic. Only essential travel will be accommodated for now.

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