Nostalgia: The Usher Hall

IT is one of the most famous buildings in the Capital and a venue that has played host to the great and the good over the years.

The Usher Hall was gifted to the city by Andrew Usher – and this week the great-great nephew of the whisky distillery millionaire launched guided tours of the Capital starting at the iconic venue.

Stuart Usher, 71, admitted customers were always stunned to learn of his connection with the building which was opened on March 16, 1914 with a concert featuring music by Handel, Bach, Wagner, Beethoven and Scottish composer Hamish MacCunn.

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In 1964, the venue was graced with a visit from Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who attended a Festival concert there before touring the venue and chatting with local dignitaries.

A decade later it was the scene for a far less formal affair, as the venue for the Hearts Centenary rally in September 1974.

One of the highlights was the selection of local lady Gloria Donaldson, 23, as Miss Hearts, and the married financial counsellor was thrilled to get £50 – and a kiss from Hearts footballers Donald Ford and Tommy Murray.

The hall was designed as a concert venue, of course, with acoustics that made performances such as that by the choir and orchestra of the Edinburgh Corporation Primary Schools in 1967 extra special.

World traveller Atarah Ben-Tovim used the Usher Hall as a gathering point when she arrived in the Capital in 1980 to take on the role of Corstorphine Music School honorary president, and the flautist led pupils, including nine-year-old Calum Louden, in a recital.

More recently, the Usher Hall has been the venue for serious political debate, with Kirsty Wark overseeing the grilling of Malcolm Bruce, Alex Salmond, Donald Dewer and Ian Lang as part of the Scotsman Debates in January 1992.

It is still a draw for the big stars, however, and in 2001 fans Kevin Harper, Wilma Lammie and Duncan Livingston were queuing in the rain to ensure they got tickets for Irish crooner Daniel O’Donnell.