The Livingstonian Bar & The Blantyre Electric Cinema

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, ScotlandGlasgow Road North

The Livingstonian Bar & The Blantyre Electric Cinema

Livingstonian Bar

This is the Livingstonian Bar Glasgow Road at Forrest Street, owned by McLachlan the Brewers. and referred to as The Tap Shoap.

The Blantyre Electric Cinema, nicknamed, “The Fleapit” was above the Livingstonian (demolished in this photo) and showed silent movies before the opening of the Picture House Cinema, The Doocot. The Cinema was also used for the first Masonic Lodge meetings in Blantyre prior to the Masonic Lodge being built further west on Glasgow Road.

Here we see the Livingstonian Bar at the corner of Glasgow Road and Forrest Street before the Electric Cinema was demolished due to fire. c1930.

Notice the horse on the pavement backed up to one of the shops. What could it be delivering? Something heavy, like sacks of vegetables, or butter barrels perhaps. What do you think?

 Livingstonian Bar

 

The Blantyre Electric Cinema was operated by Richard Vincent Singleton.

Blantyre Electric Cinema

Richard Vincent Singleton

Richard Vincent Singleton

When the Cosmo cinema opened in 1939, it was part of a chain of cinemas owned by the Singleton family.

The circuit, which now included some of the newest and most prestigious venues in Scotland, had rather more humble origins. It all started in 1910, when Richard Vincent Singleton, a printer by trade but a talented cinema pianist in the evenings, decided to go into the trade for himself.

He leased a Masonic hall in Burnbank, South Lanarkshire, and started advertising his show to the local miners. Along for the ride was his ten-year-old son George, who would grow up to become known as ‘Mr. Cosmo’. However, back at the Premier Pictures in Burnbank, young George’s role was to help his father carry home the films and the sacks of coppers, on foot all the way home to Glasgow through the dark winter nights after the trams had stopped.

Hard work, but it bore fruit: By 1919, Singleton elder sold off his printing business, and the following year George was running his own theatre. By then, the Singletons already controlled several venues, including the Paragon in Calton, the Blantyre Electric Theatre, and the Airdrie Pavilion. An accounts’ book for one of these cinemas also survives, for the year running up to the start of the First World War. It shows how difficult it was to thrive in the cinema business, at the mercy of fickle audience preferences that could result in significant profits one week and losses the next.

R.V. Singleton got it right, alongside making sure he selected the right films, and implementing an efficient way of splitting the cost of film hire between his venues. R.V. Singleton knew surefire ways to build a clientele: He engaged three musicians, printed thousands of half-price passes to slide under doors, and offered children’s matinees on Saturdays, in which the young patrons would get ice cups and liquorice.

While George Singleton became the best-known character of the family, his father continued to be a highly respected figure in the Glasgow cinema trade. So next time you enjoy a cinematic treat at GFT, remember Mr. Singleton and the Lanarkshire miners of a hundred years ago, who with their hard-earned tuppences built the foundations of this family business and shaped Scottish cinema history.

My Dad used to go to the “Fleapit” with the Seniors and read the sub-titles for them. When he came to a word, he didn’t know, he just said Glesca or Edinburgh.

The Co-op Hall, in Herbertson Street also showed silent movies. Both Cinemas were very popular in the First World War years for any news of the front. Charlie Chaplin was probably the most favourite performer at that time.

Partly sourced from: Glasgow Film Org.

Livingstonian Bar on the corner of Glasgow Road and Forrest Street. The Blantyre Electric Cinema, nicknamed,”The Fleapit” was above the Livingstonian (demolished in this photo) and showed silent movies before the opening of the Picture House Cinema, The Doocot.  Livingstonian Bar

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If you have any Photos… Send them to Bill

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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