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How Stan Laurel began his career in Glasgow theatre

As Stan and Ollie is released at the cinema, we take a look at the Scottish roots of Laurel.

More than a century ago, a teenage boy with big dreams arrived in Glasgow with his family.

His name was Arthur Stanley Jefferson, but would go on to be best known as Stan Laurel, one half of comedy duo of stage and screen Laurel and Hardy.

As Scots director Jon S. Baird's new movie Stan and Ollie prepares to hit cinema screens, we took a look back at Stan's connections to Scotland.

Born in 1890, Stan moved to Glasgow with his family as a teen, living on Buchanan Drive in Rutherglen from 1905 to 1907.

Willie McIntyre, from Sons of the Desert fan club, says the actor wasn't a fan of school, studying at Stonelaw High School.

"Now Stan Laurel, Stan Jefferson he was in those days, went to school here," he explains.

"When I say went to school, he went to school very reluctantly and as often as not he probably didn't go to school.

"It was well known that he played truant quite a lot. He wasn't keen on school."

The comedy duo had lasting links with Scotland.
The comedy duo had lasting links with Scotland. STV

What he lacked in educational discipline he made up for in enthusiasm for the stage.

At the Panopticon, just off Argyle Street, a 16-year-old Stan made his stage debut.

He was supposed to be working for his father, Stan Jefferson at the theatre he ran that night, but instead, he stole his suit, and hat, and took to the stage.

"When Stan came out, it wasn't too long before he noticed his father at the front and his father looked furious," explains Judith Bowers, from Britannia Panopticon.

"He decide to leave the stage so he took a final bow. He took the hat off but as he took the hat off he fumbled it and then he steps forward to retrieve it but his foot connects with the hat and kicks it into the orchestra bar instead.

Glasgow: Stan spent his teenage years in the city.
Glasgow: Stan spent his teenage years in the city.

"One of the ladies apparently tried to retrieve the hat but trips over a long skirt and the audience are in hysterics."

Just like that, Stan Laurel's comedy career was born.

He teamed up with Oliver Hardy in 1927 and the pair's onscreen antics saw them amass fans around the globe, but Scotland always had a special place in their hearts.

Their performance at the Glasgow Empire even makes an appearance in Stan and Ollie the movie.

Ian McLean, who collects Laurel and Hardy memorabilia, owns the kilts made for the duo during stage appearances in Scotland.

Ian McLean owns both Laurel and Hardy's kilts.
Ian McLean owns both Laurel and Hardy's kilts. STV

"This is Oliver Hardy's kilt. Made for him in 1947 for their two stage appearances at the Glasgow Empire and the Edinburgh Empire," he says.

"I [tried them on]. The Stan Laurel one, I just barely made it but the Oliver Hardy one, I haven't a clue.

"It was large," he adds..

Ian believes that Laurel's Scottish connections should be celebrated more and that a statue would be a fitting tribute - with a classic Glasgow touch.

"We can only hope, some day, one day, a statue will be put up.

"If that happens, someone will put a big cone right on its head," he laughs.

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