This next article only briefly mentions Blantyre but stops to make you reflect. I found an advert in a December 1913 newspaper stating that “Great Attractions for the Holidays” were lined up at Pickard’s Waxworks in Glasgow. Amongst them, “The Blantyre Midget” and “The Wonder Cow”, quote unquote, “two of the most astonishing freaks on earth”.
Setting aside the language of the era for the moment, the advert also states there’s a “monkey house and zoo and all the world, in wax! Open all day. Entry 2 pence.”
Looking into this a little more, I was relieved to find out that the midget from Blantyre in question, was actually a miniature horse, born with 6 legs.
Looking into Pickard a little more, his story is an interesting one.
Albert Ernest Pickard (1874-1964) was a showman. publicist and eccentric who became a millionaire and philanthropist. The diminutive A.E.Pickard was born in Bradford, England in 1874.
Turning away from a printing apprenticeship he became a wandering showman in Yorkshire, France and London.
In 1904 he settled in Glasgow where he took over Fell’s American Museum and Waxworks at 101 Trongate when Mr Fell retired.
In 1906 he took up a lease of the Britannia Music Hall renaming it as Britannia Panopticon at 115 Trongate, buying the entire building in 1915 from the Archibald Blair Trust. He introduced cine-variety, with four shows a day; added waxworks and side shows in different floors and a zoo and freak shows.
In 1908 he took over the Clydebank Gaiety Theatre, also for cine-variety and soon grew his own cinema circuit in the Glasgow area.
Crowds flocked to see his shows and “exhibits”, and several photos exist of the living acts he paraded to customers.
Among many performers at the weekly amateur night at his venues, starting with the Britannia Panopticon was a sixteen year old Arthur Stanley Jefferson also known as Stan Laurel!
Pickard expanded his cinema circuit in the Glasgow area including building anew, such as the White Elephant in Shawlands, Glasgow in 1927.
Pickard bought and sold a considerable number of properties too. His later advertising reflected his love of large cars, often in bright colours including some 18 Rolls-Royces.
He died in 1964, age 90 but not from old age. Instead, it was the result of a fire at his palatial mansion on Great Western Road, Glasgow.