A description of A.E. Pickard – The last of the great eccentrics

by Kirsten O’Neill

Albert Ernest Pickard was actually born in Bradford in 1874 but was known as a Glaswegian because he spent the biggest part of his life here. He moved to Glasgow in 1904 and lived here until he died in 1964.

A.E. Pickard was a business genious, millionaire and an eccentric with an outrageously zany sense of humour. He started work when he was ten, training as an engineeer. He was thirty when he moved to Glasgow with an ambition to own property. He saved ever ha’penny he could and after 3 months of arriving in the city he bought a small theatre – the Gaiety in Elgin Street, Clydebank.

Thinking his career lay in the entertainment business he acquired the old Britannia Music Gall in the Trongate, re-naming it The Panopticon. He also bought the building next to the theatre and turned it into a museum featuring midgets, tatooed ladies and other attractions from the circus world. This museum didn’t make enough money for Pickard so he turned it into a small music hall. It was in this music hall that Stan Laurel, of Lauel and Hardy, made one of his first stage appearances.

Pickard would sit at the top of a ladder at the side of the stage chucking screwnails at members of the audience who got out of hand. Sometimes he would stand with a long pole with a hook on th end of it and if the act was rubbish he would hook them off by the neck. The audience loved this.

Pickard continued buying up property and by 1961 he said that he had no idea how many properties he owned or how much money he had. Although he did admit he was a millionaire. He called his company A.E. Pickard of London, Paris, Moscow and Bannockburn. The only landlord who had more property than him was Glasgow Corporation.

He once shouted at someone interviewing him “Does Glasgow belong to me?” “Of course it does, when Fyffe began singing it belonged to him I was going to take an action out against him in the Court of Session”

As he got older his “jokes” and ” pranks” got more zany. Once when a man tried to get Pickard to hire a film for his cinema in Shawlands the man, a Mr Gouk, arrived for the meeting to find Pickard outside the cinema, wearing an opera cloak and top hat, and sitting on top of a desk on top of a table. The business was done with Mr Gouk standing on the pavement.

A.E. Pickard was the first man in Glasgow to be booked for a parking offence. It happened when he was late for a cinema trade outing to Rothesay. He caught his train on time but only by parking his car in the middle of Platform 8 in Central Station. He was later fined £1 which he paid for with a £100 note.

When the war broke out Pickard built an air raid shelter in the garden of one of his town mansions it was shaped like a cone with neon lighting all over the outside. Pickard loved the shocked looks on the faces of the air raid wardens when they came to examine it. “The Nazis wouldn’t dare bomb A.E. Pickard” he said.

When television was introduced in Scotland Pickard, of course, was one of the first to have one. He put it in his Rolls Royce with a huge television ariel on the roof. It was one of his last pranks. Pickard died in his ninetieth year as a result of a burning accident. He will be remembered as the last of the great eccentrics with a heart of gold. He never threw a tenant out of his property and gave generously to people who needed help and he also secretly gave money to charity.

Glasgow Local Characters: Gordon Wallace, Cabinet Maker, Artist and Volunteer with The Salvation Army at Partick Cross
Bob McDevitt, Aye Write! Programmer and Photographer

This section: Glasgow West End Local characters

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Avatar of JimByrne West End based web Developer, writer, songwriter and musician. And the person who takes lots of photos for the Glasgow West End website.

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