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Below : Paisley Daily Express Headlines

Glen Cinema Tragedy 1929 : 70 Paisley Weans Suffocated

This event features in Handful of Dust to be published August 2005

paisley daily express.jpg

Derek Parker's Review of A Handful of Dust


Aug 23 2005

THE terrible Glen Cinema disaster on Paisley's Black Hogmanay is remembered in a new book which has just gone on sale.

Last year, survivors of the catastrophe and their families joined the town's civic and religious leaders to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the horrific events on December 31, 1929.

Tragically, 71 children perished after smoke from a smouldering film reel panicked everyone into thinking fire had broken out and they would all been burned alive.

There was no blaze.

Hundreds of people joined an emotional lantern parade through the town centre last year.

It was followed by tributes in Paisley Abbey and Hawkhead Cemetery, where most of the young victims were buried.

The harrowing scenes were graphically described on the front page of the Paisley Daily Express New Year's Day 1930 edition as 'Paisley's Black Hogmanay.'

The description was taken up by other local and national newspapers and has remained in vogue ever since.

Now memories of the Glen and its sad aftermath are further remembered by author William Cross in his book, A Handful of Dust, which recalls accidents and disasters in Scotland during the early 20th century.

Mr Cross, who edits the Renfrewshire Family History Society Journal, uses articles from the Express and other newspapers to evoke the sorrowful spirit of the catastrophe which stills hangs heavy over Paisley, especially every Hogmanay.

Listed are the names, addresses and burial places of every single victim.

Most of the addresses in town tenements are still recognisable today and form architectural links spanning more than three- quarters-of-a century between Paisley of the late 1920s and the early 21st century.

The grief of the mourning townspeople is magnified with seldom-told anecdotes about ill-starred families like the McEnhills, of Wallace Street, who lost three children - Edward, James and Margaret.

The Fitches, of Storie Street; the Kilkies, also of Wallace Street; and the Pinkertons, of Andrews Street, each had two children taken from their from their families that never-to-be-forgotten afternoon when the Town Hall bells which were preparing to ring in the New Year sounded the death knell for dozens of dead youngsters instead.

In a cruel twist of fate, Henry Fitch - whose sister and brother, Jessie and William, both died in the tragedy - was himself knocked down and killed by a car, 14 months later, aged just five.

Mr Cross describes the trial of Glen Cinema manager George Dorward, who was found not guilty of having caused the children's deaths following a court case at Edinburgh in May, 1930.

The role played by projectionist Alexander Rosie and his assistant, James McVey, was also scrutinised by the court.

The writer tells how, as a result of lessons learned from the disaster, safety measures were implemented at cinemas across the UK, including the abolition of children's queues, having more adults at children's performances, ensuring children under seven were not admitted unless accompanied by an adult, and installing push-bar fire doors to replace the inward-opening ones which caused the disaster by blocking the children's main escape route.

Among rescuers singled out for special praise are firemen from Paisley Fire Brigade led by George Wilson, members of the Salvation Army under the leadership of John Easton, footballers Allan Gebbie and James McMillan and men and boys from the nearby Alexander Gardener print works, who rushed to the scene to help and ferry crushed victims to the Royal Alexandra Infirmary by requisitioning cars, lorries, vans, buses and trams.

A Handful of Dust - priced 5, plus 75p postage, 1.50 overseas - is available from William Cross, 58 Sutton Road, Newport, Gwent, South Wales NP19 7JF.

Alternatively, ring 01633 779731 or e-mail: williecross@ or visit the website at:

The 7th book in the Accidents in Scotland series, entitled

A Handful of Dust was published on 1 August 2005. This
features a number of events between 1915 and 1930.

- Cinema Disaster at Paisley 1929

- Railway Disasters

- Quintinshill Gretna : Worst Railway Accident ever in the UK from 1915

- Ratho Disaster : Edinburgh from 1917

- Coal Mining Accidents

Neilsland Lanarkshire 1916

Stanrigg & Arbuckle 1918

East Plean 1922

Redding Pit 1923

Gartshore, Croy, Kilsyth 1923

Auchinraith, Hamilton 1930

Corrected, 20 August 2005, with thanks to Sylvia Drougham
whose husband's great grandfather, William Brady and his son Thomas who were killed in the Stanrigg Pit Disaster of 1918.

There are over 20 events covered with the names of over 500 victims and survivors

The book costs 5.00. Postage and packing add 0.75p UK

1.50 Overseas.

Multiple orders - large reductions available. Contact me.

Contact the compiler for further details.


Scottish Disasters