IT’S more than a little ironic that the laughter generated by Billy Connolly and Chic Murray has in an unimaginable way reduced Colin Beattie to feeling utterly downbeat. Beattie is the owner of Glasgow’s theatre-bar venue Oran Mor, home to the Play, Pie and A Pint theatre phenomenon.

And, normally, he glides in and out of his £10 million emporium dispensing largesse and smiles large enough to reflect the size of his auditorium.

However, today, as he stands outside his venue in the glaring sunshine, it’s the intense, stern – and sad – side of the silver-haired six footer which has appeared. He explains why.

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Seven years ago, Beattie commissioned bronze statues of Chic Murray and Billy Connolly (actual size plus one fifth), by the artist David Annan. And after spending close to £100,000 on the pieces, which are linked with a see saw, the entrepreneur and arts patron is “beeling mad” at not being able to locate them in their intended resting place.

This resting place is a major bone of contention between Beattie, one of the founding fathers of Glasgow’s Mayfest Arts Festival, and Glasgow City Council.

“I planned to locate the statues on the original garden edge which ran past the building,” he says.

“This spot on the North Side of Oran Mor in Great Western Road would be perfect.”

The three metres-wide strip was once part of Oran Mor, or the Kelvinside United Free Church as it once was. “Many years ago, Strathclyde Regional Council made a compulsory purchase order of this stretch of ground, with the view to creating an underpass for a railway station at the Botanics across the road.

“But, of course, this never happened. And since buying the building I’ve been battling to have the area returned to Oran Mor.

“I’ve spent this sort of money because I love the idea of public art. But it seems there is no reasoning with the council and this has been underlined many times over the years in discussions with planning.”

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Beattie, a tough figure who at times in the past has acted as doorman on some of the 25 pubs he owned in the city, is on the point of surrendering.

And Chic and Billy, who are presently consigned to a warehouse in the east side of the city, are set to be moved to Edinburgh.

“It breaks my heart,” he says. “But what else can I do with them? My friend Billy Lowe, who owns a hotel in Edinburgh, is prepared to take them, and it’s great they will be given a home. Yet Billy Connolly and Chic Murray both lived in this area.. They are part of this world.”

Beattie is an unusual business creature in that he is almost as passionate about the arts as he is developing businesses from crumbling ruins.

Indeed, he has something of the AE Pickard about him, Glasgow’s greatest showman, who owned the Britannia and Panopticon Music Halls.

But Pickard was also a businessman with a substantial property portfolio. “When I heard Will Fyfe sing Glasgow belongs to me I considered taking a court action against him,” ran one of Pickard’s many one-liners.

Beattie too could certainly hold his own in any game of Glasgow Monopoly with projects in both the west and east end of the city, including the controversial development

project around the College Bar in

the High Street.

Yet, he can’t help not becoming involved in arts projects.

When he set about creating Oran Mor 10 years ago, for example, Beattie never planned to simply open a pub. It had to be an entertainment venue; the theatre, he believed, was integral.

And indeed he supported the weekly A Play, A Pie and A Pint theatre concept over the years while it grew an audience, continually testing the depth of his own trouser pockets.

Beattie has already dipped his toe in the waters of entertainment. The bars he set up, such as the Lismore, became entertainment centres. He himself went on to became an integral part of Glasgow’s Mayfest and turned the Renfrew Ferry into one of the most-loved venues in the country.

Meantime, Beattie looked to progress other arts projects. He was part of the process of having Bud Neil’s creation Lobby Dosser installed in Glasgow’s West End. And he was the driving force behind the installation of Neil’s GI Bride at Partick Subway Station. “Bud Neil came from Partick,” he says of his motivation. “That project cost me £60,000.”

The huge sums involve suggest Beattie grew up in a world in which money was never an issue. It was far from the case. His father was a bricklayer and his mother ran a fruit shop and the family moved around the west of Scotland. It was a world of survival.

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The teenage Beattie however was bright at school in the 1960s, clever enough to land an apprenticeship.

“I went to eight schools,” he recalls. “My parents didn’t get on together, but we ended up in the west end of Glasgow.

“I did well at school and had the option of joining the shipyards but I went to college and became a mechanical engineer.”

Aged 20, he bought a £50 visa to Cape Town and found himself working in a state mental hospital.

“I was termed a ‘low-class white’ and got lifts to work with the natives,” he recalls. “It was an eye-opener. Not what a young man brought up on books such as The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist expected to see.

“From there I worked in the bush and then went to sea to work in merchant ships.” He grins: “All of these jobs meant you saved a lot of money because there was nothing to spend it on.”

After three years Beattie returned home, set to embark on his next work adventure to Alaska. But he met Dorothy and fell in love.

“Suddenly I had responsibilities,” he says, with a smiling shrug.

Initially, the couple lived in a slum tenement, with no toilet, washing in a public baths. “But I had a couple of bob and got a deposit for a house. Then I just worked at my trade and no one saw me for five years. I just worked.”

A friend moved into the pub business. “I was intrigued and I liked the idea of being free during the day to spend time with my wee ones [by this time he was a father]. And I managed to get a tenancy but I knew it would be hard work.”

In the late Eighties, Beattie began to buy bars, which he turned into virtual social clubs, with the likes of OAP nights and football team sponsorship. He was drawn to entertainment. He opened the Renfrew Ferry and hired acts such as Rory Bremner and Lily Savage. Meantime, he spread the word of Burns with the creation of the Burns Society.

Beattie began to bring acts into Scotland from countries such as Germany. He hired the likes of Nina Simone. He set up music festivals. But a major disappointment came when he tried to stage a rock event at Loch Lomond. Beattie had 300 staff on hand. “I was set to go but someone argued against me getting a licence.” He adds, cryptically: “It was strange, given I had five licences at the time. It took me a long time to get

over that.”

When the opportunity came to buy Oran Mor, Beattie had notched up a raft of eight bars (“The brewers will lend you money so long as you keep paying your bills”) and was a highly experienced resurrectionist of derelict buildings.

“I’d worked with a lot of pubs that were a shell in the beginning, a bad state of affairs, but I could develop them. “Meantime, I’d looked at the number of Irish bars opening up in Scotland.” His face reveals his annoyance of the time. “I thought ‘Why don’t we have Scottish bars?’”

He laughs. “There was a great irony in that many pubs’ interiors had been developed to look like churches, a defiance against temperance. And here we were turning a church into a bar.”

Beattie had to jettison some of his acquisitions to develop Oran Mor, which became his flagship venue. He took a massive gamble in setting up this entertainment complex, the theatre, the ballroom, covered in stained glass beauty and Alasdair Gray artwork. “I pawned my house to get this place. I sold a pub to get it open.”

Was he ever afraid? Is he a worrier? “Yes, I don’t sleep,” he admits, with a wry smile.

“I’m a world champion worrier. I worry about the pipe systems in pubs when I go to bed. I used to worry about the Renfrew Ferry sinking.

“But I decided if I’m a worrier and so focused on attention to detail, just to go with that.

“I now believe in stoicism, the philosophy where you have to unclutter the things you can’t change. So I stick at it and deal with the problems as they appear.”

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He’s in a stressful business when you consider the nature of bars in Glasgow; if you allow for a rumbustious clientele, very soon your customers will be wideboys and gangsters.

Beattie had to put his foot down. “If you let these guys know the rules, you have a chance,” he says.

He’s also had to battle ill health. He had an “Andrew Marr” stroke five years ago, from which he has almost completely recovered.

“Brought about by taking a 14lb hammer to a wall. My daughter, who is a dentist, spotted the signs and fortunately I was treated quickly.”

He battled not to let people know. He didn’t want the businesses to suffer, with anyone thinking the big guy who runs the show was human after all.

One of the effects however was the statues plan was sidelined. Now, it’s very much back on the agenda, with petitions being launched (over 2000 names so far) to rescind the compulsory purchase order, and backed by Billy Connolly.

“I am adamant that when you create a venue such as this you have to provide entertainment, class and spectacle. You have to provide art,” he says in a voice as powerful as that, you would imagine, of AE Pickard. “That’s why I want the statues to remain here in Glasgow.”

The 64 year-old looks at the space which he hopes Connolly and Murray will occupy and where his wedding brides can have their pictures taken and his little garden area re-established. And his voice become wistful, almost pleading – except you sense Beattie doesn’t do a lot of that.

“Chic and Billy are Glasgow,” he says in soft voice. We can’t lose them. They need to be here.”

A spokesman for Glasgow Council said: “No application was submitted for this proposal, so none was refused.

“What did take place was a discussion with our planning team about the possibility of erecting a seat and the statues on the pavement outside of Oran Mor and it was advised this would be unlikely to gain consent as it would turn a public footway – as it has been since the 1950s – at a busy junction into a private footway.”