Sixty-five years ago, on a freezing Sunday morning in February, hundreds of children – many dressed in cowboy costumes – converged on Glasgow’s Central Station in eager anticipation of the arrival of the King of the Cowboys, Roy Rogers, and his trusty horse, Trigger. It would turn out to be a day that would be fondly recalled and discussed for decades to come.

By 1954, Rogers – who had most recently been seen in the Bob Hope comedy Son of Paleface, in which he sang his hit A Four-Legged Friend – was one of the biggest stars in the States. In Britain, children regularly saw his movies (he had made over 100) in Saturday morning cinema clubs, and they collected Roy Rogers comics and annuals.

The 41-year-old was known as a devout Christian and a quiely spoken family man who went out of his way to please his devoted young fans. During his fortnight in Scotland, he and his wife (and co-star) Dale Evans visited numerous schools and children’s homes – and even took one Edinburgh orphan, Marion Fleming, back to their California ranch to join their growing brood of children.

Rogers was coming to make his British stage debut and the excitement had been building for weeks, thanks to newspaper articles mentioning his Scottish ancestry and love of Burns, and a steady drip-feed of stories about Trigger’s rumoured hotel accommodation, million dollar insurance policy and travel arrangements.

And so it was that for days leading up to Sunday February 14, staff at Prestwick Airport fielded enquiries from mothers about Trigger’s arrival time. When the world’s most famous Palomino pranced down the gangway of his air-conditioned KLM freight plane at noon, he was greeted by the biggest turn-out and most rousing cheer any star had ever had at the airport.

There was initial disappointment when the youngsters realised that Rogers wasn’t there as well, but 20-year-old Trigger’s natural charisma soon distracted them as he was paraded in front of the crowd before entering his horsebox for the journey into town. Mini cowboys and gals lined the route to the city centre where, as this newspaper reported, “the Central Hotel was surrounded by more and more children as a honeycomb amid an enormous swarm of bees.”

They had begun to turn up as early as 5am; children as young as five filled Central Station, little clusters of them standing on pillar boxes and draped around other station fixtures to secure the best vantage points. Others were waiting outside. By lunchtime, when Mr and Mrs Rogers slipped into the hotel, having driven from Carlisle in the brand new red Austin Healey they had collected in London two days earlier, the welcome committee of cowboy-crazy kids was well over a thousand.

After grabbing a snack of fruit and milk, the couple decided to visit the Empire Theatre to finalise details for their show. As he left, Rogers told one of the publicity men: “I am going out and see these children. They’ve waited long enough.”

Dressed in white cowboy suit and matching Stetson, with silver pointed shoes, he made a round of the crash barriers, shaking countless outstretched hands. Mounted police struggled to clear a path through the crowd for his car, and youngsters trailed their hero to Sauchiehall Street and back to the hotel again.

As the afternoon went on and Trigger’s arrival became imminent, the number of excited children swelled to an estimated 3000. Trigger may have had equal billing with Rogers in the movies, but he was undoubtedly the bigger star as far as Glasgow weans were concerned.

Crowds, crushes and craziness: Laurel and Hardy in Scotland

After the gleaming horse box was drawn into the station, they began chanting “We want Trigger”. Finally, at 6pm, Rogers emerged with Trigger and paraded him up and down the barricades to the wild delight of the assembled youngsters. As they cheered, Trigger bowed at the various entrances to the Central Hotel before being taken inside.

At the reception desk – with press photographers’ flash bulbs popping noisily – Trigger “signed in”, pen between his teeth. He then picked his way up the two flights of stairs to his room at such a brisk pace that photographers had to jump out of his way. (He repeated this process a week later at Edinburgh’s Caledonian Hotel.)

Trigger’s room – no. 130 – was specially decorated for him: green tarpaulin covered the floor, and his bedding comprised a yellow silk eiderdown and two flock pillows. There was a bowl of tulips and daffodils, and, beside some clean towels, a sign which read: “Guests are respectfully warned to remove all valuables from articles of clothing before hanging them up.” Trigger, you see, had been booked into the ladies’ powder room.

The seasoned performer – described by Rogers as “a ham at heart” – then demonstrated some tricks for the press. He bowed on one knee, he nodded “yes” and then “no”, and even managed to give an interview, in which he was full of praise for the police horses who had kept the children safe and hadn’t bucked once. After giving Dale Evans a kiss, he left to sign in at another establishment – the British Railways stables in Townhead, where he was going to shack up with some friendly Clydesdales.

At the first of the week’s sold-out shows the following night, children enjoyed a performance that was, as one review described it, “a vaudeville curiosity – half circus, half Sunday School”. Not only did Rogers sing a number of songs, accompanied by The Whipperwills vocal quartet, and prompt Trigger (who would go on to sport a specially made Royal Stuart kilt, courtesy of Thomas Gordon & Sons, later in the Glasgow run) to show off his arithmetic and dancing skills, but he also did a spot of fatherly lecturing as he exhorted his fans to always clean their teeth and eat whatever their mothers put in front of them.

The adoring youngsters listened attentively – when they weren’t nipping down to the orchestra pit to hand over gifts of sugar and other treats for their four-legged favourite. One tot made a beeline for the band armed with two pistols. Before his grandfather could catch him, he had “shot” almost the entire orchestra. Rogers and Evans both chatted to him from the stage, and even invited him to join their shooting act.

In an evangelical part of the programme which referred to Billy Graham, the American preacher who would arrive in Scotland later in the month, Dale Evans – addressed as “Mother” – and Rogers sang revivalist songs, including Christian Cowboy.

Some critics felt that the evangelical message blended in well with the rest of the show while others, including this paper’s, argued that – as in the movies - a baddie was needed to counter “the all-pervading atmosphere of sweetness, light and fresh laundering. … The ‘whee’ of a hostile arrow, and the paper balls shot down in rapid succession by Mr Rogers seemed no adequate substitute for a Rank Bajin.”

Between the first and second shows on opening night, Rogers appeared at a window of the theatre and led a singalong of Home On the Range for thousands of fans, most of them small boys on their parents’ shoulders, packed into West Nile Street.

Nevertheless, in one of the next day’s papers, a reader, who had been outside the station all afternoon on the Sunday with her three sons, wrote: “I wonder how many mothers, like myself, washed tear-stained faces and promised an extra treat to make up for the disappointment of not seeing Roy Rogers.”

Hopefully, word reached Rogers of Disgusted of Glasgow’s dismay. It would undoubtedly have spurred him into action. One boy whose mother had tried and failed to get tickets to the show was the subject of a story in the Sunday Mail. “Like a prairie fire the news sped through Purdon Street: ‘Duncan Lowing’s got a telegram from Roy Rogers!’ Said Mrs Lowing, mother of five-year-old Duncan: ‘When I opened the door, kids were swarming all over the place.’ The telegram reads: ‘Bring this telegram to the stage door on Friday evening at 6.30. Roy Rogers.’”

Not only did the youngster get to meet his hero, but he was given a front row seat for the show. When he offered Rogers his Bible as a present, it was returned to him inscribed by Dale Evans: “Roy and I want you to keep your Bible and read it all your life. It is God’s Holy Word and will guide you right.”

Crowds, crushes and craziness: Laurel and Hardy in Scotland

It’s little wonder that at the Church of Scotland gave Rogers a rave review a few weeks later. The Rev. Frederick Levison told the Edinburgh Presbytery that Rogers’s encouragement to children to attend Sunday School was more effective than anything a church leader could say.

As for Rogers and Evans, they wrote to a Loanhead boy who had missed their show due to German Measles, that their visit had been “a great blessing” to them - though the last night at the Edinburgh Empire might be one they’d have preferred to forget .. For that was when Rogers was reported to have accidentally shot some pellets into Trigger onstage, in front of hundreds of children. A true professional, Trigger received backstage medical treatment – and the show carried on.

That story may have been disputed, but there is no doubt about the fact that the visit by Roy Rogers and Trigger has become the stuff of local legend in Glasgow and in Edinburgh. Long after their films have been forgotten, their time in Scotland – and the brilliant publicity stunts staged to advertise their shows – lives on in the collective memory.

Alison Kerr is collecting memories about this visit and others. See and the website is