ITS grand staircase and corridors were built wide to accommodate voluminous Victorian crinoline skirts while more famous patrons in later generations  included a prince, rock royalty and Hollywood movie stars.

A spectacular new light show will chronicle the fascinating history of a landmark railway hotel in Glasgow, to mark its re-opening on Monday after a multi-million pound refurbishment project.


Images sourced from the Herald and Times's rich picture archive will be projected onto the clock tower of the Grand Central Hotel every evening for almost a week from Saturday.


It will take spectators on a fascinating near 140-year journey from the building of Scotland's biggest railway station in 1870 to the hotel's current, key role in Glasgow's post-Covid recovery.

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A new Wall of Fame picture gallery will also open to the public. The Herald invited artists to create portraits of some of the hotel's most famous guests and the winner was Andrew Irving, who captured comedy legend Billy Connolly.

Built in 1883 after years of planning, the hotel has hosted movie stars including Gene Kelly, Bob Hope and Mae West and former US president John F Kennedy. Sean Connery liked it so much he stayed twice while Prince Philip dined on the city's finest French cuisine at the hotel's renowned Malmaison restaurant.


Memories and pictures from former guests, staff and the Glasgow public have also been captured in the projection alongside the words of playwright Laurie Motherwell in audio poetry.

Kate Pierce started working at hotel during the 1970s, at the age of 19, starting off as live-in bookkeeper in 1971 and later becoming head cashier.


(Kate: front right)

The 69-year-old describes her time working at the former British Transport Hotel as the "best six years of her life" and shared memories of some of the famous faces she checked in.

"It was a brilliant experience," said Mrs Pierce.


"At the time being British Transport Hotel trained carried great prestige, it was the best hotel in Glasgow. There weren't that many other hotels around.

"There was the North British at Queen Street and there was the St Enoch hotel but they were the three main hotels.

"Alice Cooper stayed at the hotel and I was on the reception desk when they came to check in and one of them said to me have you got a room for an extra guest of ours.

"So I thought, there is something funny going on here, so I said if you bring your guest in, I'll see what I can do for them.

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"He put this cage on the reception desk with a snake in it. They used to have a snake in their act. They only stayed one night but it was one of their birthdays and they had arranged for a party in one of the function rooms after the concert.

"There was birthday cake thrown all around the room. We just put extra money on their bill for cleaning."


She recalled how she ignored Sean Connery on one occasion when he said hello, "because I thought he was just a businessman being fresh".

His film, The Anderson Tapes was premiered in Glasgow and he invited all his golfing friends to an after-party at the hotel.

"At that premiere, Ronnie Corbett was there and he had forgotten to bring a hairbrush and the hotels used to have a gents and female hair salon so we got them to open up the salon for him."


She recalls Prince Philip having lunch in the hotel's French fine-dining restaurant Malmaison restaurant, that was a popular special occasion choice for Glaswegians.

The former employee lived on the sixth floor with other receptionists and book-keepers, many of whom kept in touch and plan to return to the hotel for their collective 70th birthday celebrations, next year.


Jill Scott, who co-wrote a book on the hotel, said it has a special place in Glasgow's history. 

"It was built at a time when money really wasn't an object," she said. "It was the place to go, it was very posh and it was very upmarket.

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"When there was change of management a lot of those people had been trained in European hotels and the French influence for the Malmaison restaurant came from there. 

"Mae West came to the hotel in 1947 while she was overseeing a play she had written herself, called Diamond Lil, which was being put on at the Alhambra.  It just astonishes me that Mae West came to Glasgow."


The free light show was produced by visual art creatives Double Take Projections and will run for six nights from Saturday April 24.


(Picture by Colin Mearns) 

Paul Bray, Area Manager for IHG Hotels & Resorts UK North and General Manager of voco Grand Central Hotel said: “It’s been a really tough year for so many people and as hospitality reopens in Scotland we’re excited to celebrate the re-opening of our iconic hotel by looking back at some special moments from the hotel’s rich history. 


“Thank you to the Herald and Glasgow Times, the Caledonian Railway Association and RCAHMS, who gave us access to their brilliant archive for the projection which honours the heritage of our building as a British Railway Hotel and a landmark in Glasgow’s story for the past 130 years."