THIS was the burnt-out shell of the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow after a devastating fire in August, 1958, described in news reports as one of the most spectacular blazes witnessed in the city in many years.

From a tenement in Kent Street, which overlooked the venue, householders, many in their nightclothes, had to be evacuated into the early-morning rain as firefighters sought to bring the fire under control. One housewife, roused from sleep by a watchman knocking on her door, said later: “When I heard the knock I thought at first there had been either a burst pipe or a gassing. I wakened my daughter and then I saw the fire. [She] had seen it earlier but thought she was dreaming.”

This newspaper reported that the fire was fought by 14 detachments of the city’s fire brigade. Water was poured onto the flames - the sound of which was said to be like the roar of a storm - from several 100ft turntable ladders, but the ballroom roof collapsed 45 minutes after the brigade’s arrival.

Forty cars in the car saleroom beneath the dance hall had to be manhandled by police and passers-by to safety across Gallowgate into East Campbell Street.

That morning’s Evening Times ran a photograph of a musician with what remained of a saxophone that had been on the premises when fire broke out.

Read more: Herald Diary

Sam McIver, the ballroom owner, was quick to declare that the venue would be rebuilt, saying that Barrowland “is not just a ballroom: it’s an institution.”

The place did reopen on Christmas Eve, 1960. Adverts highlighted a Carnival Dance for Christmas Day (a Sunday) and a Boxing Day dance. Admission was five shillings, and the music was provided by the popular Billy MacGregor & His Gaybirds.