WHENEVER John Warren – councillor and dance-hall entrepreneur – looked out at the crowded floor of his Albert Ballroom in May 1955, he would think back to those languid far-off days when the vogue was for the polka, the lancers and the cotillion, varied with quadrilles and eightsome reels.

He was now 78. It had been half a century since he had founded the Albert – Britain’s oldest public dance-hall, he told the Evening Times’s Talk of the Times column with a hint of pride.

The Albert had been established in 1905, on Bath Street. Before then, at the age of 23, Warren had organised dances at the Argyll Halls in Duke Street and the Annefield Halls in Gallowgate. Like others in his family, he had been a successful professional dancer; in 1922 he had been president of the National Association of Teachers of Dancing.

When the Albert came into being, gloves and slippers were required to be worn by dancers. In 1925, the premises were rebuilt and re-named the Albert Palais de Dance. Now, in the mid-fifties, they were known as Warren’s Albert Ballroom.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary, Warren and his fellow directors were reserving the ballroom on Monday, May 30, for former patrons. The following evening would see the directors entertain current customers.

He did let drop an intriguing titbit – namely, that Madeleine Smith, who had been at the centre of one of the most sensational court cases in Scotland in the 19th century, was supposed to have been a patron of a dancehall in the vicinity of Bath Street. He had done some research but had been unable to establish that there had been a dance-hall on the present site.

The Albert – seen (above) during a dance contest in 1957 and (main image) in April 1965 – was one of the most popular dancehalls in the city, but there was no shortage of competition.

Key rivals such as Denniston Palais, the Plaza at Eglinton Toll, the Astoria Ballroom on Sauchiehall Street, the F&F Ballroom at Patrick Cross, the Berkeley Ballroom opposite St Andrew’s Halls, the Barrowland and Green’s Playhouse were all busily seeking custom. These were only some of the best-known venues.

The Albert had been closed after a fire in 1953 but soon reopened, with the band reportedly wearing firemen’s helmets. The Warren family sold up in 1965. Later, a discotheque, Joanna’s, was opened in the basement, but the building was destroyed by fire in 1974.

Even now, there are people who have fond memories of the Albert.

“I am now in my eighties and still have happy memories of going to the Albert once a week with two of my girl friends during my teenage years,” Mrs Anna Aitken told the Evening Times in 2010. “I still recall that we stood in the queue with our dance shoes in brown paper bags.”

Read more: Herald Diary