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Civic business

In the lion's den: Pickard as civic figure

By Maria Velez-Serna

Pickard, like anyone involved in public entertainments, kept a close eye on licensing laws, censorship initiatives, and other forms of regulation. Some of the scrapbooks in the collection give an interesting angle on local politics, gathering both the press coverage and the candidates' pamphlets for several municipal elections. In 1907, Pickard stood for the Blackfriars municipal bye-election; the year after, he tried to stand for Calton ward, but missed the deadline for a minute. In the year of the 'people's budget', the cartoons included in the scrapbooks suggest that Pickard's allegiance was with the Liberals (of Asquith and Churchill), and against tariffs on imports. There are lists of candidates marked with potential favourites, and lots of flyers. The political stage gave Pickard inspiration for some of his advertising gimmicks, and his tongue-in-cheek references to current affairs go from cleverly amusing to worryingly inappropriate (from our perspective at least).

This was also the era of the big exhibitions, where scientific and technical advances were showcased along with the latest in art and amusement, and glimpses of the peoples and cultures from other corners of the British Empire. The 1908 Scottish exhibition, in Edinburgh, the Franco-British exhibition and the Olympic Games in London the same year, were widely reported. Whether he was trying to recruit extraordinary athletes or strange machines for his shows, or just keeping an eye on showmanship styles, Pickard paid attention to these events. In 1911 the third international exhibition was held in Kelvingrove park, with attractions like a scenic railway and a novel type of shooting range. Pickard put £250 towards the initial financing of the event, and as a member of the Model Yachting club, he must also have enjoyed the models of famous ships sailing down the Kelvin!

Model ships were not Pickard's only hobby. He was keen on motoring and owned several cars. He was an active member of the St Kentigern masonic lodge, and later of Lodge Anima which included most of the local film trade. He was involved in charitable schemes like the Music Hall Sports and was an honorary member of Barlinnie Athletic Club. Although he was not a Glasgow native, Pickard was interested in the history of his adopted city, with articles about local traditions, places and buildings. The fate of the annual Fair and of the old theatres also intrigued Pickard, although he might simply have been looking for real estate to buy! During the 1920s, Pickard started investing in property – on the principle that if the cinema did not work out, other uses could be found for the buildings. His typical self-assurance did not win him many friends, but his canniness was admired by his peers and celebrated by the Glasgow public, who have always loved an ingenious scamp.