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No Mean City: 1914 to 1950s


Tommy Lorne

By Paul Maloney

Tommy Lorne Tommy Lorne (1890-1935) was probably the most naturally gifted Scottish comedian of the interwar years. Born Hugh Gallagher Corcoran in Kirkintilloch, he grew up in Glasgow and made early appearances in concerts at St Roch's hall, Garngad, and at amateur nights at the Grand Theatre, Cowcaddens. After working in the drawing office at Blochairn Steelworks, he toured in a double act called Wallace & Lorne before war service took him to India and Afghanistan. On returning he was engaged by Harry McKelvie who in 1920 introduced him into the famous pantomimes at Glasgow's Royal Princess's Theatre (now the Citizens'). There, partnering the veteran comic Bret Harte, he quickly emerged as the leading pantomime star of his generation. He went on to appear in pantomime at the Pavilion in 1924 and 1925, and played his first dame – Queen Quibblina in The Sleeping Beauty – at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, in 1927. He subsequently starred in Howard and Wyndham's lavish pantomimes at the Theatre Royal Glasgow and toured throughout England and Scotland in pantomimes and revues under his own management, before dying of double pneumonia in 1935 at the age of forty-four.

Tommy Lorne Although he often wore a glengarry and kilt, Lorne, like his contemporaries, Bert Denver and George West (who succeeded him in the Princess's pantomimes), probably owed more to the European clown tradition than to the type of Scotch comic popularised by Harry Lauder. With his white makeup, white gloves worn over long, expressive hands, and tall, lanky figure, Lorne's appearance and high, strangulated voice made him instantly recognisable, and the droll sensitivity of his dames was much admired. Above all his humour, with his exclamatory catchphrases like "In the name of the wee man" and "Ah'll get ye!", owed much to his Glasgow upbringing. When he died unexpectedly, following a battle with alcoholism, which he seemed to have won, 3,000 people attended his memorial service at St Roch's Church. The Glasgow Herald wrote "his gallus humour (in contrast with the more couthy fun of the Lauder-Fyffe school of comedians) was perfectly matched with the rasping shrillness of a tongue which Glasgow recognised as an authentic voice of the city."

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