Raw, rough and dirty.


Beare and Gosnell founded in 1884 Ye Mecca Limited, it was gently sinking into the red. They owned several coffee shops in the City.  In 1887 a man called Percy Pickard  came into the scene, he bought a handful of shares in Ye Mecca Ltd and used these to get a seat on the Board. And in 1918 Ye Mecca purchased Pickard cafés. Walter Pickard (until his retirement  was apart of Mecca Ltd) recalls that they were all basements, ” with horrible tiles arranged in a kind of mosaic which for some reason, always reminded me of the Albert Memorial(…).” In 1912, Carl Heimann was fifteen and left his family in Copenhagen for London, ” if you don’t work you don’t eat.” was the advice his father gave him. Having not eaten for twenty-four hours, his first hungary walk through a black smoke,  gas lamp burning streets of  London.

By the end of 1926, Alan Fairley had decided  it was time Scotland became the night club conscious. He was twenty-two and eager to cash in on the night-life fever that was sweeping the country. Fred Lumley, his next-door neighbour in Edinburgh, was interested in taking over a property in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow – he wanted part of it to add to his chain of sports shops.

Lumley and Fairley went to see it and decided to buy. The ground floor was a defunct cinema and above this was a café on two floors, Lumley turned the cinema into a sports shop and the two floors above Fairley made into a dance club and cocktail lounge- the Piccadilly Club. The capital was £7,000. Jack Hylton’s first wife, Ennis, was a director until she died.

Except for a darting glimpse, I never knew the Piccadilly in its frenetically glamourous days. Glasgow had never had anything like it. Again it was a place unique if its kind. When my father talked about it before my mother, it was in rakish apology. From fifteen, I was expressly forbidden to go anywhere near it, which gave me the incentive  for my brief look, for which I’ll always be grateful. I found a family friend journalist whom I’d luckily seen somewhere without his wife and was able to blackmail him into signing me in as over eighteen.

I loved it. It was hugely lively and the greatest fun. I met a lord, as well as a local comic whom I adored, even caught a glimpse of the Lord Provost. I had only one slight regret; nobody was making love under the tables, which the girls at school swore occurred when the lights went down for a waltz.(…)

When Ye Mecca bought Sherry’s from Bertram Mills, Heimann went to Pickard and Rooke with his idea for popular dancing.

“Our policy is to bring families into all our pursuits. It is our very sincere opinion that the young crime wave in Britain would be very much worse without the leadership of the Mecca Organisation.”

Alan Fairley  and Carl Heimann 1942 gave themselves this challenge:  change the reputation of  public dance halls in Britain that had been known to be raw, rough and dirty.  On the other hand, the working class hadn’t access to the dancing world, that was for the “well-to-do”. Many parents would not let their teenagers go to dance halls, and some local authorities who linked dance halls with the sort of nasty incidents  when private dances and “bob hops” degenerated into rough houses, were hostile. Fairley and Heimann wanted people to laugh, eat and dance.

Mecca will only concern itself with catering and intimate entertainment. I will explain “intimate entertainment” to you. The cinema is not intimate entertainment. Intimate entertainment is where people of all ages can meet  and talk without prior introductions. It is as simple as that.”

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