Glen Cinema Disaster

The cinema (opened in 1901), known as 'The Glen' and 'The Royal Animated Pictures' once formed part of the Good Templar Halls (now occupied by Burton's shop). On the afternoon of 31 December 1929, during a children's matinee, a freshly shown film put in its metal box in the spool room began to issue thick black smoke.

Soon the smoke filled the auditorium containing about one thousand children. Panic set in. Children ran downstairs so fast and in such numbers, that they piled up behind the escape door which led to Dyers Wynd. The door could not be opened, as it was designed to open inwards. The following day, Paisley was stunned by the news that seventy children had died in the crush in the worst cinema disaster in British history. The irony was, there was no actual fire.

About 1000 boys and girls, mostly from working-class homes, were witnessing a matinee performance at The Glen Cinema, when dense clouds of smoke, caused by a film which had started to smoulder in the spool-room, were swept into the cinema. The cry of "Fire" was raised, and the children stampeded in a panic to the back entrance. This was closed, and in the frantic struggle which ensued many children were trampled and others were suffocated by the fumes.

An assistant film operator spotted smoke coming from a film container.

He tried to smother the highly flammable film but the container sprang open and smoke and fumes entered the auditorium.

In the resulting stampede to leave the cinema hundreds of children rushed to stairs which led down to exit doors.

Many were crushed by the force of the other children behind them as the emergency exit doors were designed to open inwards instead of out.

By the time rescuers smashed their way into the cinema through the windows about 150 children were either dead or injured.