SHE was known as the Rochdale Nightingale but for one glorious Glasgow day, Dame Gracie Fields became the city’s very own shipyard songbird.

Born Grace Stansfield in January 1898, Fields was an English actress, singer and comedian, a star of both cinema and music hall.

Famous for her songs Sally and Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye, she was once the highest-paid film star in the world, and she was a regular visitor to Glasgow.

In early August 1938, Fields came to Glasgow for the Empire Exhibition, and 10,000 people greeted her arrival with cheers and applause.

Our sister newspaper, The Glasgow Herald, reported that such was the density of crowds, mounted police had to clear a way through for her to allow her to reach the South Bandstand.

Glasgow Times:

People filled the bandstand area and packed the adjacent avenues, even perching on statues and pylons at the end of the ornamental lake to get a better view.

“With complete unconcern and evident enjoyment” reported The Herald, “she stepped onto a chair, removed her short jacket, and reached for one of the microphones. ‘Is there anybody left in Glasgow?’ she shouted.”

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The writer continues: “With a continuous flow of amusing remarks she almost ‘wrecked’ her introduction by Mr A.B. King, the cinema proprietor, who had to abandon the microphone in her favour.”

Replying to a vote of thanks, however, Fields did describe it as “the biggest welcome I have ever received”.

Fields stayed to visit the UK Pavilion, the Palaces of Industry and the Amusements Park. In the latter she sampled several of the attractions and described the scenic railway as “just as thrilling as the “big ride” at Blackpool.”

Glasgow Times:

After lunch, she visited the BBC Pavilion and the Peace Pavilion, and made an unexpected detour into the Women of the Empire Pavilion, where she watched a hastily-arranged mannequin parade and took a special interest in the gowns of fabrics from her native Lancashire.

On the bandstand, she sang Little Old Lady, a handful of other numbers, and the popular Sally.

Fields was driven to the Atlantic restaurant, where she appeared briefly on the balcony before sitting down to dinner. Later in the evening, she was taken to Central Station, where a crowd gave her an enthusiastic send-off.

The visit to the docks in July 1941 saw her perform to thousands of workers after a packed show in the city and a smaller-scale version on board a warship.

The Glasgow Times’ sister newspaper The Herald reported at the time that she sang V for Victory, with the audience “singing lustily” when they picked up the chorus. “We’re all for one and one for all, clinging together like ivy on the garden wall.”

This was one of many morale-boosting appearances she made in Britain and across Europe during the war, despite ill-health and treatment for cancer.

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She entertained the troops in France, even during air-raids, sang on the backs of open lorries and in war-torn areas, and she was the first artist to play behind enemy lines in Berlin.

After the warm Fields continued to return to Glasgow, memorably playing the Glasgow Empire in 1952.

Made a Dame in 1979, Gracie Fields died aged 81 seven months later on the isle of Capri, Italy, where she had lived for the latter part of her life.

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