IT WAS quite a story, back in 1955, when Billy Thomson and his pals built a ‘Davy Crockett hut’ in the back courts on Scotia Street in Cowcaddens.

The young lads had no idea they were about to be embroiled in a drama that made the newspapers in Glasgow and beyond….

Billy got in touch to tell us the story after reading a recent Times Past feature on eccentric city cinema boss and businessman Albert Pickard.

AE Pickard ran, among other things, the Britannia Panopticon, introducing a variety of unusual acts and performers to the city.

Much to the delight of audiences, Pickard would sit at the top of a ladder at the side of the stage throwing nails at members of the audience who got out of hand. He would also ‘hook’ acts off the stage – literally, with a long pole – if they were rubbish.

He even officially opened his new cinema, the Norwood, by smashing its doors with a huge sword.

However, back on Scotia Street in the 1950s, Billy and his friends had probably never heard of Mr Pickard, until their plan to build a ‘gang hut’ for their newly-formed Merlin Club went awry.

After weeks gathering scrap wood, and spending their pocket money on screws, nails and paint – and rebuilding the structure every time it fell down – it seemed all their good work was for nothing.

Billy told us: “The mention of AE Pickard brought back happy memories of 1955, our moment of fame.

“No sooner had we finished building our hut than the police said we had to take it down as it was a danger. Our mums and dads were not too happy after all our hard work.”

He added: “Somehow, the newspapers got hold of the story and we were featured in most of them for weeks.”

The story spread like wildfire.

“Six boys living in the grimy surroundings of a Glasgow tenement created their own little world of adventure with passwords, secret knocks, a club badge - AND A STRICT SET OF RULES,” reported one.

“Now it must all come to an end because they have been told by the police that the Davy Crockett hut they built as their headquarters in the backcourt is dangerous and must come down.”

However, this was not the end of the story, as Billy explained.

Albert Pickard who - almost - came to the rescue of Billy and friends. Here he is in 1936, dramatically opening his new cinema, the Norwood.

Albert Pickard who - almost - came to the rescue of Billy and friends. Here he is in 1936, dramatically opening his new cinema, the Norwood.

“Out of the blue, we got invited to meet the great builder, Mr John Lawrence,” he said.

“At his offices, he told us if we got permission from the owner he would build a proper hut for us – and then Mr Pickard got in touch to say he would furnish it for us.”

The Herald reported the story under the heading: “Kids Meet A Very Big Man” and there was a photo of Billy and friends looking at plans with Lawrence, a big name in building in Glasgow whose company had the slogan: ‘A Home of Your Own by John Lawrence’’.

Lawrence, who became Rangers chairman in 1963, built air raid shelters and hospitals during the Second World War, and later reconstructed much of Clydebank following the Blitz. His company and its subsidiaries built more than 40,000 private homes and 30,000 council houses throughout Scotland.

The report said: “Five heartbroken kids…kept a date with an international builder in his plush executive suite yesterday.

“It was all over a little hut they built….”

When Mr Lawrence made his offer, says the report, “five mouths dropped in amazement.”

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“’Gee whizz! Blimey! Thanks mister,’ the gang mumbled. To show their gratitude the boys made Mr Lawrence and Mr Pickard honorary members of the Merlin Club.”

However, there was another disappointment in store for the poor boys.

“After a few weeks, all went quiet,” says Billy. “Alas, nothing ever happened with our wee hut, and we just had to return to our normal lives…”