Morecambe cinema champion, fondly known as 'Uncle Mac', passes away one week before 101st birthday

A man who inspired thousands of youngsters to fall in love with the cinema in an era when Morecambe hosted the top films of the day has died just one week before his 101st birthday.

Friday, 15th October 2021, 2:51 pm
Updated Friday, 15th October 2021, 2:52 pm
Douglas MacGregor.

Douglas MacGregor, one of the most influential figures in the resort’s entertainment industry, was responsible for managing several of the town’s cinemas during its heyday.

He was affectionately known as Uncle Mac to the 400 youngsters who attended children’s matinees every Saturday afternoon at the Empire Cinema, where Douglas was the manager.

It gave Douglas great pleasure in his later years to be still remembered by the youngsters, now well into adulthood, who would greet him with the words: “It’s Uncle Mac, isn’t it?”

Douglas MacGregor with Caroline Munro, launching The Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me.

Douglas proved to be a popular manager at a time when Morecambe boasted several cinemas, all of them drawing packed audiences.

He ran the seafront Empire Cinema from the late 1960s until it closed in August, 1985. Prior to that he had also worked at other cinemas in the resort including the Odeon, Plaza, Palladium, Royalty, and Arcadian.

In those days cinemas were acclaimed for their skill in promoting new releases with at times extravagant but always eye-catching campaigns.

Douglas was at the heart of one of the most spectacular successes – the Empire’s showing of the Bond film, The Spy who Loved Me, in 1977.

One of the stars, the actress Caroline Munro, who played Naomi in the film, came to Morecambe and was pictured with Douglas at the Empire. A Bond jet ski also caused a stir racing about the bay.

Born in Dalrymple, near Ayr, in Scotland, Douglas moved to Morecambe in the 1940s, starting out as senior artist for impresario Ernest Binns, who produced the Arcadian Follies. Douglas was a gifted artist, painting many local scenes and also the scenery for productions by Morecambe Amateurs.

As a child, Douglas had holidayed in the town, enjoying shows at the Central Pier, the fairground and the Arcadian Theatre.

His first job was in 1936 at the ABC Cinema in Camden, London, and when war broke out he was working at the Euston Cinema opposite Euston Station.

He served for six years in the RAF and after he was demobbed in 1946 took a job with Ernest Binns at the New Pavilion in Redcar.

As a cinema manager, Douglas was a leading figure in the holiday industry. He twice helped judge the Miss Great Britain Bathing Beauty contest, was secretary of the Morecambe Entertainment Managers’ Association and even drove the Morecambe Empire’s carnival float.

He even found time to build his own bungalow at Overton with his own hands, doing all the plumbing and electrics himself after learning from DIY magazines.

One commentator said of Douglas: “He was a very special man whose heart was in the cinema and also in Morecambe itself.

“He was an integral part of the resort’s success story in those days.”

Douglas leaves two daughters, Karen and Deirdre, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

His wife, Dorothy – who was performing on the West End Pier as a principal soubrette singer and dancer when they met – died five

years ago. A service at the Church Of the Ascension, Torrisholme, on Tuesday October 19 will be followed by cremation.