Wee Johnny Hempkin - Manager of the Carrick Cinema
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The following story was contributed by Bob Little, a former Maybole resident and pupil at Carrick Academy. Bob now lives in Newton Mearns, south of Glasgow. The photo of the Carrick Cinema House below is from about 1912 and about 50 years before the date of this very humourous story.
Click on the images left and right to view the 1954 Carrick Cinema programme contributed by Minnie Gallacher.

Click here to see a large image of the Carrick Cinema House.It was spring of 1960. I remember it so well. Elvis was King, the new kids on the block were the Beatles and Wee Johnny Hempkin was the Manager of the Carrick Cinema.

There were 2 cinemas in Maybole in 1960-the Ailsa and the Carrick. The Ailsa was considered to be more upmarket. The Carrick on the other hand was at the end of the cinema chain circuit and showed 3 features a week, typically Frankenstein on Monday/Tuesday, Dracula (shouts of “Gie him a straw!” were common as Dracula sought to plunge his fangs into the victim’s neck) on Wednesday/Thursday and a Western or War film on Friday/Saturday.

The Carrick projectionist came into my father’s shoe shop in School Vennel and said Wee Johnny was looking for an assistant projectionist to help out 4 nights a week. As a hard-up 16-year old at the time, the opportunity to earn some cash was tempting, so I went along for an interview with Wee Johnny.

HMS HoodA dapper wee man in a dark double-breasted suit, white shirt and natty tie, he chain-smoked roll-up fags and spoke like a machine gun firing. The air was filled with the smell of stale cigarette smoke and brandy fumes. Above his desk was a black and white framed photograph of the Hood battleship. Wee Johnny spoke with pride about his years of service on the Hood during the War and how he survived the ill-fated sinking of the battleship. It was many years later that I learned there were only three survivors of the Hood sinking, and none of them was Wee Johnny! Wee Johnny spoke with such conviction about his survival that I am sure he believed it. Being the only candidate I got the job on the spot for wages of 10/- (50p) per week.

The Carrick projector was a relic and regularly broke down. One Saturday evening the carbons that provided the light for the projector snapped and mayhem ensued in the packed cinema. Cries of “Pit a shillin’ in the meter” and “We want oor money back” were the most polite of the catcalls accompanying the thunder of stamping feet. Wee Johnny burst into the projection room to be told it would take 4 minutes to repair, whereupon he thrust a huge torch into my hand and said “Come wi’ me son.” Then he switched off the lights to the main hall. Through a rabbit warren of corridors we went pell mell until we burst into the hall via a door at the side of the big screen. Facing us was a baying mob of Minniebolers. Wee Johnny reminded me of my screen hero Humphrey Bogart with his fag hanging from the side of his mouth and his bravado. We directed the light of our torches into the crowd. Then, with a voice like a foghorn, he shouted words I remember to this day- “Shut up youse, it’s no ootside yer in!!” In an atmosphere of confusion and stunned silence, some cinemagoers could be heard whispering to each other “Whit did he say?” Before that question could be answered by anyone in the cinema, the projector sprung to life and a great cheer went up. Wee Johnny had saved the day.

Some months later Wee Johnny was set upon (mugged in modern parlance) on his way home with the evening’s takings. The Daily Express ran the story. Wee Johnny’s recall of the mugging was as clear as his memory of the sinking of the Hood!!