laurelandhardybbcI’d like to share part of the most recent newsletter from ScotlandsPeople that arrived in my inbox today.

Among other interesting items, it refers to Laurel and Hardy’s links with Scotland and Oliver Hardy’s Scottish roots. There’s also a link to the news story in BBC News Highlands and Islands, referred to in the newsletter. is a terrific resource and, as  I’ve mentioned before, you can pay as you go and actually download copies of the records at no additional charge. The Scots were amazing record keepers.

The excerpt from the newsletter is as follows:

We saw this news story about the connections that Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had with Scotland, and thought it might interest people.

Stan Laurel (aka Arthur Stanley Jefferson) made his stage debut in Glasgow (not always an easy-to-please audience) at the Britannia Music Hall in 1906. The Jefferson family moved to Glasgow in 1905 (sadly, the Jefferson family just missed being recorded in the 1905 Valuation Rolls and left before the 1915 VRs were recorded), and lived there for a number of years before returning to the north of England. It was in Glasgow that Stan became highly adept at playing ‘hooky’ from school – we think the school records for Stan would be interesting reading. Sadly, Stan’s mother, Margaret (‘Madge’ – nee Metcalfe), died during the family’s time in Glasgow. Aged only 50, her death certificate from 1908 states that the cause of death was ‘alcoholism’ and ‘general debility’. (N.B. when viewing this large image on the website, just click on the image to enlarge it even further.)

Although we knew about Stan Laurel’s links with Scotland, we were fascinated to learn that Oliver Hardy might have Scottish ancestry on his mother’s side of the family tree (Emily Norvell was his mother’s name). Oliver’s middle name was Norvell, and the people at the Oliver Hardy Museum in Harlem (Georgia) believe this might be a Scottish surname. We think ‘Norval’ (a possible variation of ‘Norvell’) might be a Scottish name, although perhaps both names are more likely to be abbreviated and evolved versions of ‘Normanville’, a town in Normandy. (Interestingly, there’s also a “shaggy dog’s tale” theory that ‘Norval’ was invented by James MacPherson in his ‘Ossian’ poem.) We also found an interview between Oliver Hardy and John McCabe (his biographer) from January 1954, in which Ollie states that his mother, Emily Norvell is definitely of Scottish descent.

So we’ll be keeping an eye on this very interesting story and will let you know about any further developments regarding tracing the Scottish ancestors of Oliver Norvell Hardy.

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