Union Street

by Chris Jones on February 25, 2010

There is plenty of action in this 1920’s downtown scene at the intersection of Argyle Street with the junction of Jamaica Street and Union Street. Tramcars are clattering across the intersection in both directions and a woman is racing across the path of approaching car 571. The passengers seated in the open balconies of these tramcars would have a grandstand view of the action. Near the corner of Union Street with Argyle Street is a branch of R.S. McColl’s, the newsagency and confectioners founded in 1901 by the legendary Scotland centre forward Bobby McColl and his brother Tom. Above McColl’s are the City Hairdressing Rooms and the Argyle Hotel.

This photo was taken a few years earlier than the one above and is a little further down Jamaica Street. The Drooko sign on the left is indicative of “Royal Drooko” umbrellas which were made in Glasgow. The word Drooko is probably derived from drookit, the auld Scots word for drenched. ( This postcard has an E. A. Schwerdtfeger code but does not carry the name so it was probably reissued after 1914. The printing on the back is in blue. )

This 1923 scene photographed from the intersection with Argyle Street shows the full extent of Union Street up to the Gordon Street crossing with Renfield Street beyond. In the foreground on the right are the City Hairdressing Rooms and the Argyle Hotel while at street level is R. S. McColl’s. A short distance up on the opposite side of the street is J. & A. Ferguson, renowned as a purveyor of cured meats, baked goods, rich desserts, chocolates, and fine coffees and teas. It was apparently described as the Fortnum’s of Scotland and occupied this location until early 1980’s. There was a restaurant in the store where we would stop for coffee during our Saturday morning shopping outings. My parents were particularly fond of the signature caramel walnuts. I preferred the solid milk chocolate frogs. The taller building further up Union Street is part of Glasgow Central Station, the principal Caledonian Railway terminus, which became incorporated into the newly formed London Midland & Scottish Railway at the beginning of 1923. ( Valentine’s X. L. Series )

Union Street, Shaw Walker

People are queuing for their southbound trams at the Union Street fare stage in this mid-1920’s scene. The store on the right, at 14-22 Union Street, is Shaw, Walker & Co. Ltd, the City Ironmongery, which manufactured and sold high quality cast iron kitchen ranges and progressively diversified into household goods, including furniture, china and silver plate. They opened a toy department just before Christmas 1898, offering mechanical and steam toys, dolls, games and picture books. You could even buy Christmas cards at Shaw Walker. The company was a Glasgow name for decades and was eventually acquired by Pearson’s in the 1930’s. Just along from Shaw Walker’s is Peacock’s Tearoom at number 28, another well-known Glasgow enterprise. Across the street is Arthur Baker, the men’s tailor, at number 17 and the British Linen Bank is next door, at number 19. J. &. A. Ferguson’s popular restaurant was further up, at number 67. ( Anonymous publisher. )

Not much detail can be discerned in this photograph of Union Street dating from 1901-05. The tram cars in view are all open-top and this was the case in the first few years after the system had been electrified. We are looking across to 40 Union Street and R.A. Peacock’s Tearoom would not occupy that location (28-40) until much later. ( Postcard published in the Wrench Series and printed in Saxony. )

Union Street Colour

80 Union Street

Here, we are looking across the cobblestones to the upper west-side of Union Street in late 1962/early 1963 after the tram wires had been removed but the tracks were still in place. The businesses include John Collier, the men’s outfitter, Ross Dairies, Sawer’s Fish and the Grant Educational Company, the latter just to the left of the Central Station canopy. Grant’s was renowned for selling school textbooks and bibles. The blackened building with the bay windows and adornments is the Caledonian Chambers, designed by James Miller and built in 1901-3 to house offices for the Caledonian Railway and private tenants. ( Photograph courtesy of the Michael Meighan Collection. )

Sawers fish

This is a close-up view of the ornamental entrance to the Caledonian Chambers and the adjacent businesses. At the time this and preceding photograph were taken, the property was owned by British Railways. Now, a large part of the building has been redeveloped to house the Grasshoppers Hotel. ( Photograph courtesy of the Michael Meighan Collection.)

Union Street, Classy Car

Union Street, Glasgow

A one-way traffic system in now in operation in Glasgow in this 1960’s view of Union Street where neon lighting had been installed. The southbound vehicles include a Bedford van, two Minis, a Hillman Minx, and a Ford Consul. Most of the pedestrians in the picture are male and hats are definitely out of fashion. Atmospheric pollution is taking its toll and the white faience on James Miller’s Renfield Street building housing the Classic Cinema is badly in need of a clean. ( Postcard published by Miller & Lang, Ltd., Glasgow. )

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