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 part of the newly formed London Midland & Scottish Railway at the beginning of 1923. ( Valentine’s X. L. Series )

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

lynn sim August 3, 2010 at 8:53 am

Love your site. I am a member of the GlesgaKeelies site and Charlie suggested we have a look at your very informative site. Fergusons still make chocolates today in Greenock and you can buy their products online. Their rose and violet creams are to die for. Keep up the good work and I will let my friends know about your great site.
Regards
lindyloo.

Chris Jones August 7, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Thank you Lynn. Ferguson’s used to have a chocolate factory on Merrylee Road, between Cathcart and Muirend. When cycling in the area, I would stop there to feast my eyes on the display of produce in the window.

David Konopinski October 26, 2010 at 11:40 am

I found your site by chance and wonder if you can help. I’m after information on a business called MacGuire & Jago who were at 11-16 Union Street in the late 19th, early 20th century, I think. If you have any info or links to some, I would be grateful.

Many thanks.

David

Gerry Gibson November 15, 2010 at 1:33 am

I was employed with Ferguson’s in 1973. My position was trainee to the grocery manager in the Union Street store. The dept was situated in the basement. I learned a lot about retail from my manager (Madge). The general manager at the time was a Mr. Edgar. It would be great to see some photos of that time!!!

Chris Jones November 20, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Thanks for sharing this information Gerry. If anyone has photos from that time, they are welcome to write in.

lindsay June 30, 2011 at 9:11 am

Enjoyed looking at the site. I believe no. 116 was a wine and spirit merchant in the early 1900′s. Do you know what name it traded under or any other info?

Thanks.

Lindsay

Chris Jones July 2, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Hi Lindsay,

Thank you for your comment and question. In the Glasgow Directory for 1927 which can be accessed online, 116 Union Street was occupied by “The Union” which would have been located across the street from the side entrance to Central Station. Perhaps it was a bar. In 1869, John Leckie & Co., manufacturer of luggage, equestrian leatherware and dealer in Scottish weapons and curling stones, moved into 116 Union Street from premises in Stockwell Street. By 1879, the firm was known as Leckie, Graham, & Co. now at 116 and 120 Union Street and by 1904 they had moved to 89 Renfield Street and 56 Bath Street. I believe they later diversified into the school strap business and did a brisk trade with Glasgow teachers.

Stewie Griffin July 19, 2011 at 2:54 am

I adored Ferguson’s. I used to go in with my mum to the tearoom which was always busy. Their butterfly cakes were sublime. I would love to see some pictures of the shop but there isn’t much on the Internet.

Chris Jones July 23, 2011 at 10:12 pm

I agree. They were certainly busy on Saturday mornings when we used to visit. The company is still in business and they will probably have many old photos in their records. Here is their contact information, if you wish to get in touch with them.

J. & A. Ferguson,
Fort Matilda,
Greenock,
PA16 7QF

TEL: 01475 721099
FAX: 01475 784644

http://www.fergusonschocolates.com/contacts

W McLean August 6, 2011 at 2:40 am

Thanks for memories of Union Street. I wonder if you know the original purpose of the building occupied by the “Goose” at present? I suspect it may have been a bank but who knows.

Chris Jones August 7, 2011 at 9:42 pm

The Goose address is given as 40-46 Union Street and in the coloured postcard view below, taken between 1901 and 1905, you can see the buildings on either side of number 40 on the right of the picture. There is a bank just beyond the awnings. The Georgic Restaurant and Tea Rooms ( R. A. Peacock & Son Ltd.) used to be at number 28-40 Union Street, in premises that were rebuilt between 1929-1931 to a design by architects James B. Whyte & William G. Galloway.

Peter January 19, 2012 at 4:27 am

Indeed the Goose used to be the Georgic Tea Rooms. My Granny who recently passed away worked there in the 1930′s and had many an interesting tale to tell of the place.

Glen Martin October 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm

I also used to work in J.& A. Ferguson’s, as a trainee manager from 1975-83. Their cheese and meat were second to none. I ended up working with Alec McGuire in the best wine department in Scotland! Food from the Elsinore restaurant was excellent.

Chris Jones October 8, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Hi Glen,

Thanks for sharing your experiences at J. & A. Ferguson in Union Street. They were definitely a class act and are still in business as a confectioner, based in Greenock. I was unaware of their restaurant’s name in Union Street. Whenever I was taken there, my attention was probably focussed on a milk chocolate frog.

Best wishes,

Chris

Gemma Thomas October 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Hi Chris,

We have a razor marked Joseph Allen & Sons and “13 Union St, Glasgow”. Was this a department store? We would like to know more. Hope you can help.

Thanks.

Gemma.

Chris Jones October 12, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Hi Gemma,

Joseph Allen & Sons were Razor and Cutlery Manufacturers based in Sheffield. Joseph Allen had trained as a razor smith. The razor in your possession was probably purchased from William Marshall who had premises at 13 Union Street and is described in the 1927 Glasgow Directory as a cutler, ironmonger, edge tool, electrical, novelty and golf requisite merchant. He would have been located on the west side of the street near the corner with Argyle Street.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Chris

Annis June 27, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Does anyone know what was at 10 Union Street in 1902? A family scandal is rumoured to have taken place there, but I can’t find anything about the address!

Chris Jones July 7, 2014 at 9:11 pm

As you look up Union Street from the intersection with Argyle Street, the address is on the right-hand side, very close to the corner. Number 10 would have occupied part of the same building that housed the Argyle Hotel. Howell’s Cigars and Tobaccos were on the ground floor at the corner. There is a good view of the location in the first Union Street photograph ( albeit taken approx. twenty years later.)

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