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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{ 27 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.

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.


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?



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,
PA16 7QF

TEL: 01475 721099
FAX: 01475 784644


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,


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.



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,


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.)

Robert Mcginty March 28, 2015 at 10:00 pm


I was an employee at J. & A. Ferguson’s from 1974 to 1980 and worked alongside Glen and Martin. Then I moved up to the butcher counter and worked with Esther and Marjorie. There were many good times there.


Bob Buntin August 15, 2016 at 6:16 am

Was there an old pub called Lang’s or Laing’s opposite the side entrance to the station near Ca d’Oro?

Elspeth Duncan November 10, 2016 at 11:53 am


I was a Saturday Girl in the Union Street Woolworth’s (on the East side of the street); 1966 – 1968.
I remember the excitement of being evacuated one winter afternoon when J. & A. Ferguson’s across the street tragically went up in flames.
There were great pops and bangs as bottles of spirits exploded in the once beautiful window displays 🙁
The street was snaked with hoses as firemen fought the blaze in the surreal light of the fire.
We were thrilled to be finished work early!


Chris Jones November 11, 2016 at 10:02 pm

Thank you for this recollection Elspeth. Fortunately, J. & A. Ferguson recovered from the fire and reopened in 1968.

Arthur Dickie February 6, 2017 at 10:58 am

My friend’s wife Nessie worked for J. & A. Ferguson as a chocolatier. Can someone tell me what year they opened and closed down their factory on Merrylee Road.



ross blyth December 5, 2017 at 1:42 am

Hi Chris,

I worked in Scott & Madill’s optical house as a lens surfacer from November 1971 until late 1974. Their address was 3rd and 4th floors, 114 Union Street. For a while after I started at age 15 I operated the cage lift. City Bakeries were below Ca D’oro and Jacksons the Tailor, Clydesdale Electrical, Apollo Blinds and Bernard Electrical, and the big record shop (think it was HMV) were all there and thriving.


Colin Neilson December 31, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Hi Chris,

Do I remember a real parrot in a window of a shop/hotel on the Glasgow Central side of Union Street in the early 70’s?


Chris Jones December 31, 2017 at 7:20 pm

Hi Colin,

Thank you for your question. I don’t know the answer because I was away at that time, but I will post your question in case someone does.

Best wishes,


Chris Jones December 31, 2017 at 7:34 pm

Hi Ross,

Thank you for sharing your early work experience, starting when you were age 15. Let’s hope someone will write in who remembers you and the company.

Best wishes,


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