Where there’s a steamer, there’s a pub!

This smart looking pub still stands on London Road in Glasgow, but alas it is no longer known as the Lord of the Isles — in fact, it has no name at all!

Many years ago CRSC’s Membership Secretary Stuart Craig shocked the august audience at a ‘Members Night’ by giving a short presentation recalling Glasgow pubs that were named after Clyde steamers. Now, following many years of sobering research, Stuart has decided, by popular demand, to reprise his presentation as an article for our website. Please understand that CRSC does not condone this kind of research and has not funded it in any shape or (glass) form.

Stuart Craig

Stuart Craig

I was in a pub once, yes just the once. It was called the Clansman and it was tucked up an unremarkable street in Dunoon. That’s the name of a CalMac ferry, I pondered, as I sipped my soda water and lime. So I got to thinking: how many other pubs around Scotland are named after ferries or steamers? I reckoned I would just have to carry out some research and find out.

The Clansman, you may recall, was the name of the fictitious, but otherwise totally authentic, portrayal of a pub in the brilliant BBC Scotland comedy series Still Game. But how many more pubs are there named after extant ships? Well, there’s the Argyle Tavern. The ship oscillates between Wemyss Bay and Rothesay but the boozer is firmly anchored in Baillieston. But Argyle can also be spelt as Argyll – and yes, you’ve guessed, there’s one of them too. The ship was an early cargo vessel operated by James Hogg and the pub is in Paisley; there’s also one in Helensburgh.

Wetherspoons has a Lord of the Isles at Braehead in Renfrew. I’d seen that one when I’d been dragged kicking and screaming into the arcade for a shopping session that was so exhausting I was rendered legless.

The Clansman, ‘tucked up an unremarkable street in Dunoon ’

I had a feeling there was another Lord of the Isles in Bridgeton. I simply had to go and investigate. I tracked it down to London Road. It is now painted in featureless all-black, with no name. In the interest of accurate research I poked my head round the door for just long enough to respire the most ephemeral whiff of Tennent’s lager. The incumbent Jack and Victor merrily informed me that the watering-house is now called the Crimson Star.

The last time I looked, Waverley was still operating, so surely there’s one named after her?  There is — in fact, there are. There’s one in Dumbarton, near the main station,  which is apparently owned by ex-Hearts striker Drew Jarvie! Edinburgh has got into the Waverley act too, as has Hawick – but then, that’s Walter Scott territory. Talking of whom, there is a pub called Sir Walter Scott at Edinburgh Airport near the departure gates! When did Edinburgh ever celebrate a Clyde steamer?

Mr Tim Martin’s pubs do well in this steaming story. In Coatbridge there’s a Wetherspoons called Vulcanwhich as you all know was a Glasgow & South Western Railway paddler built in 1897, initially employed on the south coast as Britannia and best remembered as John Williamson’s Kylemore. Largs, of course, has The Paddle Steamer, but that doesn’t count as it is too abstract. Glasgow Airport also has a nautical bar – the Caledonia.

Still serving, on Paisley Road West in Glasgow. A pub named Jeanie Deans used to sit back-to-back with it on Govan Road.

The oldest pub in Glasgow is reputed to be the Scotia, built in 1792, thus predating the famous Buchanan steamer by nearly a hundred years. On further detailed and tea-totalling research, I have found several public houses, still serving, named after some really old steamers. Here is a small half-measure: Victoria (Victoria Road, Glasgow), Viceroy (Paisley Road West in Glasgow) and Galatea, which is actually on an island – Bute!

Some of the pubs sharing a name with a steamer have gone the same way as the ship – to the breakers, a sobering thought. The Dalriada in Cranhill was demolished in the 1990s, mainly because its regulars couldn’t behave themselves – they really blotto’ed their copybook. Behaviour in the Marmion in Edinburgh (more Walter Scott) was even worse as it was the scene of a murder in 2006 and closed shortly afterwards.

And the poor Jeanie Deans was sunk twice. The one in Govan Road (which was back-to-back with the aforementioned Viceroy) was closed in the 1970s and a second Jeanie, which used to be berthed at 512 St Vincent Street, is now a sushi bar with the appropriate appellation Pickled Ginger. What a comedown for the Jeanie – instead of being preserved, she’s now a preserve. I also remember that nearby there was once a Stirling Castle — in Yorkhill in Glasgow.

My temperate research didn’t carry me into England, but I note that there is an Ivanhoe in Scarborough. I wonder if they serve up anything stronger than a tea or lemonade in there?

So there you have it. These were all I could find, and my article is running out of drunken synonyms. I’ve probably missed some pubs, and no doubt someone will be only too happy to update me; please do, it’s a free-house. One tiddly wee correction — when I said in the opening sentence that “I was in a pub once”, what I meant was that I have only been in that pub once. For the sake of tight accuracy I had to visit a few on this list, only in the name of well-oiled research. Each visit left me more desiccated than the last. Abstinence was clearly called for, otherwise I’d have been well and truly steamboats!

All photographs by Stuart Craig.

Gone but not forgotten — the Jeanie Deans bar on St Vincent Street. It is now a sushi bar named Pickled Ginger

In the centre of Dumbarton, there is even an up-to-date image of the Clyde’s sole surviving paddler

Tucked away on a back street in Rothesay is the Galatea Bar, whose name evokes the 1889 CSP paddler

The Scotia, reputedly Glasgow’s oldest pub: could the 1880 Buchanan steamer have been named after this celebrated Stockwell Street hostelry?

The Vulcan — as the paddle steamer Kylemore was named between 1904 and 1907, when she was owned by the Glasgow & South Western Railway

Published on 26 December 2021