George Square, and the Growth of the City,
page 3 of 9
“Regality Club.” The first in the order of time was that of William Craig, builder and deacon of the wrights. He moved out from the Bridgegate towards the country, and built his “great house” outside the gate at the Waterport, just west of the old Stockwell Bridge,* erected by the good Bishop Rae. He took a great interest in the almshouse, which stood further out, nearer the site of the present Custom House, and his good works are commemorated in a tablet removed from that old Almshouse to its successor in Parliamentary Road.
Deacon Craig led the fashion of the day. This “great house” was soon succeeded by a greater on the stance further west. His neighbour wright, Allan Dreghorn, who seems to have been also contractor and coalpit owner, built the “Dreghorn mansion” on Clydeside, amid shrubs and trees, near to the present Ropework Lane. This was indeed a splendid edifice, and thoroughly well finished. The Marquis of Breadalbane, long after, offered £200 for the dark mahogany balustrades from its grand staircase. His brother Robert went into the rising tobacco trade, and prospered even more, purchasing the estate of Ruchill. Between them they thought of founding a great landed family, and these hopes centred in the son of Robert Dreghorn—also a Robert, more familiarly remembered as the “Bob Dragon” of Kay’s portraits. To him Allan Dreghorn left his mansion and his fortune. But he was a miserable, ill-faured, vain creature. Daily did he emerge from his mansion, and find his way up the Stockwell to the plainstanes in front of the Tontine and take his place with other tobacco lords. His name was a bye-word among women and a “bogie” to the children. A solitary, cheerless life he led in the big house, with his sister, by whom he was found one morning dead in his chamber. The Dreghorn mansion was also the scene of a riot. For some time after “Bob Dragon’s” death it was unoccupied, and regarded as an “eerie” place to pass on the dark nights.—See view in article on ” Sir Walter Scott.”
In the course of time it was taken by Provand the dyer. Reddish-coloured waters were seen to emerge from it, and many held that he was carrying on a “resurrection” business as well. On Sunday evening, 11th February, 1822, the report went along the street that two children had been enticed within, and the mob gathered and gutted the house, and threw its contents into the river. For this several were transported, and two whipped publicly behind a cart in the streets, the last occasion this punishment was exercised. With ”Bob” the name perished, and the wealth passed over to the daughters of Ruchill—Elizabeth, afterwards of Ruchill; Margaret, second wife of Denniston of Colgrain; and Christian, wife of Lawrence Hill, and mother of the late Lawrence Hill, LL.D. The Dreghorn House, much altered in front, was for a long time occupied by the late Thomas Smith as a furniture warehouse. About a dozen years ago it was purchased by Archbishop Eyre, D.D., on behalf of the Roman Catholic body in Scotland, but is still used as a warehouse. In 1731 Deacon Craig paid 3d. per square yard for his land. In 1732 Dreghorn paid 9½ d. per square yard for his, and the Archbishop paid £7 12s. 9d. per square yard for it. Such has been the increment in Glasgow land.
At the head of Virginia Street, where is now the Union Bank, stood the Virginian mansion — hence Virginia Street — facing southwards, built by George Buchanan of Mount Vernon. On the north side of Argyle Street, with its side
* By this time the bridge was frail, and only coaches and foot passengers were allowed to cross it. There was a ford both above and below the bridge across which the carts were drawn.—See Map in Stuart’s Views.