George Square, and the Growth of the City,
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Atlantic Mills), Wm. Church & Co., J. & J. Black (James Black being the grandfather of Wm. George Black), and Fleming & Hope. David Hope was a friend of Carlyle. The entrance to these places of business was in South Hanover Street. The corner to the east was occupied by business premises, and John McCall, writing-master, and R. & T. Stevenson, writing-masters, had their class rooms-all well-known citizens. In the corner of the compartment to the west, where Messrs. Wm. McLaren, Sons, & Co. have their warehouse, was the Athenaeum reading room, with an entry from No. 6 South Hanover Street in 1825. Dr. Richard Miller, professor of Materia Medica in the College, had his dwelling-house to the west of this reading room. Henry Monteith & Co. took it down and built a tenement for themselves, having removed about 1825, or before it, from ‘Balaam’s Passage,’ or Charlotte Lane, behind St. Andrew Square. The corner house of this division was the office of P. & J. Playfair & Co., the entrance being from 144 Queen Street. Their nephew, Sir Lyon Playfair, got his commercial education there, say in 1834. James Whyte & Son, cabinetmakers, had previously occupied the site as their woodyard. A. Donaldson, the well-known teacher of water-colour drawing, occupied the top flat. The west compartment, now occupied by the Bank of Scotland and Merchants’ House buildings, comprised dwelling houses in flats of three storeys. There were no shops. Subsequently these were altered into hotels—the Clarence, the Crow, and others. There were three entrances, with turnpike stairs at the back, leading to the several tenements. At the south-west corner was the entrance to the business premises of McQueen, McDonnell, & Co. James McQueen, at one time (1835) editor of the Courier, was the great authority on West Indian matters in those days. The writer has been assisted in these reminiscences by a friend who saw the workmen busy in the erection of the statue of Sir John Moore in 1819.”
My own recollection of the Square, when I came to college 38 years ago, is that the east side was almost entirely occupied by well-to-do lawyers. I once called at one of these for a subscription from the Ferguson Bequest for the College mission. The George hotel had long occupied the south corner. On the west side there were a number of thriving hotels, the Crow, named after the Crow-Ewing house, the Clarence, and others visited occasionally by the students in their high festivals. The northern side had the Star, kept by Macdonald who went to Brodick; the Queen’s hotel, presided over by Mr. Macgregor, who became the Laird of Glengyle; and the Royal hotel, of which the head was Mr. Carrick, whose brother was the late master of works. I had an introduction to the late Rev. Norman Macleod the first — the minister of St. Columba’s. He was chairman of the Highland society that dined there a few nights after I presented the introduction. He gave me a card of invitation for the dinner. I have never forgotten the experience. It was almost too much for a quiet Kilbarchan lad. The toast to the society was drunk with Highland honours! I was amazed. The venerable minister was foremost in the fray, and that grand song of his followed — “Farewell to Finary!’ It was only a Highland heart that could have thought of such kindness to an unknown country lad. Ah, me! Of that gallant “companie” only a few are alive now.
I remember also getting lessons from Millen, whose son still occupies the stance next the Royal Hotel, and attending the class of O’Lochlin, an ex-catholic priest who taught Greek in one of the rooms of the Young Men’s Christian Association, which was then in a dingy building on the other side of North Frederick Street. Happily it has made way for the Inland Revenue Office, and through the generosity of Sir James Campbell of Stracathro, Mr. James Allan, Hafton, Mr. White of Overton, Mr. William Campbell, Mr. James S. Napier, and others, found better quarters in Bothwell Street.
Taking the public buildings that now surround the Square, we find the Merchants’ House and the Bank of Scotland on the western, the Post Office on the southern, the North British hotel and the Royal hotel on the northern, and the recently-erected Municipal Buildings on the eastern side. A short account of these will fairly illustrate the marvellous progress of the city.