AS lockdown lifts, the possibility of having a pint at last means our attention is on pubs in Times Past this week.

What is the oldest one in Glasgow? Were there any dry areas during the temperance movement? Who remembers Wyper’s? Or The Cecil? Or McVey’s Bar? (Clue: Those last three refer to the same place, which changed its name several times over the decades. It is now The Renfield Bar.)

The hardworking team at Glasgow City Archives is on the case.

“The question of which pub is Glasgow’s oldest is very hotly debated,” says archivist Nerys Tunnicliffe.

“It’s complicated, because over time some pubs have changed venue or have even become something else like a shop or restaurant before becoming a pub again.

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“As the names of pubs are rarely given in records it is also hard to verify any claims.”

Two regular contenders for the title are the Old College Bar and The Scotia, she adds.

“Parts of the Old College Bar’s building date from the sixteenth century, although it was not a licensed pub until the 1800s,” says Nerys.

“The Scotia has been serving the city for more than 200 years.

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“The Saracen’s Head on the Gallowgate is strong contender too, with an entry in the records dating 1792, although it has moved addresses several times since.”

While libraries remain closed, Nerys and her colleagues Michael Gallagher, Lynsey Green, senior archivist Irene O’Brien and Barbara Neilson, are running Ask the Archivist, which gives people the chance to ask questions about the city collections.

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It’s part of #glasgowlifegoeson which highlights the fantastic resources available online during lockdown. More details are available on the Glasgow City Archives Facebook page.

Nerys explains: “The Burgh courts were responsible for licensing publicans to sell spirits and ale, and some of the records date from 1779.

“The city is home to many long-established public bars, so if you have an ancestor who was a publican you can often find out more about them in our collections.

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The records include details of Glasgow’s strong temperance movement, in which institutions like Cranston’s Waverley Hotel were established to offer an alternative to pubs.

“After several bills to limit the consumption of alcohol, 1913 saw the introduction of The Temperance (Scotland) Act, with what was called the ‘veto poll’,” says Nerys.

“Electors could vote to ban licensed premises in their area, becoming ‘dry’ areas. Cambuslang was one such ‘dry’ area in the 1920 veto poll.”

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It can be a tricky task, tracking down details of ancestor’s pub, says Nerys.

“It is unusual to find the name of the pub in the records, which is why photos, newspapers and local or family anecdotal information can provide further clues,” she adds.

“The licensing court kept maps. If the street name has changed or the street has been demolished, then it is worth checking out those and OS maps are another great source for finding old locations of pubs.”

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What was your favourite Glasgow pub? Send us your memories and photos.