Remember when Jackie Bird went on a Glasgow pub crawl?

The former Reporting Scotland anchor headed into the ‘seamiest’ parts of the city for a feature on old Glasgow watering holes back in February 1991.

A clip unearthed from the BBC Archive shows the presenter taking a bus packed with curious visitors as it tours around the city to explore the ‘debauchery and drunkenness’ associated with the city’s pub scene, particularly in the East End, over 100 years ago.

Essentially, they were sampling a tipple of something many of us enjoy on a regular night out - a pub crawl. 

Glasgow Times:

The tour stepped back in time to an era where, as Jackie says, “it was possible to get drunk for a fortnight for less than a shilling.”

Keeping with the authenticity of travelling back in time to Victorian Glasgow, the guides were dressed in costume emulating the era and the tour was even interrupted by a group from the Ladies of the Temperance Society who boarded the bus and pleaded with passengers to sign a pledge to ‘defy the demon drink’.

Stops on the tour included one of Glasgow’s oldest pubs, the Saracen Head in Gallowgate – or ‘Sarry Heid’ as it was often known.

Glasgow Times: Saracen Head, 1978. NewsquestSaracen Head, 1978. Newsquest (Image: Newsquest)

Revellers delighted in enjoying a wee dram in the Gallowgate pub before engaging in a singsong with ‘I Belong to Glasgow’, and the whole experience was a hit with those who took part.

One visitor told Jackie: “I think it’s really good fun, I think everyone will enjoy it.”

Glasgow Times: Saracen Head, 1979. Newsquest.Saracen Head, 1979. Newsquest. (Image: Newsquest)

Another said: “I wouldn’t say this is a particularly bad point for Glasgow, but it’s something which is not a good idea to keep under wraps. I’m sure nobody was offended, disgusted or shocked by it.”


During their travels along the Gallowgate, the tour guide comments that the Sarry Heid is the oldest public house in Glasgow. That is a subject that has been up for much debate over the years, as many including the Scotia Bar and the Old College Bar have competed for the title of the city’s ‘oldest’.

Glasgow Times: The Old College Bar also lays claim to being one of Glasgow's oldest pubsThe Old College Bar also lays claim to being one of Glasgow's oldest pubs (Image: Newsquest)

The Saracen Head’s origins date back to the late 1755 - although it has not strictly been a pub since then. The land was bought by Robert Tennent who opened the Saracen Head Inn. If you recognise the name, you’d be right to think he is the same Robert Tennent who established Tennent’s brewery with his brother Hugh in 1740.

It is perhaps also the case that the Sarry Heid was one of the first establishments in the world to serve Tennent’s ale (before they began making lager).

Glasgow Times: Robert Tennent, of Tennent's brewery, bought the land and built the Saracen Inn in the 1750sRobert Tennent, of Tennent's brewery, bought the land and built the Saracen Inn in the 1750s (Image: Newsquest)

One of the likely drinkers of this ale was Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns, who lodged at the inn multiple times in the late 1780s. One of his handwritten poems was even displayed there behind a sheet of glass.

The Saracen Head Inn fell on hard times when grander hotels were built in the West End and city centre, and it was eventually turned into shops and tenement houses.