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Saturday, 27 February 2010

Is It Granny Be Good?

1305 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow

It had escaped my notice that Granny Gibb’s on the border of Whiteinch and Scotstoun is part of Colin Beattie’s empire. His interests in and around Partick and Byres Road are well known along with his fairly recent acquisitions on Trongate, but I’d forgotten that his roots lie further west.
This was quite an oversight on my part considering the conversation I had with him a few years back, about pubs in the Yoker/Knightswood area. Jarvies on Kelso Street and the Dry Dock were mentioned – I can’t recall whether he revealed he had interests there or thereabouts but he did pass on the tongue-in-cheek advice that unless I was interested in an anthropological study these places were best avoided.
What woke me to the facts was news that he has ambitious development ideas for Granny Gibb’s within the year. So, what might his plans be?
Its location dictates much. Even non-regular Glasgow pub-goers know of Whiteinch’s dryness. No, not the locals’ humour, rather the city’s long-held licensing policy of not granting alcohol licenses in designated areas. Whiteinch is/was one of those areas, meaning that many locals head along Dumbarton Road to Partick for their regular drinking.
Thus there is very little competition in the area meaning that no pattern has really been set. The canvas is blank.
Maybe Beattie intends to introduce a Gaelic feel to the place, as he has famously for a number of his other establishments, or introduce an arts element, he being an enthusiastic patron.
Or the intention may be there to develop a food side to the business and also attach a degree of sophistication to the pub, bringing it, in spirit, more towards the centre of the city. At the moment it is very much a local, a friendly place in its own low-key manner. You can tell the regulars, but are not left feeling out in the cold if you don’t happen to be one of their number.
There is also the possibility of it attracting clubbers heading later to a night at the Big Joint nearby on South Street.
Unusually for a Glasgow pub, Gibb’s isn’t on the ground floor of a tenement. It sits alone, like a large, wide bungalow. Its main neighbour is a filling station that has recently had a Tesco Metro added to it. The new customers of that store – younger more affluent – may be the kind of clientele the owner is planning for the pub. These shoppers must like the convenience the Tesco brings to their hectic lives. Good for them. But not really for the locality or small shopkeepers. The area just becomes another catchment zone as devised by supermarket planning departments.
There is plenty of space to the front of the pub. Ripe for tables and chairs, unless planning regulations preclude it. If allowable, the smoking area that presently operates in an enclosed area to the side of the pub could be moved to the front.
The approach to the pub is reminiscent of a country inn, with the mullion-style windows and flowerpots. You can even picture it as the cottage that was built here in the late 18th century, serving as a howf for drovers approaching Glasgow, operated by the eponymous Mrs. Gibb after the death of her husband. Between then and now, the pub changed its name to the Victoria Park – after the beautifully tended nearby park – before returning to its original name sometime in the 90s.
The interior is large with the bar counter sitting unobtrusively on the left. At he front right is an almost self-contained sitting room. A throwback to the spaces set aside in many pubs of yesteryear, where respectable people, like ladies, did their drinking sitting down rather than standing at the bar.
Service is good without being particularly welcoming. On my last visit I thought the round I had ordered had been misheard. When I questioned why the barmaid was pouring an extra pint she informed me it was for a silent chap standing alongside me. He didn’t have to speak to have his order understood. Good work.
Because of the efficiency of the service you won’t have long to wait, but your eyes will be drawn to the quirkiness of the place. There is a raised area near the back wall; it is used for bands and open-mic nights. But what is unusual about it is its wild-west theme. Pictures and knick-knacks straight from cowboy-and-indian-land. Then, amongst all this, you notice the busts of Homer and Aristotle. And adjacent to the stage area is what can only be described as Stuart corner. Tartan and artefacts from the Scottish royal dynasty including a portrait of the particularly impetuous and ill-fated – and that is saying something coming from that family – James IV.
You soon get used to these odd touches though, as you sit in the easy atmosphere of Gibb’s. Things are slower and quieter in here, and you accept it. It’s possible to do a bit of eavesdropping too if that’s your thing. On a recent visit, an old gent near our table revealed to his pals he’d just picked up some marked-down food from the nearby Tesco. He and his mates then peered into his poly bag to check out the goodies.
We hope Mr. Beattie’s re-development doesn’t rule out scenes like these in the future. Just like two centuries ago, Granny Gibb’s sits on the edge of the city proper, poised ready to enter. But it can be part of a modern Glasgow without losing its peculiarities and without succumbing to the homogeneity epitomised by the adjacent supermarket.


  1. Hi
    Thought your coverage of Granny Gibbs was not only complimentary and informed more over it translated very well the passion the pub projects and I thank you for that.
    Two small points need correcting, the present site of Granny Gibbs is not quite the original location it might interest the public to work that out albeit he information is freely available in the local Whiteinch Library.
    I enjoy social history and discovered the story of Granny Gibbs in the library and renamed the former Victoria Park & Paddens in 1999. When I took over the premises the theme Granny Gibbs transcends somewhat from mariachi looking after her drover client coming into Glasgow to sell their sheep, cattle and produce.
    I find myself reading Glencoe Indian’s by James Hunter just before I purchased Paddens, it is the story of the massacre of the McDonalds of Glencoe by the Campbell’s and how some of the clan fled to the new world of North America and Canada, it’s a fascinating story hence the native American and old Scots ancestry link and overlap in the bar.
    I could go on and explain it in more depth i.e. at the time I has sponsored bringing over the Lakota Sioux who were the tribe slaughtered at wounded knee made famous in Daniel Browns book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, I’m beginning to ramble, thanks again for the write up and food is expected to be on offer in the coming weeks.
    Finally the two gardens have both the Islands of Tiree and Lismore geographically laid out and correctly detailed paying homage to other families who during the Highland clearances also had to leave their homeland en route to the America and Canada truce just adds a pile of ancient philosophical overview to the magic of Granny Gibbs.


  2. Hi Colin
    Thanks for your detailed comments. You have explained well the significance of the various artefacts inside Grannys. I know from your involvement with The Liosmor, Ben Nevis and Oranmor that the history of the Scots people figures strongly in the design and concept of these venues. I look forward to sampling the food in Grannys and any other developments in your venues.