Soon to celebrate his 70th birthday, The Laurieston bar owner John Clancy runs one of the most iconic watering holes in Glasgow.
When that milestone celebration arrives, he’ll have ran the pub for half his life: for 35 years the Clancy family has served ice cold beer and a warm pie and peas from behind the traditional bar.
Enter through Nelson Street or Eglinton Street, patrons are met with the kind of charm and civilised banter that’s all-too-often drowned out by modern venues.
John’s accidental catchphrase of “It’s just a pub” sends a message that the bar might not appeal to everyone, but The Laurieston has found its own identity by providing seats, cold drinks and no frills.
The bar was recently declared a category C-listed pub, with a history dating back to 1836.
Alexander Wiseman first began operating a pub in 1836. It then passed to Robert Graham and Sons in 1865, who ran many pubs around the city, but today it’s in the hands of John and James Clancy.
The Laurieston is a monument to the swinging 60’s social scene. The ladies toilet was built after women were allowed to join men in the bar and remains only accessible through the lounge. The walls are plastered with photographs, newspaper clippings and mementos of decades gone by: visitors, former employees, regulars from outside Scotland and fine art from talented friends of the establishment.
Moreover, it’s regularly recognised by The Scotsman’s Food and Drink team for their fine ales and traditional ambiance.
“I usually tongue-in-cheek say I’m here seven days a week,” says 69-year-old John, “I can’t just sit in the house – I’ve got to be out doing things.
“When you’re being your own boss you can come and go as you please. You can work as hard as you like and you usually do because that’s what you do.”
Half-kidding, the former shop-fitter describes his day shift duties as being “part of the maintenance department”. He paints, washes windows, takes care of the DIY and cleans the pub from top to bottom before his brother takes over in the evening.
Upon hearing The Laurieston had been set as a category C-listed pub, he admits the whole thing had him scratching his head at first.
“I wondered why, you know,” he says, “I kept thinking how there must be other places that are just like a pub, but obviously they’re getting kind of scarce, which I’ve noticed since to be honest.
“Things have gotten all modernised. There’s a different feeling now. You go into pubs now and there’s television, radio, bands playing and groups singing… instead of just having a pub.”
John and James grew old running several bars across Glagow, two in Maryhill, Tolcross and finally settled in Laurieston. Keeping it in the family, John’s son Joseph works the bar through the day with his dad. The brothers always shared an appreciation for community, as it was before the age of distraction.
“We used to sell a lot of Guinness,” says John, “the southside was always quite popular for Irish stout. I was always busy… the bar was busy all the time, seven days a week, but it was great. It was a community.
“It wasn’t a pub, it was a community. It was like a social centre – everybody knew everybody. People would fall out with one another, but it was all just amongst themselves so there was no harm done, so it was a community.
“There is no community now. Where do people go now?”
He wonders how today’s sub-crawl drinkers would fare entering a 60’s pub to see one table boiling over in a heated game of dominos as a woman sings a capella atop a table across the bar.
“It’s just a pub” might sound like indifference coming from John, the building is just one part of the pub. The only pub he cares deeply about have their pictures strewn across the walls, are stumbling out the door at closing time and bringing down the shutter at the end of the night.