The history of this bar goes far beyond the name Wintersgills. There has been an eating and drinking establishment here at 226 Great Western Road for 135 years. It is the oldest public house on this well-known thoroughfare. It was opened in 1881 by the Samuel Dow dynasty, a Highland family who moved to Glasgow in the early 19th century and set up a prestigious pub and whisky blending business. The Samuel Dow chain was famous for the grand interiors of its pubs and in 1936 the Great Western Road premises were lavishly refurbished. The work was put in the hands of Lennox and McMath, a Glasgow architectural practice best known for designing many of the city’s grand cinemas including the Bedford, now the O2 concert venue, and the Roxy Picture House in Maryhill. In 1938, architect James Weddell added the art deco cocktail bar and extended the distinctive teak frontage. Refurbishment recently completed preserves and cherishes the history.
The bar had a series of owners after the Samuel Dow years. In the 1970s it was renamed the Andros. This sounds vaguely Greek but was in fact taken from the name of the new owner Andrew Ross. Mr Ross got his pub into the Guinness Book of Records in 1976 by creating the world’s biggest ever pile of pennies. The 8ft high column of 1p and 2p pieces, amounting to £1181.68, went to the Glasgow taxi drivers’ seaside outing for patients from the Sick Children’s Hospital. The pub was bought in the 1980s by John Wintersgill, who changed it to its current name. Former Celtic player Jim Brogan owned the bar for a decade from 1994 when it became a favourite haunt for ex-footballers such as Jim Baxter and Alfie Conn. Brogan sold it on in 2003 to Belhaven Brewery, now owned by Greene King.
Wintersgills has been leased since 2007 to current licensee Paul Shevlane. Paul also has the Woodside Inn on nearby Maryhill Road. His father Chris has Shevlanes Bar in Springburn and, as a former player with Hearts, Hibs, Celtic and Greenock Morton, keeps a football connection going. Wintersgills has long been a venue for live music. Rock, country, and blues aficionados of a certain age will recall raucous nights with bands such as Rollin’ Joe and the Jets and Big George and the Business. These days, in addition to the rock ’n’ roll, there is acoustic folk on Tuesday evenings when accomplished musicians gather for a session. In the Samuel Dow days, the pub was renowned for quality food at affordable prices. This commitment continues at Wintersgills with its range of dishes freshly cooked to order. A recent award to Wintersgills from Health Scotland acknowledged the efforts to reduce salt, sugar and fat in meals while continuing to offer tasty fare. Wintersgills is firmly rooted in the community. It also offers a warm welcome to visitors. Paul Shevlane says: “It is a traditional bar for all. From a well-tended pint of lager and a bacon roll to a full meal and sharing a bottle of Rioja, nobody need go thirsty or hungry at Wintersgills.”