2 Balgrayhill Road, Springburn, Glasgow.
John Gemmell the proprietor of this old Springburn favourite was born in Galston in 1843. His father Hugh owned the Angel Inn, Kilmarnock where young John got his first insight into the licensed trade. John moved to the Springburn area of Glasgow where he met his wife Elizabeth, an Auchinairn lass.
John opened a public house at the bottom of the Balgrayhill Road in 1869, he and his wife lived in nearby Flemington Street, and had a large family of eight children. the Gemmell’s were fortunate enough to have a domestic servant Susan McKell from Auchinairn. Business was good in Springburn despite the competition in the area as Springburn had it’s fair share of pubs and licensed grocers.
The family moved to better accommodation to Myrtle Bank before moving to Athole Gardens. John opened another pub on Parliamentary Road at the corner of North Frederick Street in 1881 and another on North Street, this pub still stands today and is known as the Ritz Bar.
John died at his home in Athole Gardens in 1905, he was 62 years of age. He left an estate valued at £8798 19shillings and 2 pence. The licence for North Street was taken over by Michael Dunbar, the Parliamentary Road premises were taken over by John LLoyd and few years later while Stewart Armour a trustee was licence holder for Gemmell’s on Balgrayhill Road.
The licence was transfered to John’s son William in 1916, the pub stayed in the family for nearly one hundred years. In the 1960s the licensee was Edith Robertson Gemmell and the pubs became known as the Kelvin bar. In 1971 Tennent Caledonian Breweries was running the pub, managed by John Richmond, was also licensee for the Spur Bar, Polmadie Street, Flynn’s, London Road, the Vulcan, Springburn Road and The Lorne Bar on Northcroft Road.
The Kelvin Bar was finally demolished when the rest of Springburn saw the bulldozers flatten the tenements and the shop to make way for the new road system. I often find it difficult to imagine where the bottom of the Balgrayhill was, as Springburn has changed so much over the years. I was brought up in Springburn and today I still find if difficult to find my way around.