13 West Croft Street, Paisley and the Oakbank Hotel, Sandbank.
Mr James Cochran. 1889.
Mr James Cochran was a well known and respected wine and spirit merchant in the West of Scotland. His Royalty Bar was situated at the prominent corner of 13 South Croft Street and 11,12 West Croft Street, the business was founded in 1810. It was in the same years that the Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal, as it was then called, was opened, and where, in the same years, eighty five people were drowned in the new water-way by the capsizing of an over laden top-heavy boat.
The Croft district has many historical interests. It was a place of importance when the eastern bank of the river, Newtown and Fifth Ward, was representative of pastoral beauty, enhanced by the presence of the ancient Abbey standing like a mighty sentinel guarding the peaceful calm. Near to Mr Cochran’s pub was the site of which the fastest steamers on the Clyde of their time, “The Lady,” “Brisbane,” “Lady Kelburne,” and others were built.
Almost opposite the west doors of the pub, was the famous shipbuilding yard of Messrs. Hannah, Donald & Wilson, on whose ground stood the four walls of what was once the Abercorn Theatre, a favoured home of Thespis for many years. In it the followers of the lyric and dramatic arts were wont to assemble to study the portrayals submitted by such artistes as G V Brooke, his wife Avonia Jones, Barry Sullivan, Sims Reeves, Kean and many other alike. It is perhaps noteworthy, also, that only a few weeks elapsed between Brooke’s last appearance in the theatre and the lamentable foundering of the steamship “London,” which event took him to his long account on 10th January, 1866.
Mr Cochran had been connected with the wine and spirit trade for over twenty five years. He did not sell whisky which he guaranteed was under three years old, his vintage brandies dated from the 1850s. His favourite champagne’s were Heidseick, Dry Monopole, Pommery and Moet & Chandon. He also stocked a great selection of wines.
Mr Cochran gained experience as a traveler, representative for Messrs. Wordie & Co., well known brewers of Petershill, Glasgow. He then undertook an agency from Messrs. Ayton Brothers, Eagle Brewery, Bishopbriggs and in 1888 represented in the West for Messrs., Whitelaw & Son, Fisherrow, Edinburgh. In January 1887, when the Joint Lines Railway improvements and new station buildings were proceeding, this part of the town was undergoing many structural and architectural alterations. Not to be behind, Mr Cochran resolved to pull down the old landmark, and a new block of buildings put in it’s place.
His new public house had all the newest equipment and furnishings, the high ceilings were painted in pale blue tint, edged with a grand cornice in terracotta, relieved by delicate tints and shades. The vestibule doors were made from the finest walnut with stained glass panels and fanlights of coloured glass. The interior woodwork was a work of art in yellow pine, carved in antique. The counter bar was a half horse shoe shape, with a most unique appearance away from the general run of bars. The spirit stock casks and bottle shelves were arranged along a mirrored back elevation. Running round the counter was the usual brass protection rod which was now becoming so popular.
During the day the bar was lit by the large windows, whilst at night, a brass rod, containing many jets and two 4-branch gasaliers, gave the place a warm light. A corridor ran from the bar giving entrance to the sitting rooms, and at the top was the spacious comfortable commercial room. The whole bar was indeed a triumph of workmanship, reflecting credit on each of the contractors. The building was erected under the presence of Mr Cochran’s son James C Cochran, who managed the Royalty Bar. Above the pub was the Cochran’s family home.
In 1877 Mr Cochran acquired the Oakbank Inn at Sandbank and after a refurbishment got a hotel licence. In 1887 James was elected president of the Paisley Wine, Spirit and Beer Trade Association to fill the position of the late Councillor Foulds. His son James C Cochran went on to run the Royalty Bar with great success.