Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Alexander 'Greek' Thomson 9: the Egyptian Halls Part 3

How these curiosities would be quite forgot, did not such idle fellowes as I put them down.'

- John Aubrey

'Oh roads we used to tread,
Fra' Maryhill to Pollokshaws - fra' Govan to Parkhead!

- Kipling, 'McAndrew's Hymn'

'Photography can be a mirror and reflect life as it is, but I also think that perhaps it is possible to walk like Alice, through a looking-glass, observe the puzzles in one’s head and find another kind of world with the camera.' - Tony Ray-Jones

Welcome to my wee photoblog on Glasgow, where we feature the  joys and unjoys of walking and cycling through a fascinating, beautiful and often badly run city. For the blog's origin and a  list of all posts see the  'Introduction' post  -

 Feel free to drop me an email with suggestions, offers of £20 notes etc. The address is I have had to start watermarking the pics as I have come across one big website using a pic without permission - I suppose there must be others.

If you are a private individual and want to use any of the pics for non-commercial purposes please get in  touch and I will usually be happy to say 'Aye' for free - just give the Album a credit. If you want to use a pic for commercial purposes a small mutually agreed fee and a credit will suffice. And you can follow me on Twitter if you wish: Edwin Moore@GlasgowAlbum.

Today is Friday 1 May 2015 and we are off for  a depressing revisit to the Egyptian Halls. For previous visits see

Alexander 'Greek' Thomson 2: the Egyptian Halls Part 1: the Interior

Alexander 'Greek' Thomson 3: the Egyptian Halls Part 2: the Exterior

Our friend Alex Cochrane photographing the lane exterior. For Alex's report on today's vist to the Halls see his excellent blog -

Our blighted Union St - a street that would be rejuvenated by a regenerated Egyptian halls

This  is the entrance to one  of the most  exciting buildings in Scotland, a critically endangered  building of world significance. For the current state of play see

In we go

A building haunted by its former greatness

We are going on the roof, working down

Union St down there

On Alex's left is the indefatigable developer Derek Souter, possibly the only property developer to receive consistent praise from Private Eye,  for doing what he can to save this astonishing building. On Alex's right is my friend Ian Brooke - see Ian's 2013 letter to the Glasgow Herald on our endangered built heritage
Ian's blog (great pics) is here!i=4039924264&k=h3QSh5L

Ian (left) and Derek

View down the lane to Gordon St

Back down we go

Sad to see all this

Have to walk carefully

Poor pigeon

Original stonework crumbling

An M R James story

I'm not going on there  - I am feart of scaffolding

The ladder - not going to get me on  one of those

We head down

From The Timeless Earth site -

'His most extraordinary and elaborate commercial work is Egyptian Halls in Glasgow. Built for the iron founder James Robertson, the grand stone facade is a sort of layer cake with a series of horizontal storeys, each different in treatment, building up to a majestic cornice. On the top storey, the squat Corinthian columns are freestanding, leaving the fenestration behind as a continuous glazed strip – a feature which some commentators have seen as anticipating the Modern movement but which in fact resulted from Thomson’s dislike of ugly collisions between windows and shaped columns.'

From the Scotcities site -

'Alexander Thomson's Egyptian Halls, on the eastern side of Union Street, is a well-disguised commercial building behind an elaborate façade. The magnificent frontage has a row of shops at ground level. Above the shops the exterior is different at every storey, displaying a highly original selection of exotic themes.

Cast iron columns support the continuous floors which were formed with a loose clinker concrete reinforced with iron joists.

There was a £3 million proposal in 1996 to demolish and redevelop the block behind a retained façade in a similar way to the nearby Ca' D'Oro building. This scheme was abandoned when the joint owners failed to reach agreement.
In 1998 the upper floors were stripped back to their original form in preparation for future construction work which never materialised.
In May 2008 plans were finalised to bring the whole building into the single ownership of Union Street Properties, who intended to carry out a major refurbishment scheme.
In September 2010, it was announced that funding problems had delayed the start of any work on the building. Historic Scotland offered the developers just £1.5m for external stone repairs and nothing at all towards the restoration of the cast iron structure. Various other funding sources are also now threatened.'

Wonderful columns - could be by no one else

These have recently fallen off, caught by the scaffolding which obviously cannot be removed  at present

The delicate tracery of ruin

Was a Chinese restaurant when last in use

Heading out

We are in the shop next door

At the back pristine original Thomson work can be seen

A stylised Athene's Owl perhaps, but no civic wisdom

In Buchanan St, the black flag of anarchism. Bakunin  I think it was who stopped his carriage to help some peasants burn a house - he had no idea why they were burning the house, the act itself was sufficient. Our civic order conceals its own form of anarchy,  as the fate of the Egyptian Halls demonstrates - between the power centres of Holyrood and Glasgow council, one of Europe's great buildings is being left to rot

Thank you for browsing, dear visitor. My other barking wee blog is

Reviews of Scotland: 1000 Things You Need to Know


'I love it - I'm giving this copy to a friend and buying another for myself' - Darren Adam, Presenter, Radio Forth, 17 November 2008

‘It’s a great wee book’ – Stephen Jardine, introducing Edwin Moore on Scottish Television’s Five-Thirty Show

'A fantastic book' - Scott Wilson , talk 107 Breakfast Show host

'A great read' - Dougie Jackson, Drivetime host, Smooth Radio 105.2


'Despite its apparently humorous format, this is a serious and extensive dictionary on all things Scottish; from Jean Redpath to Lorne sausage, from Flodden to the Corries. Is particularly good on history and minutiae. There's a useful chapter on famous Scottish legal cases and another on literature. Excellent' - Royal Scottish Legion, Feb 2009

'This is the ultimate Scottish reference book' - Waterstones Christmas catalogue, 2008

'This is a fascinating look at the history of Scotland: its languages, politics and great achievements, from its origins in the ancient landmass of Laurentia 400 million years ago, to devolution and Billy Connolly. Edwin Moore has collected a thousand important facts about this beautiful country, covering Scottish history and culture, correcting misconceptions, and examining the mysteries of haggis and bagpipes with insight, warmth and impressive attention to detail' - The Good Book Guide, November 2008

'This is a recipe for revealing how horribly ill informed you are about your country. Although, if you are skillful, you can nod sagely as you read some new fact and mutter 'Ah, yes!' as if recalling the information from your excellent schooling. Where else will you find a real recipe for making haggis from scratch side by side with a potted biography of David Hume; a section of the Declaration of Arbroath and the curiously touching fact that Lulu was only 15 when she had a hit with 'Shout'? The whole thing is of course, silly - but oh so addictive.' - Matthew Perren, i-on Glasgow, December 2008

'. . . well crafted and witty' - Bill Howatson, Aberdeen Press and Journal, 18 October 2008

‘While most of Edwin’s entries are entertaining and scholarly – he writes like a Scottish Bill Bryson – it is when he takes an interest in the backwaters of history, the details lost down the back of the sofa, that he is at his best’ – Jack McKeown, The Courier, 27 October 2008

'History, it is said, is written by the victors. Trivia, meanwhile, is written by the guys with the smeared spectacles and the breathable rainwear. The first discipline is linear and causal; to quote from Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys, history is “just one f****** thing after another”. Things look different, though, when viewed through the prism of trivia. The past is reduced to one big coleslaw of fascinating facts that in their randomness tell a more mixed-up tale entirely.
The first approach leads to big, frowning books by the likes of Tom Devine and Michael Fry. The latter results in small, cheerful books such as Scotland: 1,000 Things You Need to Know, Edwin Moore’s valiant attempt to navigate the more trivial contours of enlightenment and clearances, crown and parliament, dirt and deity.
Moore proceeds from a sincere and controversial first principle: Scotland is really a rather pleasant and interesting place. . .As a work of popular scholarship, though, it’s in a different league to the Scottish novelty titles that get stocked next to the bookstore tills as potential impulse purchases, those little handbooks of parliamo Caledonia and regional braggadocio, such as Weegies vs Edinbuggers.' - Allan Brown The Sunday Times, 21 September 2008

'In his book, Scotland: 1000 Things You Need to Know, Edwin celebrates all that sets us Scots as a race apart - our language, law, flora, food, and of course, our people. From our poets, architects and inventors, to our artists, entertainers and fighters. But he doesn't shy away from the more unpleasant aspects of our history. . .' - Robert Wight, Sunday Post, 14 September 2008

‘We think we know all about William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and the Union of the Crowms. However, according to Edwin Moore, author of , Scotland: 1000 Things You Need to Know, we’re still in the dark about many aspects of our history and culture. . . The Big Issue looks at 20 of the most astonishing examples of secret Scotland.’ – The Big Issue, 18-24 September 2008

'What's the connection between Homer Simpson and Larbert, and why are generations of lawyers grateful to a Paisley snail? Need to know more? Author Edwin Moore has gathered 1000 facts like these about Scotland in a quirky new book. Brian Swanson selects a few favourites. . .' - Scottish Daily Express, 13 September 2008

'The palm for Christmas-stocking books seems to have passed recently to popular science, with best selling titles every year such as Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze? This year there has been a gallant attempt at a historical fight back. Scotland: 1,000 Things You Need to Know(Atlantic Books, £12.99) asks (and answers) such post-turkey questions as ‘How many kings of Scotland died in their beds?’, ‘Who on earth decided that the Declaration of Arbroath was the cornerstone of modern democracy?’ or ‘Why is iron brew spelled Irn-Bru?’ Mark Mazower,History Today; The Best of History in 2008, December 2008

'A real treat for the serendipitous Scotophile' - Reginald Hill

FROM THE INTERWEB (on the new paperback edition)
Book of the Month, May 2010
'Whether it's Scottish lochs or Enlightenment philosophers, the facts of the devolution referendums or the mysteries of Irn-Bru, myths will be debunked and truths revealed in this light-hearted but rigorous overview of Scottish history and culture.'

Also available for download on Amazon's e-book store is my 100 Brief Encounters (only £3.06!)

Here are some reviews of the print edition (published by  Chambers in 2007) -

Edwin Moore's quirky collection of a hundred encounters between (mostly) important historical figures is a gem of a book. Where else could you get concise enlightening accounts of Henry VIII wrestling with Francis I, Geronimo surrendering to General Miles, Ernest Hemingway presenting Fidle Castro with a fishing trophy or (as seen on the books cover) a baby faced Bill Clinton shaking hands with John F Kennedy. A marvelous 'little window on human history. ' - Dominic Kennerk, Waterstone's Product Planning and Promotions Co-ordinator (From the Waterstone's 'We Recommend' list for 2008)

Witty, light and packed with information -- The Sunday Herald

In 1936, in the wake of winning a clutch of gold medals at the Berlin Olympics, the great athlete Jesse Owens was snubbed by an imperious leader, on racial grounds. Popular belief would have it that the leader was Hitler, who is said to have stormed off, furious to see a black man beating European athletes. In fact the man in question was President Roosevelt, who worried that paying attention to Owens' triumphs might be a vote loser. Although Owens and the German Chancellor never talked, Owens claimed that Hitler greeted him with an enthusiastic wave. Such near-misses, shakings of hands and ships-in-the-night meetings are the subject of Brief Encounters – Meetings between mostly remarkable people, a likeable new book by Edwin Moore (Chambers £7.99). Flicking through the index, you will find some expected encounters (Dante stares at Beatrice, Corday stabs Marat, The Beatles strum along to a Charlie Rich record round at Elvis's house), and the book's intriguing and memorable cover shows a baby-faced Bill Clinton manfully gripping the hand of JFK. But Moore has navigated past some of the more obvious collisions, collusions and confrontations of history (there is no Dr Livingstone, I presume) and much of the book's pleasure derives from lesser known incidents.

Inevitably, some of the accounts of earlier meetings are somewhat sketchy but Moore offers some piquant speculation, laced with humour (the book is tagged Reference / Humour, rather than History and this feels right, but the book, though wry and opinionated, never stoops to wackiness). I was intrigued to discover that, though Attila the Hun did die on his wedding night, it was not in drunken and lecherous debauchery, as his enemies maintained, but supposedly because he was generally a simple and clean-living man who had a few too many which brought on a particularly bad nosebleed.

Moore's book is full of such tales – it would be wrong of me to steal the tastiest morsels of his research and pepper this article with them, but look out for a subsidiary reason for the Gunpowder Plot (too many dour and powerful Scots in Parliament); a great meeting of great beards, as Castro wins the Hemingway prize for sea-fishing; Dali bringing a skeptical Freud round to the art of the surrealists; Buffalo Bill's wife claiming an aged Queen Victoria had propositioned him; Oscar Wilde getting a kiss from Walt Whitman, while Walter Scott was more taken with Burns's charismatic eyes. This is an enjoyable and vigorous rattle through some fascinating and believable yarns. My only quibble is that it's a little on the short side – let's have Volume 2 please Chambers! - Roddy Lumsden, www.Books from


  1. helen cunningham6 May 2015 at 21:46

    In any other city this would be highly valued. Glasgow saddens me in that they have so many stunning buildings that they seem to care very little about. So many beautiful tenements have gone and the buildings that remain in the city centre are as far as I can see under just as much of a threat.