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Old Glasgow Pubs by john gorevan


William Neilson. (The Kings Arms)

31 South Portland Street, Gorbals, Glasgow.
Mr William Neilson

Mr William Neilson. 1887.

William Neilson was born in Glasgow in the 1840s. After leaving school he learned the trade of Marine engineering. After his apprenticeship he went to the United States of American and Canada and held responsible positions in some of the principal Railways both in the States and the Dominion. After several years he went to Peru, he was for twelve years employed on land and sea, principally on Sugar and Rum Plantations. While in Peru he was entrusted with the charge of the engineering department and held in high esteem by his employers as a most capable engineer. One of the most exciting episodes in his life was the prominent part he was compelled to take in the engagements between the Chileans and Peruvians.

While on the plantation of Mr Swaine, a Scotsman, they were repeatedly harassed by one side or the other, and it was only by payments of large sums of money that the property was saved from destruction by the marsauders, who on one occasion, killed upwards of 1200 China-men employed on the estate. On several of these occasions Mr Neilson was in great danger of his life, and had to take refuge on British ships. In these revolutionary wars that convulsed the country, he had on many occasions to hoist the British flag for protection; but the most terrible scene, of which he was an eye witness, was the capture of Sima by the Chileans, when seven thousand Peruvians and five thousand Chilieans were slaughtered in the streets of the town, and it was only by the intervention of the foreign Consuls that further scenes of horror and atrocity were avoided. After this he came back to Scotland.

Exterior view of the King's Arms, 31 South Portland Street Gorbals.

The King's Arms corner of Oxford and South Portland Street.

On his return he opened a public house in South Portland Street at the corner of Oxford Street. He had great knowledge of the west coast of South America which made him an authority on some parts of that country.

William Neilson's pub became known as the Kings Arms, a well known local in the Gorbals. The pub was taken over in 1896 to wine and spirit merchant Robert Shields. George and John MacLachlan of Castle Bars owned this property and leased the business to various publicans for many years. Mr Shields paid an annul rent of £90 to the MacLachlan brothers.

Robert Shields resided at 12 Lorne Terrace, Maryhill and travelled daily to his pub on South Portland Street before going to his other premises at 155 Queen Street (Crammond Bar).

During the First World War the pub was taken over by Alexander Young who continued to serve the locals until his death during the second world war. His wife Mary then took over the licence.

James Mulholland will still be remembered by many as landlord during the 1960s, he also owned a pub at 20 Greenhaugh Street, Govan. The last publican to run the pub was a Mr Whyte, he continued running the pub until it was finally closed down and demolished in the 1970s.


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