WATCH: Alasdair Gray’s Glasgow, anecdotes from his regular visits to the Ubiquitous Chip

“A lot of the murals that he painted up our back stairs are actually pictures he’s done of the owners and staff that worked here or regular customers.”
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“The reason The Chip has got so much of Alasdair Gray’s beautiful artwork in it is because he used to come in, and he was a poor artist so he’d paint the building in exchange for pints.”

Poor Things, a 2023 film based on a novel by Riddrie-born Alasdair Gray has garnered international acclaim due to the number of prestigious awards it has won and been nominated for. What many do not realise is how significantly Glasgow is used as a setting in the original story - the main focus of which is on Park Circus - as the Scottishness has been completely stripped from the retelling. Nonetheless, the attention has shone a light on the author and his home city. We spoke to Jay Morgan who worked as a sommelier at the West End’s Ubiquitous Chip during the time Alasdair Gray was considered a regular to hear anecdotes on the artists. 

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“Alasdair Gray was a regular customer here, when I first started he was still coming in for food and drinks with his friends. A lot of the murals that he painted up our back stairs are actually pictures he’s done of the owners and staff that worked here or regular customers. There’s a great mural of the old head sommelier whose job I came and took over. He taught me on my first shift. Some of the wonderful saying from his books and stuff he’s painted on the murals up there.

“There’s all this big hype over the film and I don’t think people realise how much of the West End has got his artwork in it. We’ve got the oldest Alasdair Gray artwork in here, also he did the ceiling at Oran Mor and the mural at Hillhead underground.

“He was a lovely guy he used to come in past the front desk when he was older and his hearing wasn’t as great. He’d come in, walk straight past the person at the front desk, sit at that table over there and not even look at a menu, he’d just go “Soup”. We’d go and get him his soup, he didn’t really care  what soup he had he just wanted some soup. 

“He was a really nice guy it was a privilege to know him. He used to doodle on the napkins and we’d desperately try to get one of them, knowing that his work was going to be worth something. I mean he was already famous as a writer and as an artist. Everybody sought after them. 

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“I only knew him in his much later years in his kind of late 70s. We had his 80th birthday party here and everyone was invited, all the poet laureates and people from the arts and everything. We had a great big table set up and it was supposed to start and Alasdair still wasn’t here. We were sent off to try and find him and his buddies had taken him down the pub for a drink so he was late for his own 80th birthday. 

“He didn’t talk a lot, he would talk in the bars to his mates. As far as I know, and I only knew him from serving him his food and wine, he was a draw. People would come to The Chip to sit with Alasdair and talk to him because he was such an interesting guy.”

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