New book uncovers the history of Govanhill’s iconic buildings and businesses

Govanhill’s built history has come alive thanks to the release of a new book.

Loved and Lost: Govanhill’s Built Heritage written by Bruce Dowie, a freelance writer and local historian, commissioned by Govanhill Baths Community Trust with assistance from Heritage Environment Scotland, was launched at the Govanhill Book Festival, part of the Govanhill International Festival and Carnival.

In it, Bruce looks at the Southside’s important buildings over the past 150 years as well as some history of the district.

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Being part of the campaign to save Govanhill Baths led to a fascination with the wider history of Govanhill, and inspiration soon struck for Bruce.

He explained: “I was very interested in the history of Govanhill Baths, and the more I found out the more I noticed a connection with the wider history of the area.

“It really just snowballed from there.

“There was a lot of interesting buildings in the area from local builders, factories – it was a real hive of activity.

“It made sense to turn all that knowledge to good use and produce the book.”

The book takes a step back in time to look to explore the built heritage of Govanhill, and look at some of the buildings, businesses and places that have formed an important part of the area.

They include Govan Colliery and Govan Iron Works, Dubs – North British Locomotive Works, Govanhill Baths and The Steamie, and the iconic Pearson’s Stores.

“The process of collecting the information, the photographs and researching lasted two years,” Bruce said. “I had twice as much material than what is in the book and could have continued writing, but you have to set yourself a time limit on these things. I made the decision to stop on a certain day.

“It took time to put the book together and have details to the story. It’s more than putting a post on Facebook. I think it took me around four months to actually write the book.

And while Bruce really enjoyed every chapter of the book, there is one that stands out – Pearson’s Stores.

For nearly eight decades, the family-run business was one of the major retailers on Victoria Road. At the height of their success, Pearson’s had five different shops selling different types of goods, much like a small department store.

“I was really chuffed with the Pearson’s Stores chapter as I actually found the last Managing Director Tom Pearson, who is retired and living in East Kilbride.

“I put a post on Facebook asking if anyone knew if any of the Pearson family was still with us, and his brother who lives down south got in touch. It was great to actually talk to someone, that chapter is quite special.

“So many of the buildings and businesses are so far back in time that all the stories are in books. So to meet with Tom Pearson and find out more about the store was good fun.

“A common memory of a lot of people is Peter the Parrot and what became of him. It was good to tie up the story of Tom and Peter.”

With so much history still to uncover can we expect a part two?

“Yes I hope so,” Bruce said. “Perhaps a reprint or a second edition that could be expanded. It would be great to do a second volume.”

In the preface, Bruce sums up the book perfectly: ‘It is a chance to enjoy a few stories that are rarely told, stories worth remembering, worth sharing, and to take pride in what those who came before fought for and achieved’.

Loved and Lost: Govanhill’s Built Heritage is available to buy from Rags to Riches.