The Scotia Bar, Stockwell St, Glasgow

The Scotia

Since 1792, the Scotia Bar has been sitting in Stockwell St, providing a drink, a good blether, and all forms of entertainment for the denizens of Glasgow and those who pass through the city. Back in the pub’s early days, the nearby river Clyde was a busy thoroughfare, as Glasgow was a growing port. Additionally, the Scotia was near the last ferry stage on the Clyde, the Tolbooth and the local gallows. So between all that, it’s fair to say that the Scotia was, to use local parlance, ‘fair hoachin’ (very busy), with people nipping in for a quick libation or so whilst going about their business. The theatrical was added to this eclectic mix with the new Scotia Variety and Music Hall, later the Metropole, opening next door in 1862.

Typical Glesca pub
Today, the mix of people passing through the Scotia continues. It plays host to musicians, writers, political activists and even paranormal investigators alike. In what manager Mary Rafferty describes as being ‘a happy pub’, a visitor to the Scotia is guaranteed good service, good food and a nice drink in a bar whose interior hasn’t changed since 1920 (apart from the odd partition being taken down!). It is indeed a warm and welcoming environment, one of the few nice ‘proper pubs’ that can be found in a city that seems to sprout up a pretentious theme bar or club every second week for the student and hipster population. Mary says that although it doesn’t look it, the building accomodating the Scotia is very old, and can be seen from the date on the stone at a corner, The bar is in the ground floor of the building. The Scotia is so good, that to use that well worn acorn of the haunted pub, some of it’s former staff and regulars can still be found there.
The fireplace

There are a number of ghosts to be found at the pub, according to paranormal groups who have investigated it. Perhaps the best known of these is the ghost of a manager who hung himself there during the 1970s, mentioned by Martin Coventry in his guide to haunted Scotland. This was kept very hushed up at the time according to current manager Mary, to the extent that even the regulars wouldn’t have known. Shania, medium with paranormal group Spirit Finders, described him in a 2007 investigation, a report of which subsequently appeared in The Scotsman. Shania stated that the bar was a second home to the man in life, but something got too much, so he hung himself in the cellar Mary remembered Shania felt as though she was choking when she set foot in the cellar. Prior to Shania’s visit, another medium going down to the cellar couldn’t breathe and grabbed her throat.

Scottish Paranormal held an investigation in The Scotia in July 2007. Further contact was made with the late manager’s ghost by the group medium, Ewan, who sensed the ghost walking up and down the back section of the bar. A lot of activity had been noted by the fireplace, so the group decided to hold a vigil here towards the end of their investigation, Ewan again sensed with the ghost, describing him as having swollen ankles and bruising above both ankles. However, unlike the other mediums, Ewan didn’t detect much in the cellar. Incidentally, he also detected a male spirit with rope burn and missing teeth who had been hanged, wandering the area by the fireplace. It’s unclear if this was the same ghost as the 1970s manager. Given that the public Gallows were nearby, it could be someone else altogether!

Other male spirits detected by Ewan that night include a man who had died from a puncture wound to the chest from a knife. This was a ghost going back a few years, described by Ewan as ‘podgy, not tall’. Ewan also sensed the ghost of a wee boy, aged about 9 or 10 years old looking for his mother, The boy was described by Ewan as having light brown hair and trousers tucked into his long socks, A smart young lad, it was felt he was well liked, but was very shy. Additionally, Ewan sensed the spirit of the child of a former manager. Interestingly enough, the Scotia’s website mentions that the ghost of the original owner’s child can be seen running in and out the door, Ewan picked up the names Daniel and Paul, and the surname Galbraith as being associated with the building.

The Snug
Other females detected include Annie, a 20th century prostitute picked up by Spirit Seekers’ Shania, who also produced some interesting effects during Paranormal Scotland’s investigation, more on which later! Near the front of the bar, the spirit of a woman shuffling her feet and whispering was detected by Ewan of Paranormal Scotland. He also got the names Anne (perhaps Annie?), Isabella or Izabella. Later, it turned out Isabella was the name of the first landlady of the Scotia. Ewan also saw another spirit, that of a thin woman in ‘a long beige dress, white apron and with dirty blond hair loosely tied back’. In her 40’s, Ewan felt she had some connection to the bar and got the dates 1790 – 1800. He also felt that the bar should have been bigger, for instance, that there was a staircase, which there now isn’t.

However, contrary to the history of the Glasgow pub as the male domain, it seems that women outnumber the men in the ghostly sense at the Scotia. Mary Rafferty told me of a former barmaid who had worked at the Scotia who told Mary about a ‘Green Lady’ who walks the bar, and will walk by people. The barmaid said this ghost had been seen by customers. Shania of Spirit Seekers picked up on her, describing her as a lady in a green velvet dress and a poke bonnet. This is also one of the ghosts mentioned on the pub website. Mary mentioned that a regular called Jimmy claims to have seen the Green Lady, on top of ghosts he had seen in the snug, though this appeared to coincide with mention of another paranormal group coming to visit! The Glasgow banter leaves no stone unturned.

There you have the ghosts, but what of the activity? On a day to day basis, Mary Rafferty says that not much ghostly activity gets reported to her. A self confessed skeptic, Mary has experienced some things during the aforementioned paranormal investigations which she can’t quite explain. For instance, there was the fun had by Annie, the 20th century prostitute mentioned above, during the Spirit Finders investigation, The group were holding a seance using a glass, and asked Annie to do something extraordinary – the glass then started racing around the table, much to Mary’s amazement. The group also got pictures of orbs in the snug, something which the accompanying newspaper photographer couldn’t explain. Paranormal Scotland managed to record an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) of a male (perhaps the 1970s suicide?) aggressively saying, ‘Get out of my pub.’

In what turned out to be quite a colourful night for Scottish Paranormal, they also had some interesting results in an experiment on temperature control. They had brought along two miniatures, Jack Daniels and Bailey’s respectively. Holding thermometers to each bottle, they asked a ghost to choose which bottle he/she preferred. The temperature by the Bailey’s went down by 6 degrees – discerning taste perchance?

The bar leading to the back
And an occurrence mentioned in the Scotsman Spirit Finders’ report and by Mary during the Paranormal Scotland investigation involves the pub phones. One phone is the payphone to be found in the bar. The other is the office phone, out of the public area. Both are on separate lines. During the investigations, both held after the pub had shut and in the middle of the night, the phone in the bar started ringing. When Mary answered it, no one was there. There was also no number when 1471 was dialled (NB to non-UK readers, on a landline, dialling 1471 gives the telephone number to last call – which of course can be with held). Immediately after this, the office phone began to ring, but again nobody was there. Mary said that it couldn’t have been a fault on the line as each phone had separate lines. She also said that everyone in the group was sitting in view at the time when this occurred during the Paranormal Scotland investigation.

Amongst other phenomenon reported by the two teams, one of the investigators of Spirit Finders saw a ‘dark shadow’ cross the bar at 3.35 am. And Ewen of Paranormal Scotland heard a round of applause near the fireplace – harking back to the Metropole days perhaps?

So, go to the Scotia and you might get more than a quiet drink, or a night of creative writing and folk music? It does seem rather fitting that another paranormal group meet up in the bar once a month, and who have in fact carried out some of their own investigations. Who knows what Annie might have up her sleeve for them one evening!

Thanks to Mary Rafferty for taking the time out of running a busy pub to tell a few ghost stories!

So what’s this then?

The photos used in this story were taken by me during my visit to the Scotia to talk to Mary Rafferty. It was a lovely summer day with the sun pouring through the windows. These shots were taken in darker parts of the pub with little lighting and what appears had me scratching my head a little. Quite interesting for the record at least!
‘Something’ in the bottom right hand corner
Taken one minute later and….
Orb and ‘misty thing’ on the table and by the chair!


Coventry, Martin, Haunted Places of Scotland Second Edition, Goblinshead, 2009

Spirit Finders Scotsman Report

Paranormal Scotland: Investigation Report (Supplied by Mary Rafferty)

Scotia Bar Official Website History Page

Explore Glasgow Website:,-cafes-and-takeaways/the-scotia-bar.aspx

Interview with Mary Rafferty 18/8/2012


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