James Cowan, ‘From Glasgow’s Treasure Chest’, 1951

In the Introduction to From Glasgow’s Treasure Chest: A Miscellany of History, Personalities and Places, 1951, James Cowan (“Peter Prowler” of the Glasgow Evening Citizen newspaper) informs readers that for some time he had been taking note of and writing about things of interest, in and around Glasgow, which were overlooked by the majority of its inhabitants. He wrote:


“On considering what I had already done, it seemed as if I had opened a treasure-chest belonging to Glasgow, and brought to light things which should interest all its citizens; and that in this treasure-chest there must still be an almost inexhaustible store of such things to be discovered and examined. I therefore decided to extend my explorations in the city as much as time permitted; and in this way ‘Peter Prowler’ was born in my mind. His advent being favourably received by the Literary Editor of the Glasgow Evening Citizen, ‘Peter’ lost no time in setting out on his travels.”


He concluded the Introduction, commenting:


“‘Peter Prowler’ is conscious that in dipping into this Glasgow treasure-chest many of the things he has written about will not be new to people accustomed to take an interest in Glasgow’s past; but these things were new to him when first he found them in the ‘chest’, and, as they are now presented, they may be equally new to those citizens of Glasgow who have not hitherto made their city’s historic past a subject for study.


“Apart from this, let me conclude with the hope that some of the very great pleasure I have derived from acting as ‘Peter Prowler’ may have communicated itself to these writings; and that even people who are not particularly interested in the type of subjects dealt with, may be able to read ‘Peter Prowler’s’ account of them with some measure of enjoyment.”


Indeed, Cowan’s publication is a very important record of the city, with subjects covered ranging from The “Mitchell” Book Infirmary, Up the “Briggait” Steeple, The Arcades of Glasgow, Round About Candleriggs, A Huguenot Pioneer, and Glasgow with Pure Air, to A Castle in Govan, Monteith Row Memories, Down the Molendinar, The Tontine Faces (What happened to them?), The Glasgow Orpheus Choir, and Clyde Pleasure Steamers in Wartime (First World War and Second World War).