Faces of the West End: The McGonigle Brothers

‘We are really greatful to the community’


Behind the hustle and bustle of University Avenue lies the unique street of Otago Lane, just off Gibson Street.

From the fashionable and bohemian tea house of Chai-o-ovna which provides over 80 varieties of teas from around the world, to Mixed Up Records, the eclectic jazz and soul record shop; this place has pretty much everything.

But maybe its greatest kept secret is the second hand bookshop Rousseau and Voltaire.

Run for over 40 years by the McGonigle brothers. This long standing bookshop is an iconic feature of the West End, the area we know and love.

We managed to grab Eddie, one of the three brothers who run it, for a quick chat.

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Did you grow up in the West End?

I used to stay up just round West End Park Street.

What are your thoughts on the students in Glasgow?

All the students that come into the shop tend to buy certain books, such as those by Albert Camus.

You could go back 25 years ago and they still buy Albert Camus.

It’s almost like there’s certain books that students always seem to buy. I think certain idealistic books seem to attract a lot of interest from the students.

Do the students differ from the past?

Not particularly, the young have always stayed similar through the generations.

If you could give some advice to student what would it be?

I know they have to be quite careful with their money, but I’d say pick up a new book – something that they would never usually read.  It’s good to challenge yourself and explore something new.

How long have you run the bookshop?

I was here for the first week when it started 1972, then after about six months I went to sell new books, and then 20 years later; well it’s actually 20 years exactly since I came back here.

isle 3Why did you set up shop in the west end?

Because of the various places, the various shops, and how nice the area is itself. We also thought that being close to the university would be the best place to go.

We actually opened up on Park Road in a tiny little shop then eventually we moved to this location

What was your inspiration for running a bookshop?

It’s just because one of my brothers was very interested in reading.

He used to read everything by George Bernard Shaw and he became interested in the reasoning why some second hand books were valuable and others not.

He used to look back at auction catalogues to try work out prices for first edition books. From there, we decided to open up a second hand bookshop

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How have things changed since you’ve been here?

We do get a lot of people, even elderly customers, who come in and say: “I’m trying to find a particular book by Walter Scott, but all the second hand bookshops don’t have it. I’ve tried all the shops, now I’m going to try online”.

You never used to get that. But I think we’re ok. We are always quite busy

What’s the name of your Cat?

Oh, that’s BB.

How long have you had her in the store?

About four and a half years. Old books sometimes attract mice so she helps out in the store with that account.

Did you know your cat is quite popular with the customers?

Well, there’s been a couple of documentaries on the bookshop in the past. I didn’t really know he was famous, is he? Customers mention him from time to time. He’s quite friendly really.

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Do you have a particular favourite book or piece of literature?

I’m a fan of Thomas Gray.

There’s a famous a poem that he wrote about a cat. It’s quite a sad poem.

The cat drowns in it because it’s chasing after gold fish in a tank and by accidently falls in, but it’s a brilliant piece of literature.

Do you have any great memories from the time you’ve been running the shop?

It’s quite amazing the amount of people who back the Facebook campaign that tried to keep away the redevelopment that was planned on Otago Lane for 2011.

The support ran into its thousands. It was quite inspiring that so many people cared about the store. We are really grateful to the community for that.