Basil's Bairns

RSA Finlay Room


The architectural practice of Sir Basil Spence, Glover & Ferguson enjoys an enviable reputation in 20th century Scottish architecture. Founded as Basil Spence & Partners in 1946, the firm was responsible for a formidable catalogue of buildings, from modest houses to substantial publicly funded projects, by its closure in 1992, sixteen years after the death of the founder. To the public, the practice is best known for the housing at Dunbar Harbour, Glasgow Airport, Mortonhall Crematorium, the high-rise flats at the Gorbals, Edinburgh University Library and its two buildings for Scottish Widows. But the jobs ran into hundreds with universities, offices, factories, hospitals and churches.

This exhibition focuses mainly on some of the work carried out by the protégés of Sir Basil after having passed through the office at 40 Moray Place. Of course, while some architects remained there for the major part of their careers, others moved on after relatively short exposure to the Spence regime. Most, however, would acknowledge the continuing influence that marks them as Basil’s Bairns.


Partners and associates in Sir Basil Spence, Glover & Ferguson were: the late John Hardie Glover, who joined in 1948, and was a partner from 1956 until he retired in 1980, while Peter Ferguson, who also joined in 1948, was a partner from 1956 until his untimely death in 1969. Jim Beveridge was there for the full duration, beginning as an apprentice when the firm was set up and a partner from 1968-92. Andrew Merrylees, a partner from 1972-85, was hardly short-term either. He first worked with Spence as a student assistant in 1952, then as architect in 1957, subsequently founding Andrew Merrylees Associates. John Legge, now deceased, was a partner from 1973 until 1992 when he started John Legge Associates. Richard Cassidy, an associate, was at Moray Place from 1950 until retirement thirty years later. Tom Moran and Jim Marshall, now both deceased, were also associates, as were Bengt Ericsson of Ericsson Architects, Colin Milne and Keith Day.


‘Basil’s Bairns’ later with other practices include: Philip Black of Murray & Murray Associates (Ottawa); Stewart Brown of Simpson & Brown; Peter Caird, lifelong friend of Hardie Glover, who had spells with Spence in the 1940s and 1950s and was later with Reiach & Hall; Patrick Clark of SMC Parr (Birmingham); Ian Cook of Hugh Martin & Partners; Helen Giblin of A+ D Wejchert +Partners (Dublin); Tom Gray of Gray Marshall; Norman Gray of Norman Gray & Partners; David Harper of Harper Downie (London); Bill Jack of BDP (London); Alan Jeffrey of Anderson Jeffrey; Douglas Laird, later with Campbell & Arnott; Andy Lester of Aitken & Turnbull (Galashiels); Ken McDonald of Reiach & Hall; Jamie Macfarlane, of Architects Unlimited; Alistair McLaren of McLaren Associates; Guy Maxwell of Hypostyle Architects; Colin Milne, later with Reiach & Hall; Derek Patience of Patience & Highmore; Patrick Rooney of Patrick Rooney Associates (Dublin); Mike Towers of McLaren Murdoch & Hamilton; Robin Watson of Watson Burnet (Dunfermline); Andrew Wright of Law & Dunbar Naismith (Forres).


This list is by no means exhaustive, indeed there are many others throughout the UK and Ireland and in Denmark, Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia and Canada. A few joined the teaching staff in various Universities.


The following of architects have contributed material to this exhibition: David Bain, Philip Samuel Black, Peter Caird, Patrick Clark, Coila Clyne, Keith Day, Bill Dickson, Bengt Ericson, Tony Finlay, Helen Giblin, Norman Gray, Tom Gray, Paul Grierson, David Harper, Malcolm Hay, Douglas Hutton, William Jack, Alan Jeffrey, Douglas Laird, Ken Lawson, Andy Lester, Jamie MacFarlane, Guy Maxwell, Ken McDonald, Alistair McLaren, Andrew Merrylees, Colin Milne, Stephen Murray, Derek Patience, Jeanette Paul, David Penman, Bill Pirnie, Alan Robertson, Patrick Rooney, Angus Starling, Jim Stewart, Mike Towers, Robin Watson, Bill Whyte, Andrew Wright.