Tam Shepherd's Trick Shop, Glasgow

Tam Shepherd's Trick Shop window

If you ever find yourself starting casting aspersions on the youth of today take a trip to Tam Shepherd's Trick Shop in Glasgow's Queen Street. You'll find that the youth of today are doing what they've always done - stocking up on whoopee cushions and itching powder.

Trading from the same city centre premises for over 100 years the shop is small but tightly packed with goodies. Tricks and novelties are crammed into the glass-topped counters, partially obscured by saucer-eyed children and excited adults. Wigs, masks and a selection of celebrity rubber faces are behind you. It’s not often you see Mick Jagger, Tony Blair and Maggie Thatcher all rubbing shoulders. At the far end frivolity gives over to serious magic with a range of books and videos to suit the Sunday party-piece and the dedicated pro.

Tam Shepherd’s has been entertaining kids, big and small, since the late 1800’s making it one of the oldest joke shops in the country, second only to Davenports in London. When Tam Shepherd (he really did exist) died, Lewis Davenport, who was a magician appearing at the Glasgow Empire, bought the shop from Tam's widow. The business is now owned by his grand-daughter Jean, who runs the shop with her husband Roy Walton, a world famous card magician, and their daughters.

The family run the place with a deadpan laissez-faire attitude. Requests for rubber biscuits and fake dog turds are actioned discretely. Advice on the best moustache for a comedy Frenchman is expertly dispensed. Occasionally exciting trinkets are unearthed from mysterious boxes under the counter. They have the air of people who have seen it all – no request too strange.

Tam Shepherd's Trick Shop - the Max Wall collection

Somehow, despite being a joke shop it’s not tacky. Having stayed in the same business for so long without descending into tack and crap gives the place real panache. Cheap and cheerful - it reminds you about the simple pleasures in life – fake cigarettes, snappy chewing gum, hand buzzers and droopy-eyed specs. If you’re in the Glasgow area and find yourself in need of some buck teeth or a pair of hairy hands this is the place to be.

How to get there

Tam Shepherd’s Trick Shop is at 33 Queen St (Argyle St end) in Glasgow City Centre. It opens 10-5 every day (10-6 Thursday). Closed on Sunday. Google map.

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Comments

Glasgow's done well to hang on to this treasure. London used to have Alan Alan's on the Kingsway but it's long since bitten the dust. The proprietor was a man who believed that a handshake proffered without a concealed joy buzzer was a handshake wasted. So maybe that's why.

The comedy false moustache is due a comeback. We broke out a packet at a friends birthday and they really got the party started. It didn't take much coaching for our friends' seven year old to perfect a very polished Terry Thomas impersonation. Months later she's still greeting strangers with a suave 'Thplendid!' or a roguish 'Jolly good thow!'.

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