Basic Biographical Details

Name: McNair & Elder
Designation: Architectural practice
Started: 1936
Ended: After 1941
Bio Notes: Charles James McNair was born on 1 November 1881, the son of Henry McNair, butcher, and Catherine Sloan. He was articled to James Archibald Morris of Ayr from 1898 to 1903. In the latter year he moved to Glasgow to become assistant to John Nisbet and took over his practice on his retirement in 1910, with Robert Norman Houghton McKellar as his chief assistant from 1913.

McNair was primarily a cinema architect mainly through his partnership with George Urie Scott in the Cinema Construction Co: between the wars he worked with Robert Walter Elder. Elder had been born at Cathcart in 1899 (Reg Dist 560, entry no 159), the son of David Elder, assistant city assessor, and his wife Elizabeth Sorley Buchan. He had been educated at Uddingston Grammar School and had taken a two-year evening class course in building construction at Glasgow High School to qualify for entrance to the Glasgow School of Architecture. He had undertaken the diploma course from 1921 to 1926 while articled to Southorn & Orr, and had won the bronze medal with a design for a shelter in a public park in 1923. A minor travelling scholarship had enabled him to spend a fortnight in London. He had been admitted ARIBA on 20 June 1927, his proposers being T Harold Hughes, James Lochhead and William Brown Whitie. Immediately thereafter he had joined McNair as senior assistant, soon to become junior partner, and his name was acknowledged in the practice title from 1936 as McNair & Elder.

Elder was the principal designer in the firm, working with five assistants and an apprentice in a back room on accomplished Art Deco schemes which ensured the practice's continuing success. He was personally a timid chain-smoker who preferred to let McNair deal with the clients. He was remembered by an assistant, Robert Forsyth, as 'a very shy man who didn't want to take the credit'. Some of the practice's later work was considerably influenced by Thomas Smith Tait. By 1950 Arthur James Ridley had been taken into partnership, the practice title becoming C J McNair Elder & Ridley.

McNair was married twice: first to Agnes Jane Hamilton, and later to Margaret Coutts Jack. He died of coronary thrombosis in Victoria Infirmary on 17 August 1955, his home address at the time of his death being 16 Carolside Avenue, Clarkston. He left estate of 8,902 17s 10d.

Elder never married and in later years suffered from Parkinson's disease. He died of pneumonia at Belvidere Hospital on 15 February 1963.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1272, St Vincent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessBefore 1937After 1941 

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architectural practice (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 9Herbert Ramage19341935Assistant 
Item 2 of 9John Duncan Allan19351942Assistant 
Item 3 of 9Frederick William GriffithsOctober 1935After September 1937Assistant 
Item 4 of 9James Hastie MacLeod19361936Chief Assistant 
Item 5 of 9Charles James McNair1936After 1941Partner 
Item 6 of 9Robert Walter Elder1936After 1941Partner 
Item 7 of 9David Millar19371940Assistant 
Item 8 of 9Robert Forsyth19371941Apprentice 
Item 9 of 9Robert AitchisonApril 1939September 1939Assistant 

Buildings and Designs

This architectural practice was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 281930sThe Old Church, AyrAyr AyrshireScotlandSession House
Item 2 of 281930Talkie TheatreDumfries DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 3 of 281934CinemaMotherwell LanarkshireScotlandAlterations and additions after a fire
Item 4 of 281934Regal Cinema and Bingo HallCoatbridge LanarkshireScotland 
Item 5 of 281935Bellgrove Hotel  GlasgowScotland 
Item 6 of 281935King's Theatre (and tenement)Kirkcaldy FifeScotlandInterior rebuilt as cinema - McNair responsible
Item 7 of 28c. 1935Pavilion TheatreBarrhead GlasgowScotland 
Item 8 of 281936CinemaInverness Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 9 of 281936Cinema on Palladium siteTollcross GlasgowScotland 
Item 10 of 281936Cinema, Mount FloridaMount Florida GlasgowScotland 
Item 11 of 281936Palaceum CinemaShettleston GlasgowScotlandRebuilding
Item 12 of 281936Plaza CinemaGovan GlasgowScotland 
Item 13 of 281936Princes CinemaSpringburn GlasgowScotland 
Item 14 of 281936Two Super CinemasMiotherwell LanarkshireScotland 
Item 15 of 281937Dennistoun Palais de DanseDennistoun GlasgowScotland 
Item 16 of 281937Glen Moray HotelDunoon ArgyllScotland 
Item 17 of 281937Greenock BB cinemaGreenock RenfrewshireScotlandReconstruction and additions - with Stewart Tough & Alexander.
Item 18 of 281937Playhouse CinemaGalashiels SelkirkshireScotland 
Item 19 of 281937State CinemaKing's Park GlasgowScotland 
Item 20 of 281937State CinemaShettleston GlasgowScotland 
Item 21 of 281937Super Cinema CartsdykeGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 22 of 281938Lyceum Cinema (II)Govan GlasgowScotlandRebuilding after fire
Item 23 of 281938Olympia Theatre of VarietiesBridgeton GlasgowScotlandInternal rebuilding
Item 24 of 281938Super cinemaRenfrew RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 25 of 281939Ascot CinemaAnniesland GlasgowScotland 
Item 26 of 281939Kelso's La Scala CinemaInverness Inverness-shireScotlandAlterations?
Item 27 of 281939Mosspark Cinema  GlasgowScotlandAlterations
Item 28 of 281939Plaza CinemaKilmarnock AyrshireScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architectural practice:
Item 1 of 1Peter, Bruce1996100 Years of Glasgow's Amazing Cinemas Edinburgh: Polygon