Our history dates back to 1795 when “Edwards and Penny, Druggists & Chemists” first opened its doors at no. 58 Castle St. Back then the J.R. McGuffie who’s name the company today bears was not even born.
The business enjoyed many years of considerable success before coming into the hands of our famous Mr. McGuffie sometime around 1840.
Delving into Sir James Allanson Picton’s “Memorials of Liverpool” published in 1873 (he of the beautiful Picton Reading Room in Liverpool Central Library) we find the following paragraph:-
“A little farther along the street was the shop of “Edwards and Penny”, for many years the druggist and apothecaries’ shop of the town. Several fortunes were made by successive proprietors. At length the concern fell into the hands of the late Mr. John McGuffie, “Glorious John” as he might well be called by those who had enjoyed his company. To a fine portly presence he added a magnificent voice and considerable vocal skill which rendered his company much sought after”
Having renamed the business to bear his own name John Rowland McGuffie proved not only to be a Pharmacist of considerable skill but also a shrewd businessman who was gaining considerable esteem within the City. Shortly after taking ownership of McGuffie’s he became a Town Councillor and was twice elected to serve St. Paul’s Ward (the area we now know as the Business District).
Unfortunately no known images of Glorious John are still in existence but we have been left with a beautifully worded description of his appearance in the rather confusingly titled “Pen-and-Ink sketches of Liverpool Town Councillors” by Hugh Shimmin (published in 1866):-
“Who ever spent an evening with Mr. McGuffie without being convulsed with laughter? Who can amuse a company like the portly councillor? Those who have heard him roll out the song of “The Holy Friar” from his capacious chest in diapason notes, which seem to come from an abyss “deeper than ever plummet sounded”, will never forget it. And if all the burly friars, of orders grey, black and brown, were boiled down together, and their concentrated essence was extracted to make one who should be a model friar, John Rowland McGuffie would yet excel him. He wants nothing but a shaven crown to entitle him to immortality.
Imagine a portly, commanding figure, nearly six feet high, of rotundity unimaginable, a face like the moon at its full, radiant with fun and humour, who is witty himself and the cause of wit in others, and all combined with warmth of heart and feelings, and you have John McGuffie.”
It is little wonder then that despite his death in 1860 aged just 52, his name has lived on, with each successive new owner of the business choosing to honour his memory by keeping his name at the company’s head.
The “McGuffie & Co” he left remained in business right up until the late 1990’s when it sadly shut its doors for the last time – after over 200 years of continual operation as Liverpool’s leading Pharmacy, and after over 150 years of the name “McGuffie” proudly standing on Castle St.
After a short spell as a leather goods shop and then mobile phone shop the site was reopened as a cocktail bar in 2010 and thankfully the name “McGuffie & Co” re-established. The original shop front dating back to when the company first moved into these premises in 1910 was brought back to its full glory and “McGuffie & Co” or “McGuffie’s” as we all affectionately know it was brought back to life for a new generation to enjoy.
We are proud to be part of a true piece of Liverpool History and hope that the current potions, tinctures and tonics that we serve up to our customers today – many of which bear names that relate to those sold in the company’s past – would meet with the approval of Mr McGuffie himself. And in reading the descriptions of his character… “radiant with fun and humour… all combined with warmth of heart and feelings” we certainly hope that his spirit lives on inside McGuffie’s to this day.