SHE was a sophisticated star of the silver screen – but when Sophia Loren visited Lewis’s department store in the 80s, she – allegedly - left with the general manager’s kilt!

Our recent Times Past story about the Hollywood actor promoting her perfume in the Argyle Street institution prompted Townhead reader Peter Toher to tell us this hilarious tale.

“I will always remember the day Sophia Loren came to Lewis’s - but not in the same way most others do,” laughs Peter, who was the head chef in the store’s restaurant.

“The general manager, Mr McKillop, donned full Highland dress to meet Ms Loren at the entrance of the shop. Her visit was brief and she had lots of bodyguards with her.

“She did a short promotion in the perfumery department then went to the boardroom.

“I had prepared what used to be called hors d’oeuvres - now they are known as canapés – for her to eat. It was all very quick and afterwards, Sophia went to change and the general manager changed back into his suit.

“When Mr McKillop went to take his hired Highland outfit back to the store, it had gone – it seemed Sophia thought it had been a gift and taken it with her..!”

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Peter adds: “There was a story that went round at the time that the general manager had received a letter from Sophia, thanking him for his gift…but I’m not sure if that is true.

“At any rate, he was careful where he put his clothes after that!”

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Sophia Loren’s visit went down a storm in the city that day in 1982 - the Evening Times report said she was “mobbed by starry-eyed shoppers.”

Peter, pictured in the boardroom with some of his team, has fond memories of working in the magnificent Lewis’s which dominated Argyle Street in its heyday.

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“At Christmas time, there were 14 window displays full of toys – they started building Santa’s grotto in August – those were the days,” he smiles.

Peter left school at 14 and after the summer holidays started work as a trainee commis chef in the Lewis’s kitchens.

“I still have my first pay slip somewhere,” he says. “In 1968, the kitchen was massive, with a staff of 30.

“I had only been there a couple of weeks when I did my first function, and I remember the head chef at the time telling us everything had to be right.

“I van dyked 50 tomatoes then made up some crackers with sliced egg and caviar – the first and only time in my life that I have tasted it. I did not like it at all.”

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After three years in the pastry section, Peter spent four years at college honing his craft, before moving up through the ranks to head chef and he stayed there until the store closed down in 1991.

“I loved making sauces,” he smiles.

“Eventually, more and more of the food was bought in – even chips, that came in boxes!

“Every month we catered for boardroom meetings, when the other traders would come in – the Lord Provost came often and I remember snooker champion Steve Davis visiting once too.”

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He adds: “Jill Dando, the newsreader and presenter, visited once – I recall she was a vegetarian.

“It was a hard job, working in the kitchens but it was good.”

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Lewis’s department store, with its famous festive window displays and fantastic food hall was part of Glasgow’s shopping scene for many years.

What are your memories of the legendary shop? Did you work there or shop there?

What other famous Glasgow stores do you recall?

Share your memories and old photos by emailing or write to Ann Fotheringham, Glasgow Times, 200 Renfield Street, Glasgow G2 3QB.

Through our regular library drop-in events and letters and email banks, we are building up a fantastic archive of memories, all dedicated to the city we love.