THE day would have started much as any other for the men and women heading to work at B Stern Upholsterers on James Watt Street in Glasgow.

Husbands kissed their wives goodbye and mothers waved their children off to school, before making their way to the Victorian office block, once a whisky bond building, which also housed a glass-making company.

But November 18, 1968 was not an ordinary day.

At 10.30am, a fire broke out and quickly engulfed the building.

Our dramatic pictures from the archive show its devastating effects.

It was to become Glasgow’s most deadly blaze since the second World War and 22 people lost their lives. It was also the catalyst for a wide-ranging overhaul of Glasgow’s health and safety laws.

Glasgow Times:

When the fire broke out, there were only two ways out of the building - one was blocked by the fire and the other was padlocked from the outside.

The fire alarm in the premises had been disconnected for six months, because the firm which operated the building had failed to pay its bills.

Workers were trapped by barred windows and the padlocked fire escapes, while people in the street below could hear their cries for help but were powerless to save them.

There was no time to get the keys – fire crews who arrived within five minutes of the first call said the blaze took hold incredibly swiftly, fanned by the foam used to make furniture.

Only three workers and a lorry driver made it to safety from the flames and fumes which swiftly filled the office block.

Glasgow Times:

The youngest victim was 15-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, the oldest were 64-year-olds Harry Ure and Laurence Ward Fleming.

An inquiry following the fire recommended that banning bars on factory windows, better controls for flammable foam plastics, and for introducing certification of premises to ensure they had safe and suitable means of escape.

A memorial paving stone plaque for the victims, donated by Co-op Funeral Services was unveiled in 2018, to mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.

It followed a determined campaign by Anne Benedetti, who lost her husband George in the fire, and Councillor Marie Garrity.

In attendance at the ceremony was retired firefighter Jim Smith, who was one of the first at the scene.

Speaking at the time, he said: “When we arrived on the street the building was heavily smoke-logged. We couldn’t see anybody and there wasn’t a sound.

“But before we arrived it was said that people could be seen at the windows, calling for help.

“The amount of smoke, the heat of the fire itself, and the toxic fumes of the burning polystyrene incapacitated the people very quickly.

“We don’t think many of them knew what was happening. Everything the Fire Brigade could muster was brought out onto the street.

“Everything that could be done was done.”

Glasgow Times: Glasgow Times:

Freda McCulloch, a mother-of-three, also died in the blaze. Her children Connie, Anne and Phyllis were brought up by their grandparents because their father could not cope on his own after his wife’s tragic death.

At the memorial service she said: “My mother was 24 when the fire happened, and I was only three. I don’t have any memories of her, and I grew up without a mother because of what happened.

“I couldn’t come down to James Watt Street for a long time, but I finally did about seven years ago with my son.”

*Do you remember the James Watt Street fire? Share your memories with Times Past by emailing or write to Ann Fotheringham, Glasgow Times, 125 Fullarton Drive, Glasgow East Investment Park, Glasgow G32 8FG.