FERGUS Napier could hardly believe his eyes when he read our Times Past story about the Sauchiehall Street shop famous for its golden spinning wheel.

“That was my family’s business, I worked there in the 1980s,” he told us.

“John Smith & Co wool shop was based on Sauchiehall Street and when it closed down, the spinning wheel, which was displayed on the façade, went to the People’s Palace.”

Glasgow Times:

Our story had been prompted by Carol Davies, who wanted to find out more about the shop her mother Jane – now 97 - had loved dearly when she worked there as a young woman in the 30s.

Fergus added: “I was so touched to read Jane’s memories, I dug out the old boxes of advertising material, log books and merchandise to see what I could find.

“The first thing I saw was the wages ledger from 1941, and on the first page I opened, there was Carol’s mum’s name – Miss Lane – and her salary, which was £1, 12 shillings and sixpence per week.”

Glasgow Times:

He smiles: “It was quite something to see the huge numbers of people employed back then – not just sales staff, but waitresses in the tearoom, nightwatchmen – incredible.

“I loved working there although by the time I joined it was quite old-fashioned – a bit like Grace Brothers in Are You Being Served?

“We had 26 shops all over Scotland by then."

Glasgow Times:

Fergus kindly sent Jane a box of merchandise produced by the store, including a gold-covered brochure all about its history from the 50s, a teapot used in the tearoom, engraved with the famous spinning wheel image, and a pair of earrings engraved with JS, which were made to celebrate 200 years of trading.

Carol said: “My mum is so delighted, we can’t thank Fergus enough. It has all brought back so many memories for my mum, who recognised a few of the names in the ledger. It’s really wonderful.”

Glasgow Times:

The history booklet is full of fascinating facts about John Smith & Co, beginning with its humble start on High Street “in 1796, the time of George III” and about life in the city at the time.

(Interestingly, John bought the property from David Dale, who went on to found New Lanark with Richard Arkwright.)

Glasgow Times:

It explains: “The High Street at that time was the very hub of the City, and there under the shadow of the Old Tolbooth, the business flourished.

“John Smith died in 1822 and was succeeded by his sister, who was followed by her manager Robert Aitken, who in turn was succeeded by Samuel Lindsay, the father-in-law of the present principal Mr HA Napier, who purchased the business and premises in 1899.”

The Golden Spinning Wheel arrived in 1900 to replace David Dale’s Golden Woolsack which ‘had ceased to be a familiar object’ and it became the firm’s trademark.

Glasgow Times:

Its first Sauchiehall Street branch opened in 1909. “Here it met an extraordinary demand during the Great War, when every woman at home was knitting woollen garments for the men at the Front," explains the booklet.

The site Jane Davies worked in, next to Daly’s department store, opened in 1929.

“The windows are framed in bronze and form an arcade so that the displays can be examined in comfort whatever the weather,” continues the writer.

“On the ground floor are the Wool, Knitwear, Finished Needlework and Smallwares Departments….the Wool Department is probably the finest in the country…..there are between four and five hundred boxes, each capable of holding 4lbs of wool.”

Smallwares, it adds, ‘needs no description – everything one expects to find there, is there.”

The tearoom was a Glasgow institution.

“It has quickly become a recognised rendezvous for those who appreciate restful surroundings and efficient service combined of course with the highest quality in everything that is offered," says the brochure.

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"A special feature is that most of the cakes and scones are home baked.”

This was a state of the art building with hot water radiators supplied by an oil-heated boiler, one of the first in the city, fire sprinklers and alarm system and electric refrigerators and cash tubes.

There were 90 staff, “the most important element of any business and without its co-operation, loyalty and enthusiasm, business would be almost impossible and rarely, if ever, successful.”

Fergus adds: "It's been great to look back at the history of the shop, and it's all thanks to Carol and Jane."