WHEN Pauline O’Donnell started renovations on the old Clarkston Road shoe shop she had recently taken over, a surprise was waiting in store.

“The first thing I wanted to do was update the shop front, but when we took the sign down, there was another much older one underneath,” she explains.

“I know McKay’s has been here for a long time – I think the previous owners ran it for almost 50 years, which is incredible – but I didn’t know anything about the site before that.

“The sign says Napiers, and we have kept it as a reminder. It’s so important to preserve local stories, and the businesses and shops which were part of this community.”

In fact, Pauline’s shop – now 365 at McKay’s, at 33 Clarkston Road – has a long history of footwear connections.

Michael Gallagher at Glasgow City Archives did some research into the site.

“I discovered a photo of Ross’s Dairy at 31 Clarkston Road and you can see that next door at number 33 is Steel’s, a shoe repair shop,” he explains.

Glasgow Times: Steel's shoe shop beside Ross's Dairy. Pic: Glasgow City Archives

“This was taken in 1934 – Steel’s must have opened around then – it’s not listed in the Post Office Directory for 1933 and the years before. These don’t list a business there at all, in fact.”

Later Post Office Directories list Steel’s at 33 Clarkston Road in 1949.

“By 1962, the site is occupied by Napiers, whose factory is listed at 428 Argyle Street,” adds Michael.

“The company has other shops at 115-17 New City Road, 339 Victoria Road and 520 Great Western Road. I found a picture from around 1960 of the Argyle Street factory on the Virtual Mitchell.”

Glasgow Times: Napier's Factory on Argyle Street, 1960. Pic: Virtual Mitchell

Incidentally, adds Michael, a note in the archives card index states that the first shoe shop in the city was opened by William Colquhoun in 1749, to the west of the Tron Church.

Pauline took over the running of McKay’s earlier this year, after a long career in the restaurant business – she was co-owner of The Sisters restaurants in Jordanhill and Kelvingrove, and latterly ran The Lost Lamb in East Kilbride.

“McKay’s is an institution – I was a customer here for decades before the opportunity came up to run it, and I can’t believe how lucky I am,” she smiles.

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“I have always loved and appreciated good shoes – they cover our very ‘soles’ and it is important to choose wisely. My quest is now to make sure every customer has a good set of foundations.”

She adds: “Learning a bit about the history is fantastic. These long-standing shops and family-run businesses are so important to our society and culture, we have to preserve them.

Glasgow Times: Pauline O'Donnell. Pic: Colin Mearns

“I’ll be keeping the Napiers sign as a little bit of history preserved here on the Southside of Glasgow, and I’d love to hear from anyone who remembers the shop’s earlier days.”

Get in touch with Times Past if you have memories of McKay’s or Napiers – or even Steel’s.

What is your favourite long-lost shop? We’d love to hear your stories and memories.