A TIMES Past reader who worked in Glasgow’s famous “golden spinning wheel shop” has died just a few months before her 100th birthday.

Jane Davies, whose memories of the John Smith & Co wool store on Sauchiehall Street helped the original owners uncover long-forgotten merchandise, passed away on August 12.

Daughter Carol said: “My dear mum had been ill for several weeks. She would have been 100 on January 5, so she did very well indeed.

“She was very touched by the newspaper articles, and kept them safely.”

Glasgow Times: Jane Davies, who has died, aged 99Jane Davies, who has died, aged 99 (Image: Carol Davies)

Carol got in touch with the Glasgow Times as she helped her mum compile memories of her life and work in Scotland and England.

Jane had mentioned a shop called Smith’s, “which had a spinning wheel on its shopfront” beside Daly’s department store, but Carol could find no mention of the place.

We did a bit of digging, and found a reference to the John Smith & Co wool shop, which seemed to be in the right place.

Glasgow Times: The frontage of John Smith & Co, with its famous golden spinning wheel.The frontage of John Smith & Co, with its famous golden spinning wheel. (Image: Gordon Terris/Newsquest)

Carol then tracked down a book called My Dear Old Glasgow Years by Walter Bernardini, who designed the adverts for the store, and, she said: “Lo and behold, there was a photo of the shop with a spinning wheel on the front.

“I showed my mum and she was so pleased.”

John Smith & Co had many shops across Scotland, selling high quality wools, and knitting and embroidery patterns.

The Glasgow advert points knitting fans in the direction of 219 Sauchiehall Street ‘at the sign of the golden spinning wheel’.

Jane was born in Canterbury in January, 1924, and she had two brothers, Stanley and Tim and a sister who sadly died as a baby.

READ MORE: VJ Day parade in memory of Glasgow's heroes who fought in 'forgotten war'

She moved to Glasgow, where she met William Davies, who was in the Highland Light Infantry. The couple married at Maryhill Barracks in June 1943.

Later, they moved to Catterick Camp in the north of England, where Carol and her brother Stuart were born. William sadly died in 2001.

After our article was published, Fergus Napier - whose family owned the business - got in touch.

“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,” he told us.

Glasgow Times: Fergus Napier, with some of the merchandise he sent to Jane and CarolFergus Napier, with some of the merchandise he sent to Jane and Carol (Image: Gordon Terris/Newsquest)

“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.”

He added: “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."

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.

At the time, 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.”

John Smith & Co first opened on High Street in 1796. The golden spinning wheel arrived in 1900 and it became the firm’s trademark.

Its first Sauchiehall Street branch opened in 1909 and the site Jane Davies worked in, next to Daly’s department store, opened in 1929. Its tearoom was a Glasgow institution.

Glasgow Times: The tearoom at John Smith & Son was a Glasgow institutionThe tearoom at John Smith & Son was a Glasgow institution (Image: Gordon Terris/Newsquest)

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.

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

Carol said: “It was amazing that the articles prompted Fergus Napier to get in touch. People were very kind, and my mum really appreciated all the effort that was put in.

“We have copies of the articles as keepsakes, and so do her 10 grandchildren - so they certainly brought a lot of pleasure."


Would you like to pay tribute to a loved one who had happy memories of living and working in Glasgow? Get in touch with Times Past - email ann.fotheringham@glasgowtimes.co.uk or write to Ann Fotheringham, Glasgow Times, 125 Fullarton Drive, Glasgow G32 8FG.