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British Industrial History

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Copland and Lye

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1958. Display Department Girls.

Copland and Lye Ltd. of Caledonian House Sauchiehall Street and Bath Street, Glasgow C.2.

Copland and Lye Memoirs by Jean Brown, December 2015. E. & O. E.

"I worked from circa 1955 to late '58 early '59 in Copland & Lye as a "window dresser" or as is now "visual merchandiser". The Display Department was run by a Mr. Andrew Torbet(t)? He was an extremely talented and imaginative man and under his management "Copland's" window displays became famous especially at Christmas time.

The company was run at that time by the Ogg family. Archibald (father) and sons Robert, Kelly and Campbell. After the business closed Campbell opened a dress shop in Milngavie and was responsible for the saving of the clock and its transfer to Milngavie town centre. *

The building was a bit of a warren. The main entrance was in Sauchiehall St. In this part of the building on the ground floor the departments were (as you entered): Left hand side: Jewellery, Handbags/Umbrellas, Gloves (leather and elegant evening gloves). Right hand side: lifts, stair up to 1st floor. Beyond, the Stocking Dept. (tights came later) Up the middle of the floor , there were perfumery/make up islands most of which were devoted to a particular brand eg Lancôme, Elizabeth Arden etc.

At the back, there was a stair down, a little corridor and a stair up to the Wellington/Bath Street buildings. This would run under Wellington Lane. From the corridor RHS there were a few more stairs to the basement (Sauchiehall side). This extensive area housed Mr McTaggert's domain of all things kitchen related; Kenwood mixers (VERY expensive) pots, pans casserole dishes etc. I think there were also vacuums and associated cleaning aids, Ewbank carpet sweepers, spring to mind and of course the latest hostess trolley which kept the food warm at 1950's "dinner parties". Fablon was also the latest thing to jazz up those tired kitchen surfaces. Later immortalised by Blue Peter, as "sticky backed plastic"!

A small door to the right of the "corridor" gave access to the cash office where all those tubular carriers which held the money/cheques and hand written receipts ended up. No tills in departments then. This was a wonderful suction based system. Beyond that and going under the upper Wellington Street area was the "dispatch dept".

Ground floor Wellington Street housed the Haberdashery and Knitting Wool Departments and there was the greatest selection of buttons that you have ever seen! Strangely at one point, a dog accessories island was opened and I purchased a large dog collar (leather with studs) to wear as a belt! I may have been the first punk! There was a door from Wellington Street in to this area.

A stair from this area, and lifts, led to the Bath Street frontage which housed the China Department and a large Mens' Department. I used to hate doing the "long johns" window in the winter time as it always drew a crowd of sniggering boys!! There was also an entrance here from Bath Street.

My memories of a lot of the layout of the store are understandably a bit hazy after more than 50 years but other departments which come to mind: knitwear with beautiful cashmere and lambswool sweaters from the Borders mills. They had an amazing January sale and the staff were allowed in first before the Sauchiehall Street doors opened at 9am. These doors were presided over by Albert Britland, a "floorwalker" or as we would now say a "meeter and greeter". Albert had a military bearing and a charming manner but was ever vigilant to us "display girls" pinching a free squoosh of expensive perfume (from testers) when we were working late.

There was the Millinery department with glorious hats. Miss McMillan, the buyer used to go to the Paris hat show every year and would return with perhaps around a dozen exclusive hats which would have two windows devoted to them. It was a great coup to do one of these windows. The cheapest hat was, as I recall, around £35.

Gowns and Mantles – (frocks and coats to you and me). Model Gowns, Young Fashions (for the newly invented teenager), Corsetry and Lingerie, Baby Department with bassinettes, prams and "layettes" and a wonderful Silks Department. The buyer then was the dashing Mr. Deuchar. There was another large fabric department devoted to tweeds, cottons and paper patterns. At this time, not long after the Second World War, people had grown used to making or altering their own clothes OR if you were wealthy, you had a dressmaker who made them for you. Copland and Lye of course had had a history of dressmaking in house but by the fifties I think that they were just down to alterations...I could be wrong.

There was, of course the restaurant Afternoon tea with a fashion show thrown in with music! A double turntable with "fade" facility, records purchased at Machells at St Georges Cross in Glasgow and operated by the Display Department.

It was all great fun. I could go on but I will mention one last thing. The dome which was at the corner of the building, Wellington Street/Bath Street. The display department used this for storing large window props and from there, there was somewhat precarious access to a flat piece of the roof. Lunchtime in the summer would find at least two of the display girls, sunbathing and waving to the boys in the Architects Office on the other side of Bath Street. We never did get to meet them!!

This, of course is not a comprehensive list of all the departments but I am sure there are still people out there who will remember more.

* The frontage was altered, window heights lowered (modernised) and the clock installed.

This essay of the company was kindly compiled for Grace's Guide by Jean Brown, December 2015, E. & O. E.

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