SHE WAS just 17 when she joined Marks and Spencer in Argyle Street as a sales assistant.

Now Margaret McLeish is raising a glass to the landmark shop which has been her workplace for 50 years.

Margaret, from Bridgeton, was recently presented with a long service award, and she had fun recalling some fond memories from the last five decades.

Her mother, Bertha Crichton, was a supervisor in the original M&S on Argyle Street and she advised her daughter to think about a career in retail.

“I left school when I was only 16, so I had to wait a year until I was old enough to apply for the job,” recalls Margaret. “I began work in the ladies knitwear section, where I served the customers and got the chance to model some of the new collections.”

She adds: “Back in those days, stock check was done manually every fortnight. We could only hope the figures tallied up, otherwise we had to go through all of the deliveries.”

She laughs: “I’ll always remember one of the managers, Mr Rosenburg, who was forever losing buttons on his jacket and would come to us to sew them back on.”

The first M&S Glasgow store opened at 28 Argyle Street in 1919. This closed 11 years later, when the company relocated to 18 to 26 Argyle Street, opening on April 30, 1930.

A second store opened at 172 Sauchiehall Street on November 29, 1935.

In 1966, the Argyle Street store moved again, reopening next door to its previous premises, on June 8 at 2 - 12 Argyle Street, where it has remained ever since.

It is one of the city’s best-known retail landmarks, situated on the corner of Argyle Street and Glassford Street.

Margaret had been in her ladieswear role for around a year before the move to the adjacent building, which was notable for being one of the biggest M&S stores in the country at the time.

Margaret smiles: “I can still recall the day we moved store, we had to clean everything with paper towels and all ended up with our hands dyed green. Apart from that it was quite exciting to be working in the new building, it was so pristine and bright.”

A few years later, Margaret volunteered to support the opening of a new store in Belfast by helping to train new staff. The journey across to Northern Ireland is something she will never forget.

“I was really looking forward to the experience but the day we sailed across the Irish Sea happened to be during one of the worst storms in living memory,” she groans.

“It was a horrendous crossing and I think five boats sank that day.”

In 1969 Margaret married her husband Charlie, and the couple had two children, Gail who was born in 1970, and George, who followed in 1974.

Her work patterns changed to fit in with her new role as a mother, and she started back on Saturdays in the home department six months after George was born.

She then moved back to ladieswear, where she has remained ever since.

“It’s funny to think that I started off working at M&S as a single 17-year-old, and now my own daughter is a granny herself,” she smiles.

Margaret has five grandchildren – Lucy, 23, Hannah, 19, Lili, 18, Benjamin, five and three-year-old Albert - and with the recent arrival of Harry, has also become a great grandmother.

While she has seen many changes to the store, the team and retail trends over the years, working at M&S has always been a big part of Margaret’s life.

She says: “I have made many lifelong friends, including Adrienne McKinlay who has worked at M&S Argyle St for 35 years, and has been serving many of the same customers for decades. Some of the longer-serving staff often reminisce about the different services the staff used over the years.”

She laughs: “M&S used to employ a hairdresser, a chiropodist, a dentist, a nurse and a doctor! It’s very different now, but the team spirit is still there.”

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