Copyright © Peter Andrew Lyon 2005. Enquiries please emailLyonPeterA@aol.com Most photographs and illustrations are from the Lyon family collection. The rest we give acknowledgement and our sincere thanks for reproduction.
The Lyon Corner Ė a favourite place to meet and shop - in Glasgowís famous store. Picture taken 1952 by Stephens Orr FRPS
The history of a family businessBy Peter Andrew Lyon
Before we go further it is worth finding out a bit more about the words "Stationery" and "Stationer". In my dictionary Stationery is defined as "belonging to a Stationer or the goods sold by a Stationer". Watch the spelling, for example stationery is a noun defining books and writing materials, whereas stationary is an adjective describing a situation. A Stationer is defined as a "shopkeeper, in the Middle Ages a University bookseller, distinguished from an itinerant". Itinerant booksellers were common in Glasgow and, I expect, in many other large towns right up to the 1950ís. I can remember as a schoolboy in Glasgow seeing large flat handcarts parked at some street corners in the city centre, books stacked neatly thereon with their spines in view. Half a dozen interested people were usually round about the cart looking for bargains. In wet weather the bookseller would throw a tarpaulin over the cart and then park himself in an adjacent doorway. If someone then showed an interest in buying he would jump out like a spider and uncover that part of the cart, which might reveal the title of interest. These features of city life disappeared with the increase in traffic and nowadays you have to go to a shop or the Internet to buy books.
Lyon Ltd didnít start out in business as a company, but was established well over a hundred years ago by my great-grandfather William Lyon when business confidence was recovering after the American Civil War. The years of political control by Disraeli and Gladstone were about to begin and the time must have seemed right for a young man aged just 23 years old.
The life of any business usually starts off by one or more individuals having an idea which they think could make money. If they are convinced of the money making potential then investment starts and what I call the "Enterprise" stage begins. This enterprise stage lasts as long as the founders and hopefully their successors can inject their enthusiasm and ideas.
The second stage, which I have called "Ease", lasts as long as the business can coast along making profits but without the vital innovations of the founderís vision. Without this enterprise the ease stage cannot last long and the business has to work very hard to maintain its position in the market place. This I call the "Endeavour" stage.
If the endeavour stage does not restore the business to its full potential then inevitably it is only a matter of time before all will be lost and the final stage takes over.
This stage is "Endings" and ends with the liquidation of the business.
I have chosen the stage names to start with the letter "E" in an attempt to form a link between them all. Also in a strange way each stage for the Lyon business seems to have happened roughly at the same time as a change in the Monarchy. Lets start at the beginning.
This is the story of a Glasgow printing and stationery business founded by William Lyon half way through the reign of Queen Victoria in 1868.
Above left founder of the business William Lyon (1845 to 1913) Above right Williamís wife Margaret Lyon
William was born at Troon in Ayrshire in 1845, the third son of Andrew Lyon and his wife Ann (nee Mitchell). He also had two sisters, Ann born in 1837 and Janet born in 1848. Williamís elder brothers were Alexander born 1842 and Andrew born 1843.
The brothers were probably all educated at Ayr Academy although I can only find evidence of this for Andrew and William. William had strong artistic talents, which is shown by a pen and ink work produced by him at school in 1859 when he would have been just 14 years old. The work is about 20 x 16 inches in size and reads:
"An Honest Man is the Noblest Work of God"
The lettering is very decorative with many curlicues and colours to highlight the shape of each letter.
This saying was taken from a poem of Robert Burns entitled, "The Cotters Saturday Night". A cotter was a peasant who occupied a cottage in return for which he had to give his labour to the owner. It is a long poem and the preceding lines in the verse read: -
From scenes like these, old Scotiaís grandeur springs,
That makes her lovíd at home, revered abroad:
Princes and lords are but the breath of kings;
"An honest man is the noblest work of God:"
Burns lived from 1759 to 1796 so in 1859 there were probably great celebrations to commemorate his birth centenary and Ayr Academy would be encouraging Williamís skills. He signed the work "Wm Lyon Ayr 1859"
William moved to Glasgow in the 1860ís after his marriage in 1867 to Margaret Scott. Margaret was an Edinburgh girl, the daughter of James Scott a cabinet-maker. The Rev Thos Finlayson of Rose Street U.P. Church married them at 11 Dundas Street, Edinburgh on the 13th June. William and Margaret set up home in Glasgow and by 1871 census time they were shown as living at 100 Woodlands Road. His business had been established three years and he describes himself as a stationer employing one man and nine girls. The business premises were in Sauchiehall Street.
His household in 1871 is interesting, Daughter Maggie aged three and son Andrew aged one (my grandfather). In addition there was a general servant Janet Gardner aged 20 and a temporary nurse Mrs McIntyre aged 49 born in Cromarty, Rossshire.
When the business was started in 1868 William was described as a stationer in the Post Office directory. However the following year this became stationer, die-sinker and crest embosser. This shows the way his business interests were developing.
At this stage it is worth mentioning again Williamís brother Andrew, who was a brilliant scholar at Ayr Academy. Whilst there he carried off the Cowan Gold Medal, the schoolís highest honour. He left the Academy for University and after graduating at the age of 20 he passed the examination for the Indian Civil Service. After serving in various posts in Bombay he was called to the Bar in 1875 as a member of Lincolnís Inn. Shortly before this Andrew had started writing his law books which became known as Lyonís Law of India.
A Guide to the Law of India Repealed and Unrepealed
Bombay Civil Service, and senior assistant judge Solapur
Published in Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, London 1872 All Rights Reserved
The Law of India
in two Volumes by Andrew Lyon
Vol l The Codes and Vol ll The Miscellaneous Laws
both Published in 1873 at the same centres
(these two volumes were printed at the "Times of India" office in Bombay)
Photocopy of original Lyonís Law of India in the British Museum
In 1874 Andrew returned to India after a two year break in Great Britain and there exists a letter written to William from the Charing Cross Hotel in London, It is dated 9 Oct 1874 and reads as follows:
My Dear William,
I am off to India after all. The doctors think the voyage will do me good and that India will suit me in winter perfectly, if I donít work much.
I leave Southampton on Thursday next at 2 oíclock for Malta. I donít know if you will get this in time to answer it but if so address South Western Hotel Southampton. I will be there up till 1 oíclock on Thursday.
If you can answer it let me know if you could find a printer in London who would print the 2nd volume of my digest cheap. If you could give me a name at once so much the better. I will send you the 1st vol. as a specimen or perhaps you could make the whole bargain for me.
Parsons that you saw in Southampton & after in London will have the manuscript ready in a month or so. I will ask him to send it to you when done if you like and then you can make a regular agreement. I will tell you all particulars though when I hear from you. If too late for Southampton my next address will be Imperial Hotel Malta where I shall stay till the 4th November.
There is no trace of a reply to this letter however the title pages of Andrewís law books give an indication of the work needed to produce them.
The Local Laws of the Bombay Presidency
being the Bombay supplement to the Law of India
by Andrew Lyon
Published in 1873 at the same centres
All rights reserved
The title pages of his books also had an interesting quotation in French. It reads "Celui qui a le moins reussi dans la composition díun Code a fait un bien immense. Bentham"
Jeremy Bentham was born in 1748, a brilliant scholar and lawyer who was much admired in France and was made a French citizen in 1792. The codification of law was one of his chief preoccupations, and it was his ambition to prepare a code of laws for his own or some foreign country. He went on to be a bencher of Lincolnís Inn in 1817 and died in 1832. It therefore looks pretty certain that Andrew had a high regard for Bentham and by doing this work on the Indian Laws he was, to some extent, fulfilling Benthamís wishes.
The contents pages of these books show page numbers running well into the hundreds, so it must have been a massive task to complete this work. Andrewís obituary in the Ayr Advertiser dated February 15, 1877 said that the Civil Service examinations contributed to his early death at the age of 33. However
The Bombay Gazette Summary of March 5, 1877 put his early death down to a disease of the lungs, probably Tuberculosis. He was carried on board ship at Bombay and died at Suez on the voyage back to England.
Andrewís ivory visiting card case (on the right) still exists :
Cards inscribed: Andrew Lyon , Bombay Civil Service
Andrewís income from his legal work was, said by the family, enough to buy his parents a house in Midton Road, Ayr. In the 1881 census they are resident there at number 20 with two daughters.
Andrew aged 80 (father), Ann D. aged 73 (mother), Ann aged 44 and Janet aged 33 together with a domestic servant Jane Dick aged just 14. At this time Andrewís parents and his two sisters were described as retail confectioners. They had a shop in the High Street at what is now a florists (Brownlies).
In the late 1800ís Glasgow was without question the second city (second only to London) in a British Empire which spanned the world and as evidence of this Britainís first telephone exchange was opened in Glasgow in 1879. The population of the city had doubled in the thirty years up to 1860 to a figure of about 400,000.
Ordanance Survey map 1892 Reproduced by permission of the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland.
The printing Works is top centre. Sauchiehall Street runs along middle and Elmbank Street is opposite ĎRosemountí which
was a private house and the eventual site of the Beresford Hotel.
Williamís stationery business was growing steadily and by 1885 he had a shop at 389 Sauchiehall Street a printing factory across the street (see map above) at 474 Sauchiehall Street and another shop in the Argyll Arcade off Buchanan Street right in the city centre. Incidentally the two shops were connected by this new fangled electric telephone!
The family home was now a large detached villa in Bearsden called The Grange. His family had grown by now from two in Woodlands Road to eight! Four boys, Andrew, James. Alexander and John together with four girls Maggie, Annie, Jessie (Daisy) and Alice.
For a short while before this time the family lived above the shop in Sauchiehall Street. The eldest child in 1885 was Maggie aged 18 and the youngest was John just 4. There would probably have been one or more servants living in for that size of household. Both Williamís parents died in 1885.
His remaining brother Alexander was 39 at the time of the 1881 census and was living at 368 Dumbarton Road. He is described as a Stationer (Master) and could have been involved with Williamís business. Alexís family was his wife Emma and three children, two girls Emma aged 8 and Ethel aged 5, and a son Launcelot aged 1.
Around 1885 William created history in the stationery trade by giving the world private Christmas Cards. Before this all Christmas cards had an inset slip showing the printed greeting which was tied to the cover by a coloured ribbon. However it was thanks to a couple of maiden ladies who ran a private school for girls that gave him the idea.
The ladies used to send cards to all their pupils past and present and they signed each one. As time went on the task of signing the cards became a burden for them. William was faced with a dilemma, how can he help these ladies because if he couldnít then they might give up buying his cards. Solution: Print their names on the insert before tying it to the cover!
This idea caught on straight away and demand for private cards soared dramatically and led to William opening his factory across the street at 474 Sauchiehall Street. It is worth speculating now, was the school called Westbourne in Kelvinside? If so that is another coincidence. A Mr Levack founded Westbourne in 1877 and his two eldest daughters were headmistresses there till they got married. Westbourne merged with Glasgow Academy in 1992.
Williamís granddaughter Jean married Ronald Warren, who was a governor of the Academy for many years. If any of these first cards have survived, they could be worth something.
Some early private Christmas cards produced by William for his own family have survived. These cover the years 1895, 1896 and 1901. The cards are highly ornate with heavy embossing, bound with ribbon etc.
The Christmas card for 1896 (shown top left in above picture) is probably the most ornate in as much as the large number of work processes needed to produce it. Basically it is two sheets of card folded in half and held together by a gold ribbon tied in a bow at the front.
The front shows a sprig of holly interwoven with a sprig of mistletoe. However that is just the start, the holly leaves and stem are die-stamped in gold and the berries die-stamped in red. The mistletoe is outlined in gold and its leaves are also highlighted in colour, possibly by hand. The edges of the card are embossed and goffered also.
The two centre pages reveal on the left side an embossed greeting which reads: -
With Best wishes
For a Happy Christmas and a Bright
New Year from
Mr. and Mrs. William Lyon
The right side shows a photograph of the family home, pasted into a plate-marked frame and below the words: -
The Grange, Bearsden, Xmas 1896
Turning over again to the inside back cover we see some lines of poetry: -
"Confide ye aye in Providence, for
Providence is kind,
And bear ye aí lifeís changes wií a
calm and tranquil mind,
Thoí pressed and hemmed on every side,
Hae faith and yeíll win through
For ilka blade oí grass keps its ain
Drap oí dew."
Who was James Ballantyne? Well there was a Scotsman of this name who lived from 1772 and died aged 61 in 1833. He was in business as a printer and newspaper proprietor. He was also a friend and business associate of Sir Walter Scott, whose novels he printed from 1802. He moved his press to Edinburgh and did much business. His bankruptcy in 1826 reflected his epicureanism and interest in printing mainly as an art.
The above paragraph is paraphrased from an entry in my Encyclopaedia and in the absence of other evidence it is possible that Ballantyne dabbled also in poetry. William Lyon would almost certainly have known of him and may have had similar views about printing. When my parents were married in 1932 they received a gift of a set of Scottís novels which may have come from a "Lyon" with knowledge of the Ballantyne story.
It is interesting also to compare the work necessary to produce this Christmas Card in 1896 with a modern card. The 1896 card probably involved about six or more trades and therefore was very costly, whereas modern cards are printed in many colours in one pass through the machine and are relatively cheaper.
In 1886 my grandfather Andrew was in the business aged 17. He had probably started in the business straight from school a year or two earlier. This is shown by the printed work he presented to his mother on her birthday the 13th of August in that year. This was "The Book of Ruth" printed by Andrew. It is a full bound volume in Morocco leather tooled in gold with a slipcase in the matching colour.
It is set in an old fashioned Gothic typeface and while Ruth is one of the shortest books in the Bible it is nevertheless a very handsome work. I suspect that other tradesmen would have done the composing and binding work.
1887 was the year of Queen Victoriaís Golden Jubilee and in the following year the first of what were to be three great international exhibitions was held in Kelvingrove Park in the West End of Glasgow.
William was given the responsibility of printing the invitations to the exhibition when Queen Victoria paid it a visit. It was also said that he printed the daily Menu cards for the exhibition restaurant run by Joseph Lyons, Gluckstein and Salmond.
William Lyon had by now a good-sized factory and amongst many of his products were Visiting Cards. At the 1888 exhibition he offered a three-minute service for their production. Another first for William in this country. The cards were produced on printing machines of French origin. They were entirely hand powered and had the look of early sewing machines. The metal letters or type were set up or composed in a metal box about 4 x 3 inches in size and were then held in place by tightening bolts on two sides. It was possible to print up to about four lines of type by this method. The whole process of composing and printing was done by girls, which in later years caused problems with the print unions who wanted the two separate trades of composing and printing to be done by different people. However common sense prevailed and girls continued to operate the machines, which were still in use right up to the time the factory closed in the 1960ís.
In 1890 T. & R. Annan & Sons Ltd a well-known Glasgow firm, took this photograph of Charing Cross. This view looks east along Sauchiehall Street from outside the entrance to what was The Grand Hotel and is now the M8 Motorway. In the middle distance can be seen the name "LYON". This was a large sign outside the entrance to the factory and the other features in the photo give an evocative image of street traffic at that time with horse drawn trams, a coach and pair, gas light standards etc. The print above is dated 1890 but Annan dates it to 1897.
In addition to the factory on the north side of Sauchiehall Street there were by this time three "City" branches of the business at 7 Buchanan Street, 197 Sauchiehall Street (corner of Cambridge Street) and a shop in the Argyll Arcade, off Buchanan Street. The telephone number was 164 and the telegraphic address was Lyon, Glasgow. This address was frequently used by other concerns in ordinary correspondence and the Post Office was always able to deliver this mail safely to the business.
An ebony spirit level with brass facings stamped "LYON GLASGOW" has survived: The scale is indicated with a couple of old pennies, one dated 1916, three years after William Lyon died.
Andrew Lyon attended a meeting of Master Printers of Glasgow in October 1891 and a further meeting a week later was to have William present. Andrew and Mr A.M Whyte, who was probably a manager in the factory, represented the firm the following year at a meeting of the Master Printers Association. The 1891 census listed Andrew aged 22 and his younger brother James 20 as Stationerís assistants.
In 1892 William and Margaret celebrated their Silver Wedding. They must have had a magnificent party as a Menu Card has survived as a memento of the occasion. It does not say where the celebrations were held but the meal consisted of seven courses as follows: -
Puree de Tomates
Salmon, Salad.Soles au Gratin
Lobster Cutlets.Ox-Palates, Farci.
Sweetbreads a la Villeroi
Roast Sirloin of Beef.Lamb.Spring Chickens.
Ducklings. Dressed Ham.
Soufflé of Gooseberries. Gateau of Pineapple. Venetian Pudding.
Noyau Jellies. Fruit Jellies. Maraschino and Orange Creams
There is no mention of Wines etc on the Menu but it would be unthinkable I am sure to offer all this food without something strong and tasty to wash it all down! 1895 saw William admitted as a Burgess and Guild Brother of Glasgow "qua Bonnetmaker & Dyer ". In other words he was elected A Freeman Citizen of Glasgow.
In 1896 a shop was opened at 55 Gordon Street. This shop was near the new Glasgow Central Railway Station and its adjoining Hotel. The hotel was built just ten years earlier. The combined effect of a big rail terminal and a hotel probably bought more passing trade than the Cambridge Street shop, which was given up in 1893.
William was admitted a member of the Glasgow Ayrshire Society on the 4th of May 1897. This Society was instituted in 1761. The surviving certificate has the words "Let the Glasgow Ayrshire Society Flourish" below some etchings of places in Glasgow and Ayrshire. I presume the Society was set up to foster connections, and as William was born in Ayrshire it would have been a useful move.
The following year a telephone was in use at the factory. By this time the factory sited at 474 Sauchiehall Street was probably the hub of the business and the site of Williamís office.
At this time also William produced a Sales Brochure. This was a 36 page booklet about 6" by 4.5" in size showing a selection of photographs of the factory together with notes describing the facilities he could offer. It was bound with a purple ribbon and had a purple board cover plate marked with Williamís signature in gold on the front.
Front cover of first Sales Brochure for Lyon Limited produced in 1897
The contents can be listed as follows: -
We have pleasure in reproducing on the following pages a selection of Photographs of some portions of our factory, which we think may be of interest to you. These convey a fairly good idea of the facilities at our command for the expeditious execution of all orders entrusted to us.WM. LYON. This page also gave the various addresses of four shops (including telegraph) and the telephone number: Factory:474 Sauchiehall Street Telegrams Lyon Glasgow Telephone 164 (Shop) 389 Sauchiehall Street Branches 54 Argyle Arcade, 7 Buchanan Street and 55 Gordon Street
On pages 2/3William Lyon at his desk
Trade Mark Established 1868
Pages 4/5 Card Cutting Department
Fancy Cards for Wedding, Dinner and Party Invitations, Ball Programmes, Menu Cards,
Guest Cards, Visiting Cards, Christmas Cards Circulars, etc., etc.
Pages 6/7 Paper Cutting Department
High-class Stationery for family and commercial use.
New Shapes and latest Novelties at Wholesale Prices. Samples Free
Pages 8/9 Card-Edge Gilding
Gold and Silver Edged Cards, Plain or Fancy Goffered Edges
Pages 10/11 Relief Stamping Department
Die Stamping, Plain and Colour Relief. Illuminating in Gold & Colours.
Large stock of Initial Dies and Monograms
Pages 12/13 Engraving and Die Sinking Dept
Crest, Coat of Arms, Monogram, and Address Dies, engraved at moderate prices. Illuminated Addresses a speciality.
Crests and Coat of Arms traced and emblazoned in correct colouring.
Pages 14/15 Composing Room
Letterpress Printing for all purposes.
The latest Types always being added to our plant.
Pages 16/17 Letterpress Printing Machines
High-class Artistic Printing quickly and cheaply executed.
Pages 18/19 Lithographic Machines
Chromo and General Lithography of every description.
Bottle Labels, Artistic Circulars, Show Cards etc.
Pages 20/21 Embossing and Blocking Machines
Gold and Silver Blocking for Catalogue Covers, Fancy Cards, etc.
Fashion Circulars, Advice Cards, Trade Notices.
Pages 22/23 Powerful Embossing Press (Exerts 300 tons pressure)
Blocked and Embossed Novelties. Show Cards, Book Covers in Cardboard, Cloth, or Leather.
Pages 24/25 Clerks entering Orders
All Orders are carefully examined and checked by competent workers before being
sent to the different departments.
Pages 26/27 Packing Room
All work carefully examined and packed in our own boxes by a specially trained staff
of assistants before being despatched.
Pages 28/29 Despatch Room
Orders executed with the utmost promptitude
Pages 30/31 Mechanics Shop
The Factory contains every modern appliance for the manufacture of all kinds of Stationery.
Pages 32/33 Steam Engine (50 H.P.)
Samples and Estimates sent on application
Pages 34/35 General View of Factory Text in brochure reads "Over 300 Employees"
This booklet gives a fascinating insight into the environment of a Victorian factory. Most employees wore heavy clothing particularly the females as their skirts were ankle length. No sign of electricity of course and lighting in the winter months would be by gas I expect.
The factory according to the drawing (above) consisted of three main buildings. The biggest block, which fronted on to Renfrew Street, had a tall chimney in the corner and I guess this was where the main machinery was installed. Power coming from the steam engine via a system of belts and pulleys.
This line drawing of the factory also shows a large open yard around the buildings with a way in and out to Sauchiehall Street. The Renfrew Street boundary is walled off and surmounted with railings except for a closed pair of gates in the north west corner.
The photograph of William shows the edge of a fireplace by his left elbow so he would be warm! I donít think central heating was much in vogue until the 20th century. There are no signs of heating radiators in any of the photographs.
Williamís photo also shows an open safe opposite his desk and a Gladstone bag together with another leather brief case nearby. In his right hand he is holding a pen. It looks like a dipping pen, as there is a heavy inkstand in front. The fountain pen had only been invented by L.E. Waterman an American in 1884 about ten years earlier. Ballpoint pens were not around in a practical form until the 1950ís after the Hungarian Lazio Biro had perfected the design. I remember being shown a Bakelite stand holding four biros, each about 7 inches long, in different colours, probably blue red, green and black. The stand carried the Biro logo. One feature of this new pen was that if you put a finger or thumb over the written letters and pressed hard one could lift an impression and reproduce it elsewhere by pressing down again on the paper! I suppose this was seen as a forgerís gift and modern inks donít co-operate! It was a long time before banks would accept cheques written with a "Biro" pen.
1899 saw a telephone in use at Williamís home The Grange in Bearsden. The number was simply 17. If you wished to phone The Grange I expect you simply lifted the receiver and when the operator asked "Number please?" the answer you would be probably be expected to give would be seventeen or one seven.
By 1900 Glasgow had reached its peak as a centre of heavy industrial production. It would continue as such to prosper for some years but two world wars in the first half of the twentieth century were to take a terrible toll. The enterprise of William Lyon also had achieved a well-respected position in the business life of Glasgow.
On Friday the 1st of June 1900 a Complimentary Supper to Mr Andrew Lyon took place at the Victoria Hotel. Again the Menu survives but the location of this hotel is not shown. Presumably it was somewhere in Glasgow but it must have gone or been renamed by the 1950ís as I donít remember it. This Supper took place just a fortnight before Andrewís Marriage to his fiancée Ethel Lillie; no ladies were present so it was a Victorian stag party!
The Menu itself is fairly simple compared with Williamís silver wedding "do", what is of interest is the Toast list and the table plan. The front of the Menu gives the details mentioned above together with the following: -
Chairman, Mr James Maclaren. Croupier, Mr R.O. Templeton. Croupier in this instance meant the vice-chairman of a public dinner.
The two outside and inside pages were laid out thus: -
The Toasts go on and on donít they! It is interesting to speculate at what point in the meal was the first, to Queen Victoria, proposed? Nowadays it would be after the meal, if that were the case then the Cheese would have just been a hazy memory by the time they drank the last one. The reference to the Army reminded them that the Boer War was raging in South Africa at this time. Also no reference to Air forces. The Wright brothers did not take off till three years later! In these days also Musical Evenings were the norm and I guess there would have been at least a piano accompaniment to the songs. Maybe also a violinist or two as well.
Mr Heatherill married Williamís daughter Daisy (Jessie Christie). He went on to have four children, but that branch of the family had no involvement with the business. Daisy in due course was to obtain a one-eighth shareholding under a Trust that was to be set up by her father.
When the twentieth century dawned William Lyon was still running four shops. The main one was probably 389 Sauchiehall Street opposite the factory, in addition the Lyon name could be seen at 54 Argyll Arcade, 7 Buchanan Street (this may have been a corner shop) and 55 Gordon Street. All these locations were prime sites for retail trade in Glasgow at that time.
Thus the Victorian era drew to its close. In 1901 Queen Victoria passed away. William Lyon was the head of an established business that had by now well over 300 employees. This was a big difference from thirty years earlier when he had just ten people working for him. No one could have foreseen however that as the 20th century unfolded his descendants were to endure some hard times in order to keep the business going.
Shortly after Edward VII came to the throne in January 1901 the census was taken and Williamís household at The Grange showed his three unmarried sons James aged 29, Wm Alexander aged 26 and John Mitchell aged 19 plus his daughters. Both James and Alexander were described as Stationerís assistants while John was an apprentice accountant. A budding CA.
The summer of 1901 also saw the second of the great International Exhibitions at Kelvingrove. The catalogue for this exhibition lists Wm. Lyon as a Guarantor to the organisers for the sum of £100. His business is described as follows: -
Lyon Wm. 474 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow
Manufacturers of Christmas, Menu, Visiting, Wedding and Invitation Cards
Ball Programmes, Pictorial Postcards, Fancy Stationery etc.
(Wholesale & Export)
In June 1900 Williamís eldest son Andrew married Ethel Lillie and set up home in the Jordanhill district of Glasgow. Three years later their first son, Andrew Holtum, was born. Holt or sometimes Holtie as he was called, was my father, and like my grandfather was to spend all his working life in the service of the family business.
Also in 1903 the phone number at The Grange became "Bearsden 192". So from simply "17" in 1899 it looks as if the number of telephones in Bearsden had jumped by nearly 200 in just four years! I suppose a telephone engineer would have to confirm that.
By this time the papers available for this history become more extensive and we now have a copy of an extract from page 149 of the book "The Federation of Master Printers - how it began"
The Glasgow Association.
The twenty-sixth annual meeting was held on February 4 1904, "at Glasgow and within the Religious Institution Rooms"
The report speaks of the Annual Meeting and Dinner of the Federation at Glasgow in May 1903, which had been attended by a large number of delegates. W.B. Brewster had evidently explained his Abbey Club scheme to the Association in June. At the annual meeting, James Maclehose (large colour printers) suggested a graded system of voting at Association meetings and this was approved. The plan was that firms with one to three journeymen should have one vote, rising to those upwards of seventy journeymen who should have six votes. William C. Coghill (Aird & Coghill?) was elected president, James Clark (D.J. Clark Ltd) honorary treasurer and William Brodie secretary.
John Anderson, Ebenezer Begg, Godfrey P. Collins (large book printers), J.E.Erskine (Mcfarlane & Erskine?), William Foote, William Lyon, J.J. Maclehose and John Thomlinson were appointed as committee.
The British Federation of Master Printers was only formed in 1900 and what became known as the Scottish Alliance came into being in 1910. The printing side of the business was therefore a member of the Trade Federation throughout its existence.
1905 brought another investment by William. A shop was established at 177 Sauchiehall Street. However he did not keep it long as two years later the premises next door to 389 Sauchiehall Street came on the market. This was a must have buy as not only was it adjacent to 389 but 397 was on the Elmbank Street corner of Sauchiehall Street. He quickly gave up 7 Buchanan Street together with 177 Sauchiehall Street. Thus was formed the Lyon corner, as it became known for the ensuing sixty years. Two generations of Glaswegianís came to know it as the place to go for stationery. By now the retail side of the business had traded from a total of seven different sites since its beginning forty years before.
By this time William was getting on in years. In 1910 he reached the age of 65 and began looking to the future when he would not be around. He formed the business into a Limited company under the name Lyon Ltd. His two eldest sons by now would probably be running the business to Williamís satisfaction. He gave up his home at the Grange in Bearsden and moved to Prestwick, buying a villa known as The Whins.
This short period of "Edwardian Ease" ended with Williamís death a year or two later. A long period of hard work, to say nothing of two world wars, lay ahead for the family managing the business.
When Edward VII died in May 1910 to be succeeded by his son George V, William had started as I say to make provision for the future. In July 1911 a photograph was taken of all the family in the garden at The Whins.
Picture shows William and his wife Margaret surrounded by their eight children. The eldest Maggie by this time is now 44, followed by Andrew 42, James 40, Annie 38, Wm Alexander 36, Daisy 34, Alice 32 and John 30. They all appear very solemn as if conscious that their way of life may be about to change forever.
William spent his remaining time putting his affairs in order. He vested control of the business in a Trust appointing his two eldest Maggie and Andrew along with Wm Gibson his solicitor as trustees. They accepted their duties on the 3rd July 1913 after Williamís death. A few weeks later on the 25th August, Alexander Carstairs his Accountant, together with John Lyon, by now a CA were also appointed.
This Trust was to have overriding control of the business from now on. While it was set up with the best of intentions it meant that major decision making had to be referred to the trustees for a decision. This was a bit like asking a firmís shareholders to manage the firm, as they couldnít trust the appointed Directors to do the job. The trust was only to meet formally about four times a year. As the years went on this constraint on the working directors became more of a burden than a help. This was because now and again the working directors had to try and sort out conflicting views by the trustees on the future of the business.
William also at this time wrote in his own hand a document entitled "The Testamentary Writings executed by William Lyon" and was registered shortly after his death. On the first page he writes: -
"Note of advances made by me to the members of my family afternamed and which fall to be deducted from their respective shares of my estate without interest."
Bearing in mind that £500 could buy a nice family home in these days; the sums listed were substantial. Andrew was given just that sum to build a home in Jordanhill and in addition further cash advances at various times. He was also given 2000 shares in Lyon Ltd valued at £2000. Wm. Alexander received similar sums. He was living in "Wellside", Jordanhill owned by his father who "gratuitously disposed" the house to his son, "Reckon this as £500". William Alex also received 1000 shares in Lyon Ltd. His two other sons James and John were given smaller sums. James had by now developed an illness and on a sheet of his business letterhead is inserted a paragraph, which reads: -
"I further desire to express the wish that in the event of my son James not fully recovering from his illness, and being in consequence unfit for business, his brothers & sisters will see that his income is, if necessary, augmented so that he will have sufficient for all his reasonable requirements." The nature of his illness is not revealed in any surviving papers. In all around £5000 in cash and shares was passed to his sons over this period.
William also bequeathed his personal effects to the family. Three sons receiving in turn his gold watch, cigar case and his gold and diamond scarf ring. The youngest son John a CA was given his pocket wallet and in a nice bit of humour in brackets (but not its contents). His daughters were not forgotten and each received a gift. Aliceís gift was a "Golf club in form of walking stick, with which I opened Douglas Park Golf Course in the year 1897". By this time only Maggie and Alice were unmarried and they were given the life rent of The Whins. The only condition being that if one married her share would pass to the sister.
In those days women were content with their lot and the idea of burdening them with financial matters was not even considered. Ergo no cash for females! Womanís suffrage was still in the future.
Williamís niece and two nephews (children of his brother Alex) were given £100 each. Five, probably long serving, employees of Lyon Ltd also got £100 each on condition they were in the companyís service at the time of his death.
On the last page of these writings there is a somewhat morbid paragraph which I quote without comment!
"In order to make sure that I am not buried alive I direct & request my Trustees to get a Dr to pierce my heart through and through just before my burial. This to be done in the presence & to the satisfaction of not fewer than two of my Trustees and the Dr to be paid a fee of two Guineas for this service."
This last page was signed and dated by William on the 26th May 1913 less than a month before he died.
He probably had by now some circulatory problems because he died at the McAlpin Nursing Home in Glasgow. This Home was near the factory in Renfrew Street and maybe he took ill whilst at the factory. At any rate he had to undergo the amputation of a leg and shortly after that trauma the family were told that in order to save his life the surgeons would have to amputate the other leg. Mercifully he died at 11.30 p.m. on Monday the 30th June 1913 before this decision was taken.
He was buried near his childhood hometown of Ayr at Monkton and Prestwick cemetery and the Glasgow Herald carried the following Death notice on the 2nd July 1913.
At a Nursing Home on Monday 30th June William Lyon of Lyon Ltd. Glasgow and ĎThe Whinsí, Prestwick, in his 69th year. Funeral from The Whins on Thursday 3rd July at 2.30pm. Train leaves St Enoch station at 12.50pm Those desirous of attending please notify Wylie & Lockhead Ltd, Union St.
This notice is interesting for two reasons apart from the actual message. Firstly in 1913 the train was much superior to these new fangled motor cars which a few people had and secondly one just didnít just turn up at a funeral, you respected the family beforehand by informing the undertakers that you were "desirous of attending".
There are a few other surviving examples of stationery produced by the factory. and I just mention them here for reference: -
Christmas Cards from Mr and Mrs Andrew Lyon dated 1901, 1930 and 1932
A Halloween party invitation from Holtum Lyon dated 1907
A drawing of "Jordan Hill" and the "Den Home" showing a family of lions dated 1908
A Christmas greeting card from Holtum with a poem dated 1911
A few Christmas Cards from the 1950ís.
These items show the talents of the firmís artists and authors well. They may not all have been full time employees, although there was a full time artist on the factory payroll in the 1950ís.
The letterhead mentioned above states: -
Of the "Premier" series of
This "Premier" imprint appeared on most of the stationery printed by the business and became well known in the trade throughout the country. The choice of "Premier" may have been a subtle reference to the first private Christmas cards or even Visiting Cards, we shall probably never know.
The year after William died saw the beginning of the Great War as it came to be called before the Hitler war in 1939. There are no surviving papers from this period Iím afraid. Williamís youngest daughter Alice did war work in the munitions factory of Barr & Stroud at Anniesland. This firm was renowned for optical work, making rangefinders and similar stores for the services. Alice must have got herself lodgings around Anniesland or maybe she stayed with old friends in Bearsden, which isnít far away. She would have been in her late twenties at this time.
Aliceís brothers did not join the services. Andrew and William Alex. were probably over age, James was unfit, and John the CA would have been in his thirties. John was probably of age but there was never any mention of his war service. In his latter years he was very deaf and he may have failed a medical exam.
Maggie the eldest girl kept The Whins going during the war. She may have stayed at times with her two married sisters but at any rate The Whins was still in the familyís ownership right up to 1935 and after.
The family had always been staunchly Royalist and Conservative in their beliefs and would I am sure have supported the war effort in any way they could.
After the war ended in 1918 further additions to the familyís involvement with the business came about. Andrewís elder son, Holtum joined the printing side at the age of sixteen. While Alexís middle son Ronald came in to help with looking after the shops. Ronald was about a year younger than Holt was, so probably started about 1920.
Around 1925 Holtum was asked to represent the company at the annual Leipzig Trade Fair in Germany. This was a leading trade fair, held annually every springtime, although one can only imagine what Germany would have been like at that time with raging inflation. Holtum brought back two bank notes, which have survived, one for 10000 marks dated 1922, and another for 100000 marks dated 1923.
On Saturday the 30th of April 1927 the printing factory at 474 Sauchiehall Street suffered a grievous blow. A fire broke out on the premises. The Glasgow Herald for Monday the 2nd of May carried a full report on one column, with the headline: -
Disastrous Outbreak in Glasgow - Damage estimated at £30,000
It went on to say that the fire completely destroyed the premises. For a time adjoining buildings were in danger and it mentions the Locarno Dance Hall and the Kings Theatre. The fire was discovered shortly after 10pm and onlookers watched for over two hours. Traffic in Sauchiehall Street was at a standstill for over two hours. The Renfrew Street tenements were in danger and residents in night attire were got out without mishap. The final line said, "The factory closed for day at 1pm." I presume this referred to the Saturday, as normal hours would be until Saturday lunchtime.
The damage estimate of £30,000 would probably be roughly about £ 6,000,000 in present day money, based on the figure of £500 for a villa in 1913. There was no report of the familyís reaction to the fire, just the bare facts. The days of getting a human element into a news item were far into the future. For a couple of years the factory traded from temporary premises in Maryhill, but there was no break in the Post Office Directory listings for the factory.
Whilst the Herald reports of the fire stated that the premises were totally destroyed, I think the building fronting on to Renfrew Street survived. The factory from then on operated from a building that appears almost identical in appearance to the "prefire" one. I can remember Holtum saying that some reams of paper which were stored flat survived and were simply scorched at the edges. These damaged edges were simply cut off to make the paper usable.
The insurance settlement however resulted in a leasehold arrangement for the premises. A letter to Andrew Lyon dated 21st July 1931 enclosed the lease and asked for £13:10/- for expenses. This lease was only for a 10 year term as other letters in 1942 show the Landlord as The Scottish Temperance & General Assurance Co Ltd and confirms an extension of the lease. The gross annual value was £450.
In 1932 factory operations were progressing well. So well in fact that the factory manager John Ferguson felt moved to write by hand a letter to his boss Andrew Lyon in praise of Andrewís son Holtum. It reads as follows: -
261 Renfrew St.
26 Feb 1932
Dear Mr Lyon,
I desire gladly to draw your attention to the fact that for the
first time in our history we have sent out the Xmas Samples today
26th Feby to the travellers Messrs Shore, Burns & Derham. As you
know it is of vital importance that these samples are in the hands of
our reps by 1st March & they will be thus equipped by Monday
to start the seasonís campaign.
I have the greater pleasure in drawing your attention to the
above Record, because the vital work of pushing the Numbers through
all Depts and connecting them up has been managed entirely by Mr Holtum
The Factory being mainly quiescent Ė and without any of the usual
"Explosions" which formerly seemed necessary to expedite the collections.
John G. Ferguson.
1932 also saw the marriage in July of Holtum to Edna Mackay. Amongst their wedding gifts was a large canteen of cutlery from the firmís employees in the form of a side table.
A brass plaque on one of the two drawer fronts marked the event.
They also received a "ting-tang" bracket clock from the factory manager and his wife, inscribed "Öfrom Mr and Mrs John G. Ferguson".
Photo courtesy of Glasgow Herald
By now the war clouds were gathering over Europe once more and in 1937 Andrew Lyon died on the 29th of January. His death notice in the Herald referred to him as the eldest son of William Lyon and made no mention of his three children.
The author Peter Lyon, in 1936, with his Grandfather Andrew Lyon
Sadly the next few years were to see not only the outbreak of another world war in 1939 but also the deaths of Williamís second son, James Scott and also John Ferguson, the factory manager, in December 1940. Ronald Lyon was called up for Army service in 1941 and Holtum was worried he would have to go also. However in 1943 he failed a medical examination. During the war business premises had to be guarded for fires starting due to falling bombs, particularly incendiary bombs. The emergency services would have had an impossible task if they had to watch every building, so this task fell to the occupiers of each one. Firewatching as it became known was a regular night duty for Holtum. He had to fit this work in with his ARP job at home running a Post, a concrete building about the size of a present day garage in which was stored emergency equipment for air-raids, such as gas masks, stirrup pumps, rattles etc. A few volunteer wardens manned each Post during air raids.
By the time the war started in 1939 the retail shops were down to two, the Argyll Arcade one and the Sauchiehall Street store. I say store deliberately, because in addition to selling simply stationery in all its forms they had branched out into selling toys, leather goods, books and also gifts. It had in fact become a departmental store. One of my childhood memories is visiting the shop and watching the cash takings from each sale being put into a small wooden container about the size of a tea cup with the paper check bill. The assistant then screwed the container into a mechanism above her head and pulled a lever. As if by magic the container flew across the shop to a central point suspended on a wire. This point was in fact the cashierís office and there the container was emptied and any change due was put back and the container sent back to the counter. To a child eye it evoked thoughts of a giant spiders web and the cashier as a spider with eyes everywhere. I expect all sales were for cash, customers would not consider offering a cheque unless they had a monthly credit account with the firm. Plastic had not even been invented at this stage!
After the war the "cash web" was replaced by a pneumatic system with tubes which enabled the cash to travel vertically between floors as well as across a floor.
During the years from 1941 till 1945 when the war ended Holtum ran the business single-handed, responsible for both the retail and manufacturing sides of the enterprise. Records have survived of Bonuses paid during the war and it is worth summarising what the procedure was.
In 1942 the scheme started when it was found possible to distribute surplus cash to all employees. This was not only to those working on the premises but also those who were serving in HM Forces both at home and overseas. Factory and shop employees with over 13 years service received an extra weekís wage with some seniors receiving 2 weeks wages. At that time the average wage was £2 to £3 per week and about 60 odd employees received bonuses. The highest sums went to a factory foreman and the shop window dresser (Mr Ashfield). The payments were made at the end of March each year. The scheme ended in 1945 but continued another two years for those in the Forces.
Those employees in the services got a lump sum of £25 each (two got £50 each). The cheque to the bank in 1942 was for £275. Each person had his or her own account with the accompanying pass book. From time to time during the war individuals made withdrawals for reasons of marriage or similar commitments. In 1947 the bank accounts were closed and the funds paid out, most chose to convert their holding to War Savings Certificates, probably better interest. One employee wrote a very effusive letter of thanks to Mr Holtum, which started: -
"On Monday you called me to your office and handed me the sum of £78-19/- without parade or ceremony." It finished after two more paragraphs in the same vein "Now that I am very happily back with the company, I trust I will redeem my past promise to show in real tangible form my appreciation by serving the company to the best of my ability."
Some employees listed in 1942 with over 13 years service were still with the firm in the sixties. I counted seven who probably spent their whole working life with Lyon Ltd.
Ronald Lyon came back in 1945 to take over the retail side once more. The immediate post war years saw some return to normality with profits being made each year. However there were no moves made to modernise the factory machinery which by now was rapidly becoming obsolete.
It was of course difficult to finance new plant but nevertheless some firms were able to and that was where Lyon Ltd lost out. It would have been a gamble no matter what and Holtum was no gambler, his first loyalty was to the family and the safeguarding of their capital. He probably could have got a better job working for a go-ahead printer willing to invest in the future but that idea was never considered seriously.
On 30th October 1949 the factory suffered a grievous loss when the senior sales representative Mr Shore, whoís home was in Ealing, west London died. The influence of Mr Shore who had worked for Andrew and possibly William Lyon was immense. This is shown by the fact that in the following year the factory made a loss for the first time. Sad to say it never turned in a worthwhile profit again. Shoreís successor as a representative was a Mr Beach. It was probably the word association that secured Mr Beach his position but he could not work miracles and did not stay long with the firm.
So the hard work done under the reigns of George V and VI did not restore the business to the heady days it enjoyed in the reign of Edward VII. A new Elizabethan age dawned with the accession of Elizabeth II. However for Lyon Ltd and its employees it was to be an age of endings.
The famous Ďtrade markí gift wrapping paper used by Lyon Limited and often seen being carried by proud shoppers. The Lyon branded paper was a well recognised icon in Glasgow shopping for a long time.
In 1952 some changes in the management of the business were made effective. Mr Duncan Bell, who had managed the retail side during the war years and probably also some years before was moved to the factory to look after the wholesale warehouse. He was a man probably in his late fifties at that time as I think he served in the First World War. Mr Foskett, who had been the factory manager for a short time left in the September of í52, his replacement was a Mr R.T. Stuart.
In June 1955 the Trustees met to discuss the future of the business. An extract from the minutes stated that the Trustees "realised that the manufacture and sale of greeting cards could not be continued without the introduction of substantial additional capital and that this could not possibly be procured in the present circumstances of the company. They, therefore, decided with great reluctance -"
These decisions proved to be the beginning of the end for the manufacturing side of the Company. Greeting cards printed "on spec" had accounted for two thirds of the factory sales so major changes were made in the organisation in order to adapt to the smaller enterprise.
The senior employees referred to above were in fact Messrs Bell, Bristow and Stuart. By now they were all Directors in the business and the firm could no longer afford to pay their salaries. John Lyon had questioned Mr Bellís competence in a letter dated December 1955. John wished him out of the business on payment of six months salary. Mr Bellís task at this time was to dispose of the wholesale stock of cards on the best possible terms. After negotiations he left the firm in the spring of 1956 with three months salary and an ex-gratia pension.
The firm that the Trustees hoped would buy the redundant card stock was Giessen & Wolff. As part of the deal Giessens offered to employ Mr Bristow who had been a long serving representative for Lyon Ltd.
This left Mr Stuart who was told his services would not be required after Christmas and therefore he obtained new employment.
Another consequence of this change was that Giessen & Wolff formed a new subsidiary company called Lyon Productions Ltd. This effectively closed the door on Lyon Ltd ever printing Greeting Cards in the future. Not only that but as there was now surplus space in the factory G & W wished to sublease a floor in it. This however did not happen, it was suggested that the Landlords might not favour Jewish tenants but the real reason has not survived.
The spare floor space was however let to a paper merchant, L.S.Dixon & Co Ltd who took over the basement area, leaving the remaining four floors to Lyon Ltd.
It is worth mentioning here the brief layout of the premises at this time. The Renfrew Street block had a goods lift, to which access was possible by all except the top floor. There was also pedestrian access to Sauchiehall Street. A staircase served all floors and opened at the base to a corridor, alongside which was an office the door to which read the Counting House! This served both the factory and the shops and was in fact where the money was counted. In normal parlance the accounts department. At the end of the corridor an outside door opened to reveal a further flight of steps down to Sauchiehall Street level. Before reaching the street one passed alongside the stonemasons Gray & Co. and the first shop you came to on your right was Jay & Co at 476 Sauchiehall Street (newsagents and tobacconists) of which more later. Remember William Lyonís factory address was 474 Sauchiehall Street. The best way to reach the shop from here was to walk a few yards to ones left where what was the Beresford Hotel was sited. This was a studentís hall of residence and is now residential flats. The shop was directly opposite.
Picture taken by The Glasgow Herald for a two-page special feature commemorating the firms Centenery in 1968
Above left is the Renfrew Street printing factory taken from Sauchiehall Street, in the 1990ís. The LYON name is still in the picture! Above right view looking north in Elmbank Street shows the old Beresford Hotel (picture by Partick Camera Club, 1955) The Lyon shop is on the right and a Glasgow Tramcar in centre of picture.
Business continued during the 1950ís, the factory started to build up its commercial sales by offering its services to Advertising Agents etc. The Sauchiehall street shop did good trade. Ronald Lyonís brother Ramsey was a director of Parker Pens, based in London. There was a feeling that Parkerís were having undue influence on the shop because Parker products seemed to be promoted at the expense of other pen manufacturers. A large neon sign was mounted on the corner of the shop building advertising Parker Pens.
A link with the Victorian era was altered in 1958. Since that time there had been two gas lamps mounted at the pavement edge outside the main entrance. Between these lamps had been a step to assist customers in getting in and out of the horse drawn carriages which ruled the streets in those days. However the highway powers wished to relay the pavement so this step was re-laid flush with the new pavement.
Also in 1958 the Basement area was developed for additional sales space. Two staircases to help the passage of folk around the shop served this area. This extra space made it possible to display artwork in a picture gallery and sell artists materials.
About this time Ronald Lyonís daughter Patricia joined the business and worked for a while in the shop. I think she continued to work there till her marriage.
The range of goods offered at 389 (as the staff called the shop) was extensive. An overhead indicator board listed Toys, Books, Gifts, Lighting, Pictures and Greetings Cards.
Picture above left shows the department indicator board. Picture Stephens Orr FRPS for Glasgow Illustrated 1952. Picture above right is the extensive Greetings Cards department. Picture by The Glasgow Herald.
The Stationery department was divided between Pens and Writing Materials and what was called Social Stationery. This comprised Party and Table items and bespoke stationery for weddings etc.
Above was the counter where you ordered private visiting cards and leather goods. Picture by The Glasgow Herald 1952.
A leather goods department was cleverly placed near the entrance allowing the aroma of new leather mixed with the whiff of printers ink to percolate throughout the shop. Picture by Stephen Orr FRPS for Glasgow Illustrated feature article 1952.
Above left: in the basement floor passing through Pictures to ĎToysí and above right plenty of choice in the Pen Section. Picture above left by Stephens Orr FRPS for Glasgow Illustrated feature article 1952. Picture right Glasgow Herald.
Picture above left: Drawing materials, typewriters, binders etc. On the right is part of the Art Department. Picture Glasgow Herald.
A leather goods department was cleverly placed near the entrance allowing the aroma of new leather mixed with the whiff of printers ink to percolate throughout the shop. Anyone who remembers the Lyon shop in Sauchiehall Street will remember this unique fragrance.
A lane behind the shop allowed access to the rear of properties fronting the main street. There was room to park one or two vehicles and here the shop van was kept. The van was small but smartly painted in brown with Lyon Ltd nicely emblazoned.
The Renfrew Street landlords raised a worry when they gave notice that they wished to repossess the premises at the end of the lease in May 1962. An immediate approach was made to Scottish Industrial Estates for alternative accommodation. The preferred location at Thornliebank had nothing to offer but five other sites in the Glasgow area were available. Happily no move was necessary because in September 1958 the premises were sold to a new Property company. Earlier that year both John Lyon and Holtís brother Bill produced figures supporting a case for selling the business as a going concern. This came to nothing however and sadly John Lyon died in February of the following year.
The floor space of the factory was further reduced in 1959 when they bought the freehold of the top three floors for £9000. This meant giving up the ground floor area which adjoined the entrance from Renfrew Street. A long drawn out printers strike that summer allowed the necessary alterations to be completed by the end of July.
At that time also the matter of Directors pensions was considered. Up till then there had been no formal provision for this benefit to Directors in fulltime service. Advice was sought from a firm of Actuaries. As a result new Articles of Association for the company had to be produced and were agreed at the end of the year. Amongst other matters it gave the Directors powers to grant pensions to whole time service directors. The pension scheme was then set up with contributions paid by the company.
The Argyll Arcade shop was given up as the pattern of trade in the Arcade was changing and it was becoming a centre for jewellers and the like. In its place a stationers in St Vincent Street, Laidlaws was bought; this had small department selling office stationery to the many nearby professional and commercial businesses in the city centre.
This proved to be a good investment as the firmís accountants, by now Reid and Mair, wrote in May 1960 to Ronald Lyon saying "-------- taking everything into account I think we have had an excellent buy." Their senior partner Mr Paton who was also by now a director of Lyon Ltd sent this letter.
By 1961 the factory was beginning to become known as a commercial printer. However the past years under investment in machinery was by now becoming obvious to all. In some cases they were winning orders from advertising agents and also direct from end users for menus, brochures etc which they had to subcontract entirely to printers with modern machines. Holtumís health was causing concern, his mobility was slowing down due to poor circulation, which was not helped by injuries he sustained in 1959 when he was run down by a tramcar and badly shaken.
In October of the following year I started work in the factory. I was to be a "young pair of legs" to move quickly around the place and ensure all employees were fully motivated. I did a short course in printing at the Stow College where father and earlier Lyonís had learned about "The Black Art" as it was known. It proved however to be a case of too little too late. Despite taking a showcase to promote Wedding Stationery at a London Trade Fair in March 1963 and a visit to IPEX í63 in July to confirm that an automatic platen press was an essential investment my efforts were in vain. The requests for investment were listened to but by then the odds for turning the business round were far too long.
In July of 1962 a pleasant ray of sunshine fell on the business when the local society magazine "Glasgow Illustrated" ran a two-page feature in their Histories of Glasgow Companies series. It gave a short history of the firm alongside photos of Ronald and Holtum Lyon together with views of the shop interior.
The big decision was taken in 1964 to close the factory. This decision was taken at a meeting held on the 21st July. Some other important decisions were also made. William Lyonís Trust was wound up and control of the business passed to the shareholders. Ramsey Lyon and Tom Todd (son of Annie Lyon) were appointed Directors. Sadly also within a week or two after this meeting Holtum suffered a stroke brought about by the stresses he had endured in business over many years. I obtained another job with a Glasgow printing firm and started with them before the factory finally closed on the 23rd October 1964. Holtum passed away at 6am on the 24th January 1965 which by a strange coincidence was just 2 hours before the death of Sir Winston Churchill.
So now what was left of the business, the two shops, were under the control of Ramsey Lyon. It was said that he had a lifelong wish to work in it but had been kept out to allow his brother Ronald in. Sometime after this in about 1966 or í67 Vincent Rice, who had been appointed Retail Director after the death of Ronald Lyon and had given long service to the firm, dating back to before the war, decided to leave. In his place Ramsey appointed his other brother Norman to help. I guess by this time both brothers were about retiring age and probably saw their involvement to be a useful activity. To manage the shops on a full time basis they appointed a Mr J.S. Thompson. Stuart Thompson had a printing background. His father, before retirement, ran a small firm in West George Street and their main customer was the Stock Exchange for which they printed the Daily Official List of prices etc. This business was sold to Carlaws a one time well-known car distributor who had engineering and printing interests. The printing side was known as The Glasgow Numerical Printing Co. and this was the business that both Stuart Thompson and I gravitated to when our jobs with the respective family businesses ended.
1968 was to be a year of celebration and disaster for Lyon Ltd. These celebrations and disasters were to be separated by a time interval of only four days in October!
The celebrations were of course the centenary of the business William Lyon had begun under his name in 1868. Over the months leading up to October preparations were made for a staff get together and also a full blown Dinner and Dance at the Grosvenor Restaurant in Gordon Street.
Pictures from the staff get together to mark the Centenery celebrations
Picture above left staff from all departments share the moment. Above right Norman Lyon gets the party into full swing.
Picture above left Ramsey Lyon chatting with the ladies. Above right centre J. Stewart Thompson Store Manager and front right is Jean Lyon
The Directors sent out gold edged invitations to all the family and many friends and associates that knew and had helped the firm over many years. This took place on Thursday the 17th October at a Reception beginning at 7 p.m. It was expected that the function would last until midnight when Carriages would be available. Dress code was Dinner Jacket.
The Menu for the Dinner had an Ivory Board cover die-stamped in blue (right) and gold with a short history on the back (left).
The insert shows (left) a Toast List and (right) the actual Menu. Both were tied together with a blue ribbon.
Mr W. A. Cook was a partner in the Glasgow solicitors; Biggart Lumsden & Co now named Biggart Baillie & Gifford. This firm and its predecessors had served the family since the days of William Lyon. Throughout the evening an Orchestra reminiscent of the lifestyle of the 1930ís headed by its owner Charles Harkin played musical selections. These were listed on the Menuv as follows: -
The Boy Friend - Sandy Wilson
My Fair Lady - Lerner & Loewe
Mary Poppins - Sherman
The Sound of Music - Rogers & Hammerstein
Camelot - Lerner & Loewe
Various Waltzes - Strauss
The tables were laid with a blue theme to match the Menus etc and book matches with the Lyon Ltd imprint were freely available, the public did not appreciate the dangers of smoking yet.
The evening was a great success and was given a half page entry of photographs in the Christmas number of "Glasgow Illustrated", which had also featured the firm in 1962. It was simply recorded as a Dinner Dance however, no mention of the centenary.
The Glasgow Herald in its edition for Monday the 14th October also gave a tribute to the business in a full two-page feature supported by generous advertising from suppliers and others. Little did anyone know that just seven days later on the following Monday the evening papers were to report a different story.
Monday the 21st October, 1968 thereís a fatal lorry accident and Lyon Limited becomes national news. Press reports of the tragedy appeared in the newspapers, radio and television:
A lorry loaded with bricks had careered down Garnet Street, swerved across Sauchiehall Street, and crashed into the Lyon Limited store.
Such was the force of the crash that the lorry was totally embedded inside the front entrance, destroying the leather and pen departments.
The Scottish Daily Express and many other papers carried the news story
This was the disaster that in time was to prove the fatal blow to the future of the business. As the dust settled and the hours and days unfolded the full extent of the drama became clearer. It was a national news item on both television and the radio for a day or two. The following dayís "Glasgow Herald" reported that one customer had died and a further 25 persons were injured, four seriously.
The Evening Citizen picture that shocked everyone and no doubt sealed the fate of the building and the business.
Above, the fatal result of the lorry accident captured by the late Eric Thorburn Photographer, on behalf of The Glasgow Herald
Shop staff helping shocked and injured customers to an ambulance
To give you an idea of the force of the crash, it was reported that it was of about a magnitude of 70 tons, "like a tank" and when the lorry was inside the shop there was a distance of 15 feet from the tailboard to the street pavement. The fabric of the whole building was affected and cracks were clearly visible from the front. There was a fear that the it would have to be demolished straightaway, however it was shored up and made safe.
About two weeks after the crash the firm reopened for business, thanks to the goodwill of the community headed by Sir Hugh Fraser, chairman of the House of Fraser. This was done by opening four "Mini shops" one in part of the damaged shop and three others close by in what were empty premises.
Closure notice (left) and subsequent re-opening advertisement (right) that appeared in the Glasgow Herald.
The hope was that in time the building could be repaired and the business could resume as it was before the disaster. However time went on and it became clear that eventually the damaged building would have to be demolished. The lorry was pulled out a few weeks after the accident and the police brought charges against its owner and the driver.
When the case came to the Sheriff Court in June 1969 an expert police mechanic said, "No driver in his right mind should have taken that lorry on the road." It had a faulty braking system, a tyre with no trace of a tread, a faulty warning buzzer and an ineffective handbrake. The driver admitted that he had little experience of lorries, having only driven vans until he started driving that lorry three months previously. However he was found guilty of negligence and fined £60 together with a licence endorsement. The owner of the lorry got away with it as ownership of the lorry was vested in the name of his company. This company was still trading in 1993, still in the phone book at that time.
Pictured left to right are Norman Lyon, Ramsey Lyon, Holtum Lyon and Ronald Lyon
In January 1970 a letter was sent by the then Chairman of the firm, Ramsay Lyon, to all customers offering "greatly reduced prices" as a precursor to reducing stocks. It had been decided to give up the Sauchiehall Street site and trade only from Laidlaws premises in St Vincent Street. This move took place in March 1970 and Laidlaws name was quietly dropped. The financial results for the year to the end of March 1970 showed a heavy loss, which unfortunately was never reversed.
Efforts were now being made to sell the business as a going concern but with little success. The insurance claim for the accident was finally settled by March 1971. Sadly Ramsay died on 3rd July of that year. Stuart Thompson probably looked ahead and saw no future for himself so he resigned at end of 1971. The remaining staff prepared a survival proposal to save their jobs but it was not feasible.
Ramsayís death meant that his surviving brother Norman had the task of overseeing the closing stages in the life of Lyon Ltd. Norman had owned for many years a hotel stationery business in Glasgow so he knew the trade. He was a very tall gentleman, about six and a half feet and it was reputed his Aunt Maggie had little regard for him saying somewhat unkindly that he had "gone to seed!"
In 1972 the decision was taken, after consulting the shareholders, to cease trading. The name "Lyon Ltd" was sold to another Glasgow stationers, Holmes McDougall & Co. for £500. They also acquired 75% of the stationery stock at cost price. A valuation of the Sauchiehall Street site was obtained in October 1972 which gave figures of between £40000 and £70000 depending on surrounding traffic conditions and ownership of adjoining properties etc. Two months later a firm offer of £60000 was received and accepted by the Directors.
1973 saw the final details of the liquidation completed and by December it was clear that the final distribution to shareholders would amount to 25p per share. This sum was agreed by all to be very fair and reasonable, considering the difficulties the firm had experienced over the past few years. The final meeting of shareholders took place on the 27th March 1974.
In June 1974 the last surviving child of William Lyon died at Ayr. Alice who had been born 95 years earlier in 1879 was an example of a maiden lady who never had a career and was dependent on the family business for income throughout her long life. After her fatherís death she lived with her eldest sister Maggie at the Whins, Prestwick and then to a serviced flat in Ayr when the house got too much for them. When Maggie died in 1947 Alice remained at the flat for a while before moving to a hotel and finally a nursing home both in Ayr. She was interred at her parentís grave in Prestwick. By now the links with the founder of the business were getting less and I think just two of the next generation was represented at the funeral. These two were Norman Lyon and Jean Warren. Norman died in the 1970ís while Jean lived on until 1993.
Now, the great grandchildren of William Lyon are scattered around the global village we call the world. There are no members of the family living in Glasgow. The Charing Cross of today is a world away from that known to William Lyon nearly 150 years ago. This story is over and I hope those that have take the time to read it will have learnt something.
Some of the present generation of the Lyon family meet up in Australia. The three sons of the late Andrew Holtum Lyon are (left) advertising consultant, Kenneth Martin Holtum Lyon (centre) Australian host, Dr David Mackay Lyon and (right) retired farmer and author, Peter Andrew Lyon
I decided early on in compiling this history of the business to treat this subject as a separate chapter, rather than divide it up piecemeal in the main story. I hope it is of interest.
For many years it was the custom of the Directors to send gifts at Christmas time to the buyers at the leading Stationers in most large towns throughout the country. I donít know when this custom started but probably well before 1936 as the list for that year mentions 1933 and consisted of about fifty odd names and addresses plus family.
These gifts, sent to the recipients home address, ranging from cakes 3 to 4 lbs. in weight up to 6 lbs., shortbread, turkey, sausages etc in the food line to cigarettes or cigars. The usual cigarette gift was a tin of 150 and cigars of equivalent value. One buyer in Birmingham got a new pipe every year till 1940. Some recipients got whisky or sherry.
The cigarettes and cigars would probably have been bought from Jay & Co, 474 Sauchiehall Street adjacent to the factory rear entrance. Jayís billhead is interesting, in 1940 they were offering: -
Bon Accord Hand & Machine made cigarettes and mixtures
Customers own brands made to suit tastes.
This bill was dated 27th June 1940 and was for a box of 25 Don Garcia cigars value one pound and six pence. These were to be sent to Hoylake for recipientís birthday on following day. A charge of six pence was made for postage, making a total charge of one pound one shilling or a guinea!
Jayís were also newsagents, Holtum usually dropped in on his way home each evening to buy a paper and probably 20 Players cigarettes. He was always addressed as Mr Holtum. Lyon Ltd was a very good customer.
After the Second World War started in 1939 the lists were cut back quite considerably. By 1945 there was only one buyer from Surrey on the list. The remaining ten names were all family apart from two other directors.
The gifts continued for a few more years. In the late 1940ís either whisky or sherry was given to about a dozen mostly family names. Those who lived a distance from Glasgow had their gifts sent by passenger train arranged by the Vintners Oldfields in Union Street. When this rail service ended in 1953 the Royal Mail insured post took over.
The last record of gifts was in 1962 and totalled two half bottles of brandy and 18 bottles of Sherry divided between ten people, mostly members of the family.
At its peak this largess must have been a major task for those involved. Weighing up the years sales to each business and comparing that with previous years etc would take time and advice would be taken from representativeís etc. At times some compared the firm to a charity and maybe this giving was overdone at times. However this was the custom in these days and if you did not take part someone else would and business could have been lost as a result
So ended the business William Lyon had established just 105 years before. Writing this now in 2003 only those Glaswegians who are 40 + years of age now will remember Lyonís corner in Sauchiehall Street. Glasgow itself has changed dramatically since the 1970ís and without a doubt it is a better place now. In 1987 redevelopment was proceeding fast on the old shop site. A property company was erecting a building comprising residential flats and shops at ground level. In a nice touch the completed development was called Lyon Court. The Lord Provost opened the complex on the 8th June 1988 and Jean Warren represented the family. By this time she was the only member of the family still resident in Glasgow.
I visited the area at that time and took some photographs. Looking back from Sauchiehall Street towards the old Factory building it was still possible to read LYON on the old staircase wall. Jayís the tobacconist was gone but it is fitting that the word LYON, on the wall and across the road as Lyon Court, still has a presence in the area. Hopefully this attempt at getting the story down on paper will answer some questions from future generations.
LG Ė Lyon Glasgow
THE END Ė of an era
Peter Andrew Lyon
Outspan Farm, Clun Road, Craven Arms, Shropshire SY7 9QS
Acknowledgements for material, help and assistance in compiling this story: The Mitchell Library, Glasgow University Library, Stephens Orr FRPS*, The Glasgow Herald, The Evening Citizen*, The Scottish Daily Express*, Daily Record, T. & R. Annan & Sons Ltd*, The Glasgow Illustrated Magazine*, The British Museum, National Library of Scotland, Eric Thorburn Photographer *. Acknowledgements will be given to any further contributions to the Lyon Limited story.
(*some contributors are sadly no longer with us)
For pictures awaiting inclusion in the editorial or with some reference to the Lyon Limited story. Contributions welcome from anyone who remembers the Lyon business. Please contact the author on his email link above.
Above: Sign outside the main entrance of the storeRight: Lyon Court just after completion, June 1988. Pictures by Glasgow Herald