'And finally, not everyone’s being doing topical. In fact, here’s the rather lovely 6 Oxgangs Avenue devoted to the history of the development of the area, this week highlighting how the block of flats came into being. Could have been prompted by Who do you think you are? Or just a timely reminder that not everything worth blogging about is in the here and now.'

Kate Higgins, Scottish Roundup 26/08/2012

Friday, 7 September 2018

The Wednesday Profile #7 Mr Forgan; Sandra Catterson and Mrs Davidson

For all the years I recall living in Oxgangs between 1958 to 1972 and beyond the chemist's shop at Oxgangs Broadway was run by Mr David R. Forgan. Ann-Marie Bain recalls that his displayed certificate showed that he had qualified as a chemist as early as 1939 at the start of the Second World War.

I assume he was one of the original shopkeepers.

As might be expected this was a well-run shop and always had a classy feel to it.

You somehow felt secure in his shop - it exuded a certain confidence and professionalism, something which you would look for in such an important profession.

If you needed to wait for a prescription there was a seat, however there was always such a mix of interesting goods in the shop and other customers that sometimes you didn't mind waiting.

It sold an interesting array of perfumes, salts, talcum powders, cough sweets and small penny lollipops - to help the medicine go down? The chemists' shops at that time had a certain pleasant smell about them. As Karen Reid said ‘I can still remember the smells!’

Mr Forgan was a patrician sort of a chap - with his balding head and remaining white hair he seemed old to me then, but I guess he was much younger than I am now, 62 years of age.  

He was courteous and pleasant and had a distinctive presence - in my memory he looked a little like the Colonel Blimp character portrayed by Roger Livesy; but on seeing a photograph of him recently there is only a very slight resemblance.

Many local girls enjoyed their first Saturday job there including Linda Hamilton, Ann-Marie Bain and Karen Macleod as well as holiday jobs. And judging by the positive comments it was a good place to work. Karen said ‘I loved all the old ladies coming in to choose a new lipstick!’

Several members of the Oxgangs A Pastime From Time Past Facebook group comment on what a lovely man Mr Forgan was and how helpful - if you needed some advice rather than a visit to the doctor’s he always had the time for a quick chat.

Sandra Catterson said ‘My old boss and very dear friend; I was very lucky to have the privilege of working with him for eighteen years until his retirement.’ 

Others including Susan Henderson recall how it’s changed days – it was to the chemist’ that we ventured in to, to have our camera spools developed - that prominence can be seen in the Kodak advert in the shop window. Extract from Retep Nnamffoh's diaries:  Friday, Hogmanay, 1971 '...It was a boring last day of 1971. The only wee excitement was going up to the chemist's shop to collect my photies...' 14th February, 1972: '...I also looked in to Forgan's the Chemist at Oxgangs Broadway to buy a spool for my wee Kodak Brownie camera...'

Douglas Cutt commented ‘Good God, another memory! I bought a 2/6d plastic Diana camera from my paper round money and took some photos of my Jackie Stewart Formula 1 car model that I had just put together and painted. I took the photographs on the street. He (Mr Forgan) was asking how I had managed to get such good photos... he thought it was the real car!’

Because we lived closer to The Store, where as part of the overall building, there was an additional two separate shops, one of which was a paint and decorator's shop, (which couldn't possibly survive today) and t'other a chemist (where the chip shop is today) we tended to share our custom between the two chemists shops. The chemist here was actually part of St Cuthbert's Co-operative Association Ltd.

It had the same feel as Forgan’s Chemist shop, but was smaller, less inviting and there was less freedom to roam and as a customer you were kept at a distance.

Sandra Catterson and Dorothy Davidson

There was a link between the two shops because Martin Davidson’s mother (from further down Oxgangs Avenue) worked there; she was a glamorous lady with blonde hair - she was a very friendly woman, but someone who could also be sensitive combined with great customer care - an asset to the business. Although I haven't thought of Mrs Davidson in over four decades it's strange the impact and impression that people can make on you even as children and still remain with you after all these years. It was rather lovely to see a photograph of her with her colleague, Sandra Catterson, taking a short break on a sunny day outside Forgan's the Chemist's shop - I hadn't realised that she had worked there too - perhaps after The Store chemist closed down?

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