As many of you may know, Roseberry Tailoring was created by Roddy Forfar and Chris McGowan through not only a shared passion for the trade but also through a mutual inspiration and influence that goes back through the generations. This common link that Roddy and Chris shared was through their Grandfather and Great-Grandfather respectively, who were both Tailors themselves back in the day.
In celebration of Father’s Day, we are delighted to share some words from the relatives of Roddy and Chris who can offer a true insight to Charles Emanuel Lambey and Joseph McGowan, as both Fathers, Grandfathers and Tailors.
We have been lucky enough to receive some words from Carol Forfar, the daughter of Charles Lambey:
My Dad came to the UK during World War II when the government were sending ships across the Caribbean and Commonwealth, to seek help with the war effort. He decided to come on this great adventure with his older cousins, having fallen out with his father, a plantation owner and community leader in British Honduras, now known as Belize.
Making clothes is a family tradition and is still carried on today. My cousin Robert, Deputy Commissioner of Police in Belize regularly makes clothes for youth projects. My Dad trained in New York and was a highly skilled Tailor. He ended up working in the coal mines of Midlothian after he met my mother and started a family, but he always followed his tailoring role. He made most of our clothes, including “costumes” (suits) for my mother, and regularly turned ordinary trousers into ‘drain-pipes’ for my older brother and almost every teenager in our village and beyond so they could be in fashion like Elvis and Cliff Richard.
He had clients from all over who came to him to have their clothes designed and made in our family home, and to this day I have not got a clue how they knew about him as we lived in a small mining village in Midlothian, just outside Edinburgh. His tools of the trade were his tailor’s chalk, shears, set square which he made himself, and the treadle ‘Singer’ sewing machine along with his sharpening stone. My sister and I used to help out with some hand-stitching and whatever he needed us to do if we were free. I studied dress and design as I grew older and was more able to help and to tell him what I wanted too.
My Dad had a great sense of style as you can imagine and when my sister and I were teenagers in the ‘60’s we had the latest fashion every weekend for the dancing in town. A memorable favourite of mine was a suit based around the Beatles no collar jacket made of black velvet with copper Buddha buttons and a black velvet skirt. Many a Friday night was spent with my sister and I showing him pictures from magazines showing him what we wanted and him drawing and cutting out patterns from old newspapers before the final article was produced in time for Saturday night. We did help!
We have also gathered some inspiring words from the surviving relatives of Joseph McGowan:
Joseph McGowan had his own tailor shop in Shotts, Lanarkshire based on the site of the former Regal Theatre, where he worked with Mr Connolly. This would have been around the 1930’s. He later moved on to work with the Co-operative group as a tailor, first in Shotts, then onto Scotland Street in Glasgow, where he was based in the Haberdashery.
His later career was spent working for Claude Alexander in Glasgow – the job from which he retired. Joseph and his partner Lizzie continued to look after clients into their retirement, working from home in Govan and then Nitshill, taking care of alterations and repairs to garments belonging to clients he’d met during his career. Joseph and Lizzie made a formidable team with Joseph’s tailoring skills and Lizzie’s skills as a seamstress. Joseph made suits for the whole family for any and every occasion, including wedding attire. His 3 sons, Vincent, Louis and Ernest were always told that they should “never go to Slaters”, a custom that is still practised to this day.
Among his most prized possessions were his Pipe and Whisky. His favourite brand of tobacco is remembered as Black Cut Cavendish, and there was no favourite Whisky. So long as it was Whisky, it was OK by him. In tailoring terms, he loved nothing more than watching the smile on the faces of his customers as they slipped on their new suits for the first time.
He always said that he “sold feelings and emotions and that the suits were just the product”.
When we used to visit Grandad Joseph during the school holidays, I would remember that the place was always in darkness, even in the height of summer thanks to the closeness to the Shipyards where the latest ship being built would block out the sun. I recall waking one day to blinding sunlight and finding it odd. They’d only launched the ship that morning and it was no longer blocking the sun out.
We never see Chris in anything less than a 3-piece suit and nice shoes. He’s always well-kept and smart, no matter the occasion. Joseph was the same. Any time we visited, expected or not, he was immaculate. I remember Joseph having an incredible eye for detail, an attribute that I can see in Chris.