Frank Lehmann was a well known jeweller and watchmaker in Blantyre during the 2nd and third quarters of the 20th Century. His story is an interesting one and is little known, so here goes…..
Born in 1922, Frank Lehmann was a Polish soldier during WW2 who unfortunately lost a leg in France. He came to the Whistleberry Camp in Blantyre to convalesce, staying with the Polish Resettlement Corps until 1946. It was around this time he met and married May, his wife, a major factor in his decision to live locally.
Watch repairing had always been Frank’s past-time and hobby, but when war ended, he decided to make it his full time profession managing to get a job after discharge, at the Argyle Repair Company in Glasgow. He moved from there to Arnott Simpson and whilst there he also went into partnership and opened premises in Blantyre on Glasgow Road.
His partner worked full time in the Blantyre shop and Frank would work there in evenings after his shift in Glasgow. The partnership quickly dissolved and Frank decided to open his business fully as owner at the shop at 146 Glasgow Road (next to Batters), opening and trading under his own name in August 1948.
Things were very quiet at the start but Frank became well known and liked by Blantyre folks and custom grew. He would often refuse to charge anything for the easy, minor repairs which only saw his reputation soar, especially with elderly folk.
In 1955, his shop at 146 Glasgow Road was damaged by fire. The insurance company refused to pay out for the fire damage, forcing Frank to downsize into the back of a neighbouring shop, as secure premises were needed in his profession. Even then, customers knew where he was and sought him out.
Later that year, Frank found new premises further east at 120 Glasgow Road. He re-opened and started retailing as well as repairing.
Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, Frank’s reputation grew far and wide with customers beyond Blantyre. One ex-pat lady who moved to the States, brought her broken jewellery and watches over for him to repair whilst she was back in Blantyre on holiday!
In 1963, the business model changed with his wife May running retail allowing Frank to concentrate solely on watch and jewellery repairs. He worked long hours to keep up with the volume of customers, often still there at midnight.
Frank’s business abruptly came to a halt in November 1978 due to Glasgow Road redevelopment. His firm was a real casualty caused by the council’s plans to demolish Glasgow Road tenements. The building at 120 Glasgow Road where Frank had his retail and repair business was owed by the Regional Council. Whilst they had promised every trader would be relocated, in this instance they decided this building was unsafe and gave everybody just 3 weeks notice to leave.
With the ASDA shopping precinct at Clydeview still 2 years away with forecasted mammoth rents, Frank had no option other than to close his business by December 1978. He was 56 years old at the time.
Clearly he was too young to retire for in 1979, he joined staff at Hamilton’s R.A Roxburgh at 39 Cadzow Street. Yuille Bayley, owner said at the time, “When Frank became available we could not miss the opportunity of engaging such a well liked and talented craftsman.”
By all accounts Frank enjoyed working as an employee, with much of the stress of the business removed, sitting in warm, insulated premises, no leaks or draughts and with the modern luxury of morning and afternoon tea breaks, getting home at 5pm. He later reflected on this time as being “like a holiday camp.”
Frank made his home in Scotland. Even by 1978, his mother , brother and sister still lived in Poland. He visited them every 2 years but made it known to all, that his home was Blantyre.
Source: Blantyre Advertiser, December 1978.
Do you remember Frank and the jewellers?