Now here’s a local person, clearly worthy of inclusion into the Blantyre People book. An Uncle of mine, fondly remembered not just by myself and family but by many people all over Blantyre and beyond. The story of Davie Glen, Travel entrepreneur; Born January 16, 1935; Died July 20, 2007.
David or Davie Kelso Glen, was a pioneering businessman who founded one of Scotland’s longest-established independent travel agents. Also a former chairman of Glasgow Junior Chamber of Commerce, David was born on 16th January 1935 in Blantyre to Janet and David Glen. He was the youngest of three children and had twin sisters, Barbara and Greta.
He left St John’s Grammar School in Hamilton at the age of 15 to work as an office junior in Thomas Cook Travel Agency in Glasgow but was then called up for National Service aged 18 and posted to Hong Kong with the RAF as an armourer, loading guns and missiles on to aircraft. He retained a great love of the Far East and its people and culture, returning many times on holiday.
On his return from Hong Kong, he went back to Thomas Cook where he worked in the foreign exchange and then the overseas department. Before deregulation, air travel was very different and very expensive. Using protected tariffs, the airlines could make profit on as little as 30% payload. The only way around these expensive official fares was to be a member of a bona fide travel club. Davie found his niche in organising travel to Canada and the US for these clubs. Soon he was running charter flights and filling many planes.
He married Margaret Duncan in March, 1959, and had three children, David, Alan and Douglas, the family living at Station Road. The wedding made the Gazette news at the time.
In September 1973, he launched Glen Travel in Blantyre in partnership with Margaret and work colleague Margaret Donnelly. Initial trading conditions were very tough, but despite the miners’ strike, power cuts and the three-day week, they managed to operate successfully and continued to run charter flights from Prestwick for many years afterwards.
Davie later diversified into scheduled airline travel, becoming a leading wholesaler for Northwest Airlines and American Airlines, who operated out of Glasgow airport to the States. His expertise and knowledge of the travel industry won him many accolades and awards from airlines and suppliers.
Eventually, all three sons joined him in the business and, after 50 years, he decided to retire at the end of 1999, leaving his sons to run the operation, with the Bellshill branch closing and Blantyre shop at Clydeview Shopping Centre.
Today, the company is a thriving tour operation, internet, retail and business travel agency based on Glasgow Road having moved recently to the former Clydesdale Bank Building.
Davie was a well-known and an active figure in the local community, a popular member of the Bothwell Castle Golf Club and Blantyre Bowling Club. In his younger days he was a keen badminton player and won many trophies, including the Lanarkshire doubles title. In travel circles, he was renowned for his sense of humour, sharp wit and one-line retorts. Among his peers, some of the stories about him attained almost legendary status. He travelled extensively all over the world but always retained a love for Scotland, and in particular Lamlash, on the Isle of Arran, where he took a holiday every year with his family.
Davie sadly passed away on 20th July 2007. He is survived by his wife Margaret and sons David, Alan and Douglas.
From the book, “Blantyre People” by Paul Veverka (c) 2020
Photos: From Veverka family albums