William and Margaret Kay

(John Menzies, Kays Bookstore)

2001/154 William and Margaret Kay interviewed by David Finkelstein in Musselburgh on 5th November 2001

000 Born in Galloway. Father farmer in Port William. High School in Newton Stewart. Planned to go to University but his father was asked by Sir Herbert Graham who was the landowner what he was going to do after school. Father said he was going to study as he was quite literary. Was offered a job in book department.

046 John Menzies and Co. Menzies a great power in wholesale and retail. Joined wholesale in Glasgow. Non union house. Training scheme. Allocated to departments. Taught how to receive a book from the publisher. Went to stockroom for 6 months. Code name of company was profitable. Bibles kept separately.

091 Bible publishing. In book department for 4 years and then was sent to booksellers in Paisley. Was made assistant book manager and buyer of Glasgow.

116 Bookstall at Railways in Scotland. Small part of booktrade. Customers were small booksellers. Book travelers sold them in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

137 Staff of 45 in Glasgow. Moved to head office in Edinburgh as Assistant to the General Manager at Head Office. Had to liaise with all publishers in London. Would go down to London and go round publishers. Met many important publishers.

162 Trips down to London. Fell out with the merchandise manager who was responsible for books, toys and stationery. He approached everything from a merchandising view and knew nothing about books. After 30 years service fell out with John Menzies, got good pension and bought Kays bookstore and ran that for eight years.

196 Bought bookstore in 1970 and ran that for eight years. Had to restrain appetite for buying as market was smaller. Kept a good stock and still dealt direct with publishers. Contract with public libraries in Edinburgh. Was chairman of booksellers association before he went into shop. Well known in the booktrade.

223 After retired was still invited out to social occasions. Chairman of Scottish Booksellers Association. When he went to London to live he had to give it up. Was there for two years and took up chair again for a few years. Knew everyone in industry. John Smith and Sons booksellers. Friendly with Mr Knox who was MD of Smiths. Outstanding bookseller of his time. Bookstore is gone now.

262 Changes in the business. Books still selling well, but bookstores not the same. Personal service does not exist now. Musselburgh has a good bookstore which he uses.

290 Treated customers well. Many University Professors frequented the store. Many people would stop on their way into town in Morningside. Could get any books to order, no technical or scientific. A lot of fiction and travel books. Would often make recommendations.

323 Inscription in books from publishers. Retirement dinner and inscription. Retired in 1967 from Menzies.

344 Catherine Gavin an American author. Glasgow Bulletin was Paris correspondent who was interned during war. Background for book at fish market in Aberdeen.

361 Friends with Jilly Cooper, Attenborough family. Knew all publishers and bookstores. All big family bookstores gone. Visited all bookstores round the country. Would visit larger towns bookstores in UK and all the shops in Scotland.

390 Those who he did not visit would still order from Menzies as they could get them quicker than directly from the publisher. Small booksellers now deal with wholesalers in Torquay on a weekly book service.

407 Reps would call on small bookstores. In bookshop would get orders from publishers within a week. Reps came up from London to see. 5 or 6 publishers who they would deal with. Many were personal friends.

430 Musselburgh as a place to live and historic town. Loretto's Academy.

440 Rivals. Glasgow had several good suburban booksellers, Edinburgh did not. His bookshop had been a newspaper shop which they retained, already had client base. Community feeling.

464 Thins and Edinburgh Bookshop, Bauermeisters and Baxendines were major bookstores. Three good shops Elliots, MacNiven and Cameron and Douglas and Foulis which were bought by Menzies. Knew Hogman family who ran Edinburgh Bookshop.

485 Glasgow only had two or three good bookstores in the centre. Connection with second hand bookstores.

491 Changes in business in his lifetime is now a lack of bookseller service for those who want to buy books. Personal service declined, lack of individual attention.

506 Exporting books to Iceland. Big market. Daily papers were flown from Glasgow to Reykyavik. Phone call saying that they would like to meet as they might be prepared to give them their book trade. 2 booksellers in Iceland: have visited and started business with them. Sold a lot of fiction and non-fiction.

531 Small publishing industry but only exported to Denmark. First visit to Iceland met people at the airport at 2am. Was met by 12 people from the Icelandic Booksellers Association who took him to his hotel. Had a good social time.

550 They came to visit regularly. Still doing a good business with the UK. Links with Scottish Publishers including Collins and Nelsons and Oxford University Press. Edinburgh publishers including Nelsons and MacDonalds.

570 Trade as wholesalers when dealt with a publisher. Costs and discounts received as a wholesaler and as a bookstore. Advantages and disadvantages to booksellers to use Menzies as a wholesaler rather than dealing directly with a publisher. Would get an overnight service.

648 Publisher would try to get Menzies to promote books especially paperbacks. Would get a higher discount for bulk ordering.

661 Effect of net book agreement. Never broke it, it made it easier. If they broke it the publishers would not deal with them.

691 Distinct characteristics to Scotland. William Holmes wholesalers were other wholesalers who only dealt with paperbacks. Discussions of publishers.

728 Bookspeed. By time he left had closed book department in Glasgow. John Menzies still president of company.

761 John Menzies very good man and good to their employees. Lunch once a year for all former employees, still keep in touch with employees. Mr Herbert Graham was an uncle of John Menzies.

785 Business run by David MacKay now. When he went down to London would write a daily report about visit. The board would look at this report. Board very in touch with work he was undertaking. Wholesaler in Ayr.

835 Condition of Edinburgh bookstores. Waterstones and Borders books. Menzies sold the bookstores. When he worked in Menzies would meet with new staff in canteen and talk about the elements of buying and stocking books.

861 Ran classes as it meant he could meet staff collectively and get their views on the trade. Told them about forthcoming books and things to keep an eye out for. Junior members would come.

887 Visiting D C Thompson to get Beano and Dandy. Could not order as much as wanted, would get an allocation. Told to see Retail Director Mr Moody who would tell you the number that you would get and you were to invite him to lunch. Buy him no more than two whiskeys and he would invite you to meet the directors. Had to wear a bowler hat to go on visits.

927 Enjoyed the business. Lost bowler hat which traveled 100 miles north. Was a JP in Edinburgh. Condition of race course in Musselburgh.

980 End.

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