George Livingston, our company founder, was born in Edinburgh on 24th of July 1845 to Andrew and Mary Livingston. Andrew was a farm labourer by profession. George was educated in Edinburgh at the private school Daniel Stewart’s College (now Stewart’s Melville College), where he was the top student or “Dux” in his year.
In the 1861 Census George was listed as a tailor, but he may have taken up the needle and thread some years earlier. George worked as a cutter at the prestigious firm of Marshall & Aitken, which had been established in 1770. Based at 27 & 29 North Bridge, Edinburgh, this civil and military tailoring firm dressed many of Scotland’s elite.
George married his first wife, Rose Jordon.
By 1881 George and Rose has relocated to Dunbar on Scotland’s east coast, where he worked as a cutter for Daniel Smith at 55 High Street.
Following the death of Rose, George married Lucy Mitchell on 29th of July 1887.
George’s son Andrew was born in Dunbar on 7th of May 1888. The first of 13 children, he was to become the second owner of the family business.
In November 1895 Alexander McAdam, a tailor in Castle Douglas, died and his widow sold his tailoring business at 96 King Street to George Livingston
No 96 can be seen on the right. It was later demolished for the building of a Post Office.
A serious fire damaged a row of premises across King Street from George’s shop. When the buildings were refurbished, he moved across the road to 75 King Street. We have traded from this address ever since.
Our founder, George Livingston, died on 31st of July 1908 aged 63, leaving his widow Lucy with 13 children aged from 20 to two years. The responsibility for running the tailoring business and supporting the family fell to Andrew.
To improve his cutting skills, Andrew went to London and studied at the world-renowned Tailor & Cutter Academy in Gerrard Street, Soho. Founded in 1866 by Scotsman John Williamson, who had established the influential trade paper The Tailor & Cutter two years earlier, the academy was regarded as the best bespoke tailoring school in the world.
The scope of the business was enlarged by Andrew stocking ready-made garments, such as shirts, ties, underwear, caps and hats. The selection was expanded over the years to the comprehensive wardrobe options Livingston offers today.
The annual competition run by The Tailor & Cutter magazine was like the Oscars of the British bespoke tailoring community. Open to tailors across the UK, it was usually dominated by the big firms on Savile Row, but in 1954 G Livingston & Son became the only Scottish firm to win a Gold Medal in the contest.
George, Rena and their 10-month-old daughter Margaret with the cup awarded by cloth supplier Keith & Henderson for the “best cut, styled and made occasional jacket”.
The winning “occasional jacket” was cut by George Livingston and was sewn entirely by hand by his Polish assistant Stanley Sobcyzk. It remains in the family archive at 75 King Street, where the medal is proudly displayed on the wall.
George’s mother Jessie, seen here in 1958 with her son, was very active in the firm, proving herself to be an astute businesswoman and a needlewoman extraordinaire. She continued to work in the business into in her 80s.
The Gold Medal win was a spur for George to significantly grow his tailoring business. He enrolled the help of Ipswich-based tailor E M “Ted” Glazebrook to assist with the increased production.
Ted and his wife May became firm friends with the Livingston family.
After 50 years of service with the firm, tailor John Trainor retired. When he started as an apprentice in 1921 at 5 shillings (now 25p) a week, he was paid an extra half a crown (the equivalent of 12.5p) a week for coming in early to light the stove to heat the pressing irons. The stove can still be seen in the tailoring shop.
Remarkably, John’s father James Trainor has worked for G Livingston & Son for 52 years. We like to keep talented staff!
From the late 1980s Andrew Livingston expanded his knowledge of and skill in high-quality bespoke tailoring thanks to the connections of Derek Jackson, an agent for Scabal cloth, who introduced him to several renowned Savile Row tailors.
Among these was the legendary cutter Edward Sexton, seen here with his colleague Peter Osbourne. Both tailors greatly assisted Andrew to hone his skills.
Another important influence on Andrew was Salvo Cannia, an extremely talented tailor from Sicily, who worked for Edward Sexton. Master and pupil, Salvo and Andrew became great friends. The Livingston family holidayed in Sicily with Salvo several times, once driving all the way from Dumfries & Galloway to the foot of Italy.
Andrew describes Edward Sexton as his mentor. Edward asked Andrew to represent him in China, which opened new experiences for the man from Castle Douglas.
Our Heritage text by Eric Musgrave, author of "Sharp Suits", a photographic history of men's tailoring.