ON Friday, December 4, 1959, a celebrity opened a new Swindon branch of furniture shop Barclayes of London.

Her face will be unfamiliar to many readers, but at the time Alma Cogan was one of the country’s biggest stars.

She later became a tragic symbol of vibrant talent cut down by quirks of fate.

An advert run ahead of the big day said: “His Worship the Mayor of Swindon and Miss Alma Cogan, well-known personality of Radio and Television, will officially perform the opening ceremony.”

Alma Cogan, aged 27 at the time, had risen to fame as a singer earlier in the decade, and was nicknamed the Girl with the Giggle in her Voice.

Her clean-cut pop drew comparisons with Doris Day, and was a family-friendly alternative to the new – and possibly dangerous – rock n’ roll.

Cogan was also a much-loved TV personality. John Lennon, an unknown 19-year-old when our photo was taken, was said to have become besotted with her after the Beatles rose to fame, and according to Cogan’s sister the two were lovers.

Members of the band were frequent visitors to the star’s London home, although by that time her musical popularity had waned.

Alma Cogan died of cancer in 1966, aged just 34.

At the Barclayes opening in 1959 we photographed her helping the Mayor, Alderman FD Jefford, to cut the ribbon.

Our photographer clearly stood on the other side of the glass doors, as the gaps between the panels can be seen.

We said: “Large crowds gathered outside the store to watch the Mayor and Miss Cogan, hatless and wearing a fur coat, snip the red ribbon across the door.

“She declined an invitation from the crowd to sing outside the store, but later signed autographs. The first to secure her signature, however, was the Mayor, across his cheque book.”