A WOMAN who has been given just six months to live is hoping to share fond memories of her time with former colleagues at Swindon’s McIlroys department store.

Pat Gould, 80, worked at the Regent Street shop from her mid-20s until it was taken over by Mackays in the early 1990s.

“People loved McIlroys,” said Pat, who served meals to staff in the shop’s dedicated staff canteen.

“It was smaller than Harrods, but more upmarket than Debenhams.”

The historic store first opened on Swindon’s Regent Street in 1875. The purpose-built department store, which boasted a grand clock tower and a handsome plate glass frontage, sold everything from hardware to ladies’ stockings.

“We had smashing parties,” said Pat, of Park North.

“You didn’t care if you had a shilling a week. I want people to have the happiness we all had in those days. We were treated like ladies.”

On her final day at work Pat toured the store, getting photographs with the colleagues and shop departments she loved so much.

Decades later, Pat is suffering from health problems which have seen her plunge from a dress size of 24 to weighing six stone.

With an estimated six months to live, Pat is hoping that former colleagues or local historians will be interested in taking the photographs off her hands.

“It seems such a shame to burn the photographs,” she said. “I’ve just sent a load off to people I used to work with.”

But Pat has been left with seven colour prints, showing McIlroys’ hairdressers’, office staff and other departments.

Thinking about the photographs brings back happy memories for Pat. During a restaurant renovation she said she was briefly transferred to the hosiery department.

“I was absolutely marvellous. I used to advise people to wear different colours. They told me I’d done really well”.

The store finally closed its doors on April 30, 1998, with customers shedding tears on the last day of opening.

Owners Mackays blamed competition from modern rivals Debenhams and House of Fraser.

However, a report claimed that in 1997 it had been the UK’s eighth most profitable department store.

In 2008 a reunion saw former shop staff share their treasured memories of the stare.

At the time, local historian and member of the Swindon Society Jean Allen said: “It was never somewhere that people went looking for bargains.

“But it was a store that sold things you couldn’t get in modern department stores.

“I remember it as a place where you could even buy knicker elastic by the yard.”

Changing face of a pioneer store

When McIlroys opened its doors to Swindon shoppers in 1875 it was a pioneer store.

An early purpose-built department store, it was established by William McIllroy, an Irish draper, who rew the business with the help from his brother-in-law James Wheeler.

The custom-designed shop on Regent Street was built by a firm headed by John Norman, who gave his name to Norman Road.

A grand ballroom was added to the Swindon store in the 1930s, with chandeliers and panelling allegedly sourced from doomed cruise liner the Mauritania.

In 1962 the Beatles played their one and only Swindon show in the McIlroys ballroom.

At the height of their success, the McIlroys ran 22 department stores across England.

Their flagship Reading store opened on Oxford Street in 1903 — six years before Mr Selfridge opened the famous London department store that bore his name.

Constructed from thousands of panes of glass, the store was known as the ‘Crystal Palace of Reading’.

The store’s famous clock tower was replaced with a less ornate front in the 1960s following safety concerns. The Swindon store closed on April 30, 1998, after 123 years of trading.