THE main image on this page is part of a large Christmas advert for Swindon department store McIlroys.

It ran in an Adver supplement on Wednesday, November 27, 1963, as the world reeled from the assassination of American President John F Kennedy five days earlier.

Many readers would have relished the chance to look ahead to a joyful, reassuring time with loved ones and friends.

Prominent in the department store’s advert was the image of a woman made up as Cleopatra, saying every woman should give the man in her life Pyramid brand handkerchiefs for Christmas.

Aside from the Ancient Egypt reference, the Cleopatra look was in the news that year thanks to a Hollywood epic in which Elizabeth Taylor played the beautiful, doomed queen.

Other products mentioned in the advert included a brand of stockings called Aristoc, although they were clearly far too narrow and flimsy for holding Christmas presents.

The store also pushed its jewellery, handbags, stoles and gloves.

A feature on the front page of the supplement detailed some of the more exclusive individual items on offer at various Swindon shops.

Deacons in Wood Street, for example, offered a stainless steel three-piece tea set for £9, which was a fairly considerable sum at the time, while a Newport Street shop called Jago offered carved wooden Vikings and candle holders in the form of kneeling angels for a little over £1 apiece.

Children lucky enough to have well-to-do parents - or parents adept at saving - where well catered for at the town’s department stores and toy shops. If they were lucky their stack of gifts might include a set of replica car controls complete with demister, a fully-functioning toy typewriter or a reel-to-reel tape recorder especially for children.

Teenagers, if they were lucky, might spend Christmas day listening to their new record player or running cartoons through an 8mm projector.

All of these items cost at least half of the average weekly wage.

Hobby’s Corner in Fleet Street was festooned with Christmas dreams by brands including Scalextric, Meccano, Hornby, Tri-ang and Lego.

Among the gifts men were advised would delight the women in their lives was the Cannon Foldaway eye-level grill and spit roaster, whose advert - “...the finest gift you will ever buy her...” - showed a wife ecstatic at receiving one wrapped in a large ribbon.

Instead of attempting to slam her husband’s head in the machine, she proclaimed Christmas 1963 the best ever.