George Swan Rodger was born on 20 May 1837 in Coaltown of Balgonie to James Rodger, coal agent, and Christian Swan. As an infant he moved with his family to Tyrie Bleachfield, Kirkcaldy and there he received his education from local teacher, author and poet, Peter Purves. He later served an apprenticeship to the drapery trade under Mr Gilchrist of Kirkcaldy. After gaining further experience in the trade at Falkirk, Edinburgh and Glasgow, George became a buyer at an important Glasgow clothing business. It was in Glasgow on 21 December 1866 that George married Jeanie Wylie Leys. He had been a boarder with Jeanie's family, who hailed from the same area of Fife that George himself was from. By the time of the 1871 census, the couple had three children: James, William and Christina. Still living in Glasgow, along with Jeanie's mother, George was now a master draper.
It was in 1872, the George Rodger came to Largo, taking over the premises of the late James White. The following year the family grew with the birth of second daughter, Jeanie. Sadly, in 1878, eldest daughter Christina died aged six. The above advert dates to 22 February 1879 and featured in the Fife News. Below are adverts from the same year. One announces 'summer goods', while the other from later in the year advertised 'winter goods'. In both cases George had just returned from 'the markets'. Glasgow trimmed bonnets and hats are mentioned in both adverts. Hats had become elaborately trimmed in the 1870s. Sometimes with ribbons at the back, which hung over the chignon hair style. In the late 1870s bonnets featured an increasing use of flowers and birds in their trimming, before transitioning to feathers in the 1880s. Fabrics used in summer varied from those used in winter. Plush, for example, was used for winter hats, as well as for dresses, muffs and bags.
As well as regular advertisements for summer and winter goods, it became a tradition for Rodger's to hold an annual clearing sale and these were always advertised in the local press. In 1881, the family had another child, George, and Jeanie's widowed mother was still living with them in Upper Largo. Around 1885, a young Alexander Kirk Melville entered the employment of Rodger, staying for four years and laying the foundations for his own long journey into the clothing business.
The original shop continued until 1887, when George Rodger decided that new premises were required. In fact, his shop was described as "too small and also damp". So he decided to have it taken down and a new shop (with attached dwelling) built upon the site. During the works, the business moved into temporary premises next to Mr Thomson's chemist business. The various Fife News notices below tell the story of the upheaval and necessary stock sales that took place during that year. A sale was held prior to the move and another later the same year, due to the lack of room in the temporary premises.
The Rodgers seem to have been installed at the rebuilt shop and dwelling in time for the annual sale in February 1888. Their new building is now 12 Main Street (pictured above). In more recent times, this building has housed George Mackie's chemist and The Salon hairdresser. Like so many former shops in the village, it has long since been converted into a residential dwelling.
At the time of the 1901 census, the two eldest Rodger children had moved away. George and Jeanie's daughter and youngest son (Jeanie and George) had joined the family business as a milliner and draper's assistant respectively. The family business flourished in its purpose-built premises and by 1906, the shop held its thirty-third annual clearing sale (see 1 February Leven Advertiser advert below).
Over the decades, fashions of course changed dramatically and G.S. Rodger moved with the times and catered for local needs. The 1910 advert below highlights the 'golf hose' on offer (10 August 1910 Leven Advertiser).
Knitting machines were installed in the back shop at some point - the above notice requests a girl to join the team to operate one of them. Below, an advertisement from 15 Feb 1911 Leven Advertiser mentions a range of items reduced in the clearance sale: from floorcloth to overcoats and wincey shirting.
An elder of the United Free church for many years, under Rev, R. Lundin Brown and William Bruce, George Rodger eventually retired and his son (also named George Swan Rodger) continued the business. George senior died on 12 April 1925 aged 87 at his home on Upper Largo's Main Street. He was survived by his widow, three sons and daughter. His eldest son was by then headmaster at Burntisland Higher Grade School and his second son employed by a woollen manufacturer in Canada. George was buried in Upper Largo cemetery. His widow Jeanie died in 1930 aged 91. Young Jeanie died in 1943 aged 70. George junior lived until 1956, latterly living at Ravenswood in Lundin Links.