Former Jenners staff invited to memorial service for much-loved chairman, Robert Douglas Miller

Invites have been extended to former Jenners staff to attend a memorial service to much-loved chairman Robert Douglas Miller Senior, who led the famous firm in the latter half of the 20th century.

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 4:55 am
Former Jenners chairman Robert Douglas Miller has died at the age of 84.
Former Jenners chairman Robert Douglas Miller has died at the age of 84.

Mr Douglas Miller, who is credited with breathing new life and fresh ideas into the now defunct department store in the post war era, passed away on June 10 at the age of 84, his family confirmed.

Renowned by customers and staff for his friendly manner, the former Jenners chairman joined the family company in 1963 and would go on to lead the brand for several decades.

Born in 1937, Mr Douglas Miller was an active member of the wider Edinburgh business community, taking on the role of President of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, Treasurer to the Royal Company of Archers, and a non-executive director on a number of investment trusts in the city.

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Jenners department store in Edinburgh, October 1993. Left to right: Andrew Douglas, Robert Douglas and Robbie Miller.

In 1988, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Jenners business – which for generations enjoyed royal warrant status – Mr Douglas Miller hosted a visit by Her Majesty, The Queen.

A descendant of James Kennedy, who was handed the reins of the Jenners firm in 1881 following the retirement of store founder Charles Jenner, Mr Douglas Miller remained occupied on a daily basis with the iconic department store until 1991, when he was struck down by viral encephalitis.

Left fighting for his life, Mr Douglas Miller remained in a coma for eight weeks, but would go on to make a remarkable recovery – however, it would be a full two years before he returned to work.

Mr Douglas Miller remained active in the business until 2005, when it was announced that the family had held talks to sell up to House of Fraser, for a price between £100 million and £200 million.

What was then the oldest independent department store in the world was eventually sold for £46.1 million in April 2005.

Upon learning of Mr Douglas Miller’s passing, staff members recalled how the much-admired former chairman would make an effort to speak to everybody who crossed his path.

Speaking to the Evening News, Kevin Ferguson, who worked for a spell on the fourth floor near the management offices, described the late Mr Douglas Miller as the “perfect gentleman” who was “always held in the highest regard”.

He added: “I met him formally on Christmas Eve of the year I started. He made a tradition of wishing everyone a merry Christmas.

"He asked me one day can you drive? He wanted me to take his car and deliver some stuff to his home in Currie.

"As a nervous 21 year old, it made me think this man trusted in me.”

Wilma Melrose, who started working at Jenners in 1983, said: "I always found him very friendly and easy to speak to, and he had a good sense of humour.”

Writing on the Vintage Jenners page on Facebook, another ex-staff member said: “Lovely man, [Mr Douglas Miller] would never pass without saying hello.”

A memorial service for the long-serving chairman will take place on Monday, October 4, with the Douglas Miller family stating that all previous employees of Jenners and those who knew and worked with the late Mr Douglas Miller are welcome to attend.

Mr Douglas Miller is survived by his wife of 60 years, Judy, his three sons Andrew, Robbie and Edward, his daughter, Emma, and numerous grandchildren.

Danish billionaire property magnate Anders Povlsen bought the landmark Jenners building on Princes Street for more than £50 million in 2017.

After almost 200 years in business, Jenners ceased trading in May 2021 with the loss of 200 jobs.

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