Story: The Village Shop


The village shop

A story told by Jill Pratt about the Lumsden village shop over the years

When we bought the shop neither my husband or myself had any idea what you did with a shop apart from

the fact that we knew you sold stuff. But how it was organised we had no idea and the shop was a member

of the Spar group and we found them really very helpful but we had been living abroad for a while and we

modelled ourselves on the Asian shops that were in Kenya in the towns that were our nearest shopping

areas. Because they would always find what you wanted, they would always get it for you and tell you

whether it would be a day, a week or a month before they could get it and it would always come and they

were always very pleasant when you went into the shop. You were given a cup of tea and given a seat to sit

on while they got all the stuff together that you wanted and we thought that the atmosphere in these shops

was really rather nice and that’s what we would do. Not give the people tea, obviously, but we would try and

get what people wanted and do the best we could for them. So that was our plan at the back of our head.

Luckily there were two ladies working in the shop when we took it over and they were very afraid that they

were going to lose their jobs. And I said “No- no, no no – we need you because you know how the shop

operates and we don’t. And so they helped us – Edith and Betty – manage the shop. At that time it had a

cold meat counter were we sold bacon and cooked meats and we had pet food – the usual tins of cat food

and dog food and stuff like that. The ordering – I would always ask them whether such and such a thing

would go because I got this massive order form, from Spar, to make up an order, and I would say, “Will this

sell?” and they’d say “No – they won’t like that here, and don’t bother with that but this will go OK and that

will go OK,” and so on.

So that was the was we worked it and they would remind me if it was coming up to Shrove Tuesday and

remind me to order pancake mixes and anything that they thought would be seasonal that I didn’t know

about as being a thing in this area. They would be able to tell me “You’ll need to get this or that in today”

because there’s something happening in the village and the people will be in for drinks – because we were

licensed as well – so they might be in for drinks or for cigarettes that we didn’t normally stock, or something

like that.

So we did try to get everything to the best of our ability and when people came in and asked for something

that we knew wouldn’t sell as a rule but if this person wanted it then my husband would go into the Cash

and Carry and get it for them, in whatever quantity they needed. Because sometimes if they were having a

party or something and they needed special drinks, splits or things like that, we’d get them.

But it was a nice atmosphere and one of the things that we did was, there was a total wipeout of electricity

in most of Aberdeenshire in a huge snowstorm and of course, as soon as the electricity went, all the

supermarkets closed, everything closed because they couldn’t put things through the till. So having lived in

Africa, we just thought, right – what do we do now? So we lit candles and we had candles all along the

gondolas in the shop and I had a manual calculator that printed on a roll and I could – when the people

came – it was near Christmas and everyone was just desperate and the shop was packed with people who

stopped because they saw a light on and they came in and we were really, really busy and everybody was

milling about looking for stuff because they wren’t familiar with the shop and I was carefully going through

this thing putting in all the prices on this manual thing – took forever but nobody minded. Everybody just

stood in a queue and chatted away. And I then had a roll of paper for the day’s transactions and then the

following morning when the power came back on I put it all through the till – and so, everything was fine. So,

it was such a nice Christmassy feel, that everybody was so grateful that the shop had stayed open because

we could trust the staff. We didn’t have to worry about what was going to show on the till. So it was a really

good day. The power went off quite early in the day and we were still open – at that time we opened until

about 8 o’clock at night, so we were open from eight in the morning until eight at night. So it was a good


And the other thing that we did at Christmas time was when people came in for the New Years Day papers,

which was normally all they wanted, they had a choice of a dram of whisky or a soft drink. And the first New

Year we were there, it was all the wives that came up because the men had had a hard night the night

before, so the women all came up for the papers. And then they all got a dram and went home and said

“We got a dram”, and the next time, the whole family came! And we had a basket of sweets for the kids

and soft drinks if they wanted a drink – and that also went very well. People would come in and have a

dram. But I limited myself to one bottle of whisky and I measured the dram. I didn’t just slurp it into the

glasses. I measured drams and had them set out on a tray ready to go. So it was good and some of them

came and said, “Can I take one out to my father? He’s sitting in the car.” And I said, yes, yes carry on. They

all got drams. It was a good atmosphere in the shop – everyone enjoyed coming in.

We had on the door “Hello” and “Welcome” and “Thank You” on the door, these cards in different

languages. I have them somewhere in the loft but up to now – I’ve looked in the places where I thought

they might be – but they’re obviously not – and I know I’ve got them in a plastic bag in a corner somewhere.

And I intend finding them so that you can photograph them – if you could remember what says what. The

only one I don’t have, which we couldn’t get off the door, was – Dorcas at that time was working in Thailand

and she started it by bring home a “Hello”, “Welcome” and “Thank You” in Thai and we stuck it on the door

and she wrote phonetically how to pronounce it underneath so that I could tell people what it said. I think

we had about thirty odd. There were two panes of glass on the door, beautifully etched with the name

McIntosh and Son – it’s a beautiful door – (I’ll be mad if someone’s taken it away) – but we had them covered

in these little labels which were price labels from the shop which were card and so if someone came and

said “You haven’t got Welsh” we’d give them a card and say write it in Welsh and they would write it down.

Or “You haven’t got Polish, ” – “OK – there you go – do it in Polish.” It fairly gathered and it was a great

talking point among the tourists who would all come in and speak about the languages that were there.

It was a good place, a good place.