Changing face of postal service

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The Post Office is in the news, not for the seasonal fact that Posties used to be called ‘robins’ because of their red uniforms, but because the Post Office in Kirrie is closing!

For a quarter of a century, from 1859 until 1884, Mr John Stiven was first postmaster in charge of the town’s only Post Office at No. 18 Glengate Street.

John ‘Snecky’ Stiven is recalled today in the street name in the town called Stiven Crescent. Our friend Snecky was succeeded upon his retiral by Mr David Buchanan.

David was also a chemist whose shop was in the Town House, and he continued in the same premises until 1897. When the Police vacated the Town House in May 1896, after they built their new police station in Reform Street, Mr Buchanan took it over and had it extensively altered to become both the chemist’s shop and town’s second Post Office, in the western section nearest the Bellie’s Brae, and his chemist’s shop was in the main part. The new bowling green moved on to the Newton Parks at Brechin Road and was opened in May 1893. By 1895, the Police Offices, including cell accommodation, had been built on the site and were opened in May of the following year.

Their immediate neighbour to the west was Joseph Irvine, tinsmith, whose business was subsequently continued by his nephew, William.

At No. 7 was one of Kirrie’s half dozen or so ‘smiddies’, this one owned by A. M. Welsh, a man of considerable skill and experience, whose wrought iron work won many awards and contracts to make gates for rather special buildings such as the new Parish Council Offices. Mr Welsh died in 1896, and the Post Office replaced these two businesses.

The Post Office moved to the current premises on December 13, 1914 and opened “for the transaction of public business” on December 14.

The building was home not only to the Post Office but also the telegraph office which had moved up from the railway station. This section moved out of course when taken over by what was to become British Telecom, when their new telephone exchange was built off the Roods and only the sorting office for Royal Mail remains.

So here we are exactly 100 years later and without any real consultation the building is to close and move again back into the centre of the town.

What will become of our iconic granite postbox?

Have you noticed that we have a very different type of post box? This (what may be unique) feature, often overlooked in the detail of the building, is Kirrie’s granite Post Office Box which reads “G R Letter Box”. Very different from the normal red painted iron boxes and the gold boxes for our Olympians such as at Dunkeld, Aviemore and Granton etc.

So with the looming 100th anniversary of the Kirrie Post Office building, I had thought of putting up a display to mark this significant milestone for the building either in the building itself and/or the museum, but with its closure, and the Post Offices’ ‘modernised’ service expected to begin in the New Year, this article will have to suffice; with details such as a report in the local paper of 1932 that the revenue for the Post Office in Kirrie 171 years ago was £360 per annum and the profit was eight pence!

Or that in 1825 the Kirriemuir Horse Post Contractor from Dundee was in jail for debt and the lowest offer from a new contractor was from Mr Shearer at a cost of 5d per mile.

And who knew the Kirrie local branch code was 117820? Will this change with the new locus – who knows?

News of the forthcoming change was discussed at Kirriemuir Community Council and whilst some welcomed the continuation of Post Office services in town, others questioned the location of the proposed new site given traffic congestion in the town centre and its close proximity to the bus stop outside Age Concern. The change is part of a programme of ‘modernisation’ taking place across the Post Office network. The Post Office Regional Network Manager, said: “This modernisation is part of a major investment programme, the largest in the history of the Post Office and marks a commitment to no more branch closure programmes.”

No one in the town I have spoken to thinks two tills in a wee shop will offer a better service.

Yours aye,

THE ORRAMAN