Alford in the 1940s

Alford from South_0002

Our best guess for this one is 1947. It shows the Alford Main Street looking west towards the Haughton Arms Hotel. The photographer must have been standing outside what is today the Royal Bank of Scotland.

I discovered this photo in my mother’s loft. She has no recollection of how it came to be there, when it was taken, or any of the people it shows, but she narrows it to the immediate post-war years based on the fashions and the shops.

Among the interesting buildings are Alexander and Wilson’s chemist shop on the left in the middle distance, which must have sold cigarettes because a “Players Please” sign hangs above the door. It is still Wilson’s the Chemist nearly 70 years later. My recollections of the shop in the 1960s include a wonderful smell of what I now know to be lavender, possibly with a hint of menthol, and row after row of old-style bottles of Latin-labelled potions and powders, and a huge bank of mahogany drawers, each containing medicaments of various kinds.

Mr Wilson, grandfather of the current chemist, was a kindly soul with a twinkle behind his gold-rimmed half-moon glasses. He had a thriving trade in sweeties, and occasionally handed out a free pear drop. I have a vague memory that he always wore a three-piece suit with a fob watch.

On the opposite side of the street is one of the village banks. It became the Clydesdale Bank eventually and sadly shut its doors for the last time in July, 2014, in the latest round of retail banking cuts.

To the right is Willie Stewart’s bakery, with his delivery van parked on the pavement. It was one of two village bakeries for many years, the other run at the other end the village by his brother John. From being a two-baker village, Alford is now a no-baker village. Like many other small communities in North-east Scotland, its shops bring in bakery products daily from larger-scale bakeries in bigger towns.

It’s a shame. There was something special about wandering past a working bakehouse with a warm, yeasty smell of softies and butteries wafting across the road.

Filed Under: AberdeenshireFeaturedHistoryOld photosScotland


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  1. Avril Spence says:

    You’re right, few high streets have traditional shops these days. We enjoy visiting Moffat partly because it has a “proper” high street with a butcher, baker and a newsagent which is independent.

    Concerning bakeries, my husband was just saying the other day that it was impossible to find floury baps these days and that rowies were often sweet.

    I grew up in Bucksburn and we were lucky to have a full range of shops then including a line of Co-op shops, two chemists and the excellent Chalmers Bakery. The co-ops are long gone but Chalmers is still there, run by the son of the founder I believe.

    • Norman says:

      Peebles is another eye-opener, Avril. You can count me as a fan of Chalmers butteries, too. I once spent a night-shift there as a young features writer in the early 1980s watching them being made. When you see how they work huge mounds of dough, you realise that bakers aren’t weaklings. If you commuted to the academy from Bucksburn, did you travel with John Moir and Gary Trail, who would have been in the year below you?

  2. Avril Spence says:

    Sorry, I can’t recall John Moir although the name Gary Trail sounds familiar. I must have a think.

    Breadmaking is indeed a very physical thing as well as something a little bit magical. In the days when I wasn’t working and I was fit to do it I used to spend a day a week baking bread. Kneading eight batches of dough isn’t for softies. The bread and rolls were meant to last a whole week but rarely did. I followed Delia’s recipes of course.

    We first visited Moffat as a stop-over on a caravanning holiday to the Lake District but we’ve gone back several times since. Peebles isn’t somewhere I think we’ve visited.

    Until very recently the Michies chemist shop in Banchory had the sort of old fashioned bottles and jars you recall along with wooden drawers which had gold labels. It was renovated and has lost that charm.

    • Norman says:

      Both travelled on the daily double-decker from Bucksburn, although Gary lived at Dyce. John lived somewhere in the Sclattie area.
      I ask because, out of the blue, John contacted me via the website just last month: the first time I had heard from him in nearly 40 years. He is now top man in Hewlett-Packard’s operation in Botswana.

      • Avril Spence says:

        Sorry, I’ve racked my brains and can’t come up with memories of either. There was a large Moir family (all boys) in the Cloverfield area but none of them went to Inverurie Academy as far as I know.

        The people I can remember who I caught the bus with were Pamela Willox, Richard Crade, Arlene Daun and George Payne.

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