Mairiuna! I just received a package in the mail from our dear Scottish friends, Iain and Margaret, from Sanquhar, in which I discovered that the oldest post office in the world is located in their picturesque town on the river Nith, in the Dumfries and Galloway region.
Wow.. I’m so glad to learn about this fact!
The Crowns of England and Scotland had not been united for long when the post office opened its door to the public. Lots of activities were going on, each side of the border, and the Crichton family, owners of the Sanquhar Castle were very influential at that time.
No doubt they were frequent users of the postal services which were mainly confined to the aristocracy, until Sir Rowland Hill invented the “prepaid” postage stamp.
Here’s how it all began:
(…) The 1711 Act also empowered the establishment of Cross Posts, services between various towns, not on the main route to Edinburgh or London, and Bye Posts, which served as feeders to and from the Post Towns.
The men who carried the mail on foot were known as runners and they received fixed payments that, in many cases, were substantially greater than the salaries of the postmasters – an interesting reflection of relative values.
One of the earliest Cross Posts that was established was beetween Dumfries and Ayr, up the Nith Valley via Sanquhar ( pronunciation : SANK-er) and Cumnock.
This service was apparently established in 1712 and it would have been at this time that the present post office in Sanquhar started its long career as a change-house, where the runners rested and were refreshed, and exchanged mailbags before starting on their respective return journeys back to Dumfries or on to the next stage at Cumnock.
Source: Sanquhar Post Office, The Oldest Working Post Office in the World by Ken Thompson, copyright 2005
Ken Thompson, author of the book, was the owner and manager of the Sanquhar post office for the past 17 years.
Having occupied the same house since its inception, this post office is unique and was officially recognized in a British pictorial postmark in 1974.
I am delighted to have been introduced to this fantastic aspect of Scotland’s postal history and I wish to say ” Merci beaucoup” to Iain and Margaret for their very kind attention in sending these documents.
Both booklets, the pictorial postmark, along with the photograph of today’s Post Office building , will occupy a very special place in my Scottish Topical stamp collection.