The current owners of Sanquhar Post Office will soon retire due to ill-health next May – and if a buyer cannot be found, the story ends there
THE world’s oldest working post office may be closed for good – as its owners are retiring next spring.
Serving the same small town since 1712, it began life as a staging post for mail carriages crossing the English-Scottish border.
When it opened its doors Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch, was on the throne. Electricity would not be discovered for another 100 years.
The current owners of Sanquhar Post Office will soon retire due to ill-health next May – and if a buyer cannot be found, the story ends there.
Officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the oldest post office in the world, it serves a community of 2 000 in the countryside north of Dumfries in south-west Scotland. It is also, naturally, a major attraction for stamp collectors.
The current owners are Dr Manzoor Alam, 77, and his wife Nazra, 67. Dr Alam is a former NHS doctor who bought the branch five years ago, inspired by his own love of stamp collecting and the postal system.
Alam, a former nurse, said: “This post office provides an awful lot of services. We still do banking, car taxes and people pay their bills here. It keeps the town going and has served the community well.
“I’m going to be heartbroken if it doesn’t sell and continue as a post office. If my health was better I’d carry on but I’ve got to call it a day now. It’s really sad.”
She says the branch performs a crucial role because there has been only one bank in the town since the local Royal Bank of Scotland closed in 2014.
Sanquhar predates the world’s second-oldest post office, in Stockholm, Sweden, by eight years. The third oldest, in Santiago, Chile, opened in 1772.
In 307 years at Sanquhar there have been only 16 postmasters and mistresses, with a single family, the Hogarths, taking on the role for much of the 20th century.
“This is a piece of history. There are a lot of memories attached. It is crucial to our nation’s heritage to keep this going,” Alam said.
The branch is on the market for £275 000 and comes with a three-bedroom cottage.
Alam insists it is a viable business. “When we bought it, it wasn’t necessarily to make money,” she said. “We bought it to preserve it and keep it going for its historic value. But let’s put it this way, I’m not out of pocket. Communities across the country still love the Post Office. We have folk come in from other villages because we are not in a supermarket. We are made for what they want. We aren’t all cluttered like big shops.
“We have very knowledgeable staff and they focus on what the customers want.”
Alam and her husband will be moving to Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands to spend time with family.
“The last five years have been very enjoyable but I hope to put my feet up when I move back south.”
Duncan Close, chairman of Sanquhar and District community council, said: “We’re sorry to see them go and it’s sad to think we could lose our post office. We will do everything we can to ensure it does find a buyer.”
Local councillor Andrew Wood added: “It’ll be a sad day if it does close. Post offices are a lifeline for the elderly. It’s not just about collecting pensions, it’s about meeting other people.”
The Daily Mail has successfully campaigned for the Government and the Post Office to save branches hit by funding cuts which have forced many postmasters to sell up.
On Monday, it was announced that postmasters would receive an average £3 200 salary boost in a bid to halt the trend. And last week, Barclays reversed its decision to stop its customers withdrawing cash from post offices after the Mail highlighted how the decision would hit thousands of people.