THIS week, Chris Atkinson from the West Linton Historical Society turns back the clock on the villages shops and businesses...

By the last quarter of the 19th century the main street of West Linton had few thatched cottages left and many substantial public and commercial buildings had been erected.

Among these was a fine double fronted block, now the Co-op, built to accommodate a grocer’s shop.

In the 1850s this grocery and merchanting business, Archibald Alexander and Sons, was created. Part of his premises were separated off to form a branch of the Bank of Scotland with Archibald as bank agent in 1857.

This arrangement lasted until he formally retired from the bank in 1911. He was a very prosperous man by the standards of the day becoming a leading figure in the community as well as a JP.

The running of the grocery business fell to his son John who assisted in the bank. At Archibald’s death in 1922 the bank looked for new premises and bought Lyne Villa and built in the grounds the present bank which opened in 1926.

The grocery business continued, being leased to James Caird and later to William Watson. The Co-op eventually took over ownership and still runs a very popular shop in the centre of the village.

James Caird’s business saw the beginning of the end to horse drawn deliveries. Already provision had been made for fuelling and servicing of cars, for he had at the rear of his premises a garage and inspection pit where he was able ‘to do the engineering on a car’.

Up the main street his fellow shopkeeper Simon Low, butcher, was running two model T Ford delivery vans but Mr Caird however went one better for he was the owner of one of the first driverless vehicles.

It is told that Mr Melrose, the van man, being at one with his horse and upon finishing his rounds beyond Carlops on a Friday afternoon would partake of a little refreshment before allowing his horse to trot him safely home unaided.

William Watson’s shop however a few years later seems to have made provision for the visitor by having for sale ‘The uncutable cover “BIRDIE” golf ball’ for 2/6d and an untried plain golf ball for 1/-.

A plentiful supply of McVittie & Price biscuits was also on hand for the hungry golfer.

Archibald Alexander were he alive today would I am sure have been mortified to know that after 160 years of service the bank he set up had closed its doors on its customers.