Island postie hanging up bag after 100,000 miles on one road

Keith Rutherford, delivering the mail on the isle of Colonsay, has clocked up 100,000 miles on his postal
delivery rounds - on an island with only 12 miles of road.
Keith Rutherford, delivering the mail on the isle of Colonsay, has clocked up 100,000 miles on his postal delivery rounds - on an island with only 12 miles of road.
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A postman is taking a well-earned rest after clocking up an incredible 100,000 mile journey delivering the mail on an island with only 12 miles of road.

Keith Rutherford, 70, who took over the mail run on Colonsay in 1985, “semi-retired” – but will still deliver the mail on Wednesdays to give his successor a day off.

Mr Rutherford knows every inch of the circular road round the Inner Hebridean island, which is home to 120 people.

In all weathers his Royal Mail duties have also included delivering the post to the four inhabitants of Oronsay, a tidal island which is connected to Colonsay at low tide.

Mr Rutherford, whose outstanding contribution to Colonsay has been highlighted by Argyll MP Brendan O’Hara in an Early Day Motion to Parliament, has made many midnight deliveries to fit in with the tides.

He said: “I have seen other people, who were getting into a wee bit of difficulty getting across from Oronsay over the years, and I have had to pick them up.”

Mr Rutherford added that his own late-night mail drops were stopped, on the orders of Royal Mail, after he found himself stranded overnight, unable to cross The Strand, which separates Oronsay from Colonsay.

He said: “It was one of those inky nights and I made two attempts coming back from Oronsay, I tried to position the vehicle to where I thought it should be going – but the rocks look different in the dark.

“The third time I tried, the tide was coming in and I couldn’t see where the tyre marks were, I did a U-turn and went the wrong way, I had to stay there all night.”

Although there is only 12 miles of road on Colonsay, the myriad of tracks and the 11-mile return trip to Oronsay means the post run usually clocks up 30 to 36 miles a day.

Mr Rutherford has used a variety of vehicles, including a Land Rover and postbus to deliver the mail over the years.

He said: “When I had the Land Rover, that did 35,000 miles and the next two did about 30,000 miles – I have probably driven about 100,000 miles here on Colonsay.”

Mr Rutherford is from Derby but after meeting a local girl, Mary, who he went on to marry in 1975, he and his late wife settled on the island and he worked in the gardens of Colonsay House.

He took over the shop and post office in 1978, when their son, Kenneth, was just two.

Mr Rutherford said: “Then, in 1985, the postman’s job became available and I applied for that job and got it. It was quite a lot of hard work doing the shop as well in the summer but my wife was helping out and I employed a local girl too.”

Brendan O’Hara said: “He is an absolute shining example of what our communities need, people that come in and put down roots.”