Island post office’s manager leaves after 40 years

IT IS described with tongue- in-cheek humour as the “Harrods of the island”, providing residents and visitors to Islay with everything from milk to ammunition.

Post office staff in 1925. Picture: Museum of Islay Life

Now a new tenant is being sought to take over the historic Bridgend Post Office and General Store on Islay to ensure the lifeline service and social hub remains in place for the 3,500-strong population.

Under the stewardship of Jimmy Campbell for the past 40 years, business has burgeoned. The post office now boasts an impressive turnover of £1.8 ­million a year.

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Campbell, who is retiring due to ill health, is proud of how he has grown his business from a “typical island shop” into a place where islanders can pick up a huge range of products.

“We provide the type of ­service where we will obtain things for people who have special requests. We try to ­accommodate all requests,” he said.

“Over the last 40 years we went way beyond providing general foodstuffs. We started selling items such as fishing tackle to shotguns. We provided outdoor clothing, including wellies, and airguns and ­ammunition. We are not your standard Spar store. The strangest request was for someone wanting to buy worms to make compost in their garden. We managed to get a supply. That was the most obscure.”

He added: “Like most village stores we know our customers very well and get to know them on a social basis. If there is something they are seeking, we will go out of our way to get it. It’s a very personalised business and I want someone coming in to be of the same mind.”

The post office dates back to 1744, when Islay’s population was around 18,000. Although that has declined significantly, the island is visited by ­hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

The shop’s popularity has been boosted by its convenient location, sitting at the crossroads of the two most used roads on the island.

Susan Campbell, editor of the Ileach, the newspaper that covers Islay and neighbouring Jura, said: “The shop is absolutely essential. It is an essential part of the island for locals and tourists. We are all very much hoping that someone as helpful and obliging as Jimmy Campbell comes in.

“He could stock everything from a needle to an anchor. If they don’t have it they will get it. The shop is the centre of the island, and helps employ several local people.”

Islay Estates Company has instructed CKD Galbraith to seek rental offers in the region of £25,000 per annum to take over the 850sq ft store with a three-bedroom cottage, freezer shop and filling station.

The store is located in the hamlet of Bridgend, which is home to a thriving agricultural and tourist industry and best known for its nearby whisky distilleries, including Bowmore, Ardbeg and Lagavulin.

Harry Stott, associate of CKD Galbraith, said: “This is a unique instruction and offers a life-changing opportunity for someone to take on an established, thriving shop that has an excellent track record and is for many the heartbeat of this magical isle.”

The shop sits on the junction from Port Askaig to Port Ellen and the road to Port Charlotte and Portnahaven.