Longest-serving Scots postmistress, 83, to retire

AFTER 61 years behind the counter, Britain’s longest serving postmistress is set to make her last delivery.

Esther Brauer, Britain's longest-serving postmistress, is set to retire next month. Picture: Peter Jolly
Esther Brauer, Britain's longest-serving postmistress, is set to retire next month. Picture: Peter Jolly

Problems dealing with her computer have finally forced Esther Brauer to close Kylesku Post Office in Sutherland - which she runs from an 8ft x 6ft wooden shed.

In a career which has spanned seven decades, the 83-year-old also saw the introduction of postcodes and the internet - but it is web which has proved her final undoing.

Now Ether’s retirement on May 19 - and her “outstanding” dedicated service - is to be recognised by the Scottish Parliament.

Esther Brauer outside the shed that serves as her post office. Picture: Peter Jolly

Last year Esther received a Long Service Award from the Post Office and a cheque for £400.

But today she admitted that it was time to finally call it a day.

“I only posted one letter today - and that was from myself,” said Esther.

“On a busy day I deal with five or six letters. Letters and stamps are my biggest workload. I expect I sell about 100 stamps in a year.

“As for pensions - the only two pensioners in Kylesku are my husband and myself.

“But I get lots of tourists and visitors. The other day one lady returned again this year and brought me boxes of chocolates - others send me Christmas cards, postcards and letters - in fact at Christmas I receive more cards from well wishers who have come to my post office than I send out from the community.

“I don`t have a lot of customers now but I`ve got to know them all as friends. There are only nine adult residents in Kylesku but there`s a fair number of seasonal hotel staff.

“I love my job and I am very sad to give it up. But I have had terrible trouble with my computer lately. Engineers have come out and it seems terribly slow at sending things out.

“It is going doolally and it’s doing my head in.

“It has beaten me. A nice lady came from the Post Office and said ‘do you want to retire?’ And I simply said ‘yes.’”

Esther began work in 1953 - the year of the Queen’s Coronation - first working from a post office that was part of her house, and for the past 31 years she has worked from the wooden hut in her garden.

She provides a six-days-a-week service at Kylesku and said the biggest change over the years had been “the computer.”

Local Highland MSP Rob Gibson is laying down a motion to the Scottish Parliament recognising Esther’s “outstanding” service and contribution to the area.

“She is remarkable. Frankly Esther is beyond praise. She is a role model and an example to us all. The dedicated service she has given to her area and the Post Office is incredible and amazing,” he said.

Mr Gibson said the Post Office had written to him to say that as for the future “further provision will reflect customer usage”.

“They say they may take the opportunity to establish an alternative type of service, such as an outreach service from another sub post office in the area,” said the SNP politician, who is also Convenor of Holyrood’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment. Committee.

“But who - or whatever - takes over will never replace Esther.”

Originally from Elphin, 18 miles away, Esther settled in Kylesku aged 18 when she married her first husband, Ian Clark, whose parents ran the old post office from their home. When they moved to Tain she took over the job.

After her first husband died, Esther married Walter Brauer, now aged 88, former head ferryman at Kylesku, and they moved a mile along the road to his home at Ferry House, where she has run the post office from a shed since 1983.

Until she was 60, she was also the local post woman, delivering mail on an arduous 18-mile route. When she stood down from that role she was presented with a gold watch by the community.

A spokesman for the Post Office said it was believed Esther was the longest serving - but not oldest - subpostmaster in the UK.