Helensburgh Advertiser

Garelochhe­ad braced for loss of Post Office and dedicated service

- Tristan Stewart-Robertson

“I will definitely miss you when you go,” says a customer to Evanda Street, the retiring sub-postmaster of Garelochhe­ad.

“Sorry,” she replies. “I think I have done my stint.”

She and Anne McQueen will retire and close the core shop on March 28, removing many vital services for the area.

Their decision comes from a combinatio­n of a desire to wind down and not face the 5.30am starts every day.

But they lay most of the blame on the Post Office for making the business unsustaina­ble.

Evanda, 74, and Anne, 61, have consistent­ly gone above and beyond. During Covid they started delivering pensions to some elderly residents who couldn’t get to the facility in person.

Six pensioners are still getting that Monday service.

“People don’t care about that any more,” says Evanda.

“We used to know everybody walking down the street.”

The Post Office used to be in Feorlin Way, and also across the street from its current location.

Anne, whose mum ran the Post Office before her, says some local vendors only take cash, and their shop is a place to access that. Now residents face having to go to Rosneath or Helensburg­h.

Post Office services have been on offer in Garelochhe­ad for 77 and a half hours a week.

Anne proposed to bosses that the annual salary be raised to £25,000.

But the Post Office told her they would make other arrangemen­ts as they favour services within other shops, rather than a standalone branch.

The current salary is £9,000 a year, and the Post Office wanted to cut that by £4,000.

There is a fee of £14,000 a year for transactio­ns.

Anne says there was a woman who missed her usual weekly newspaper collection, prompting fears for her wellbeing. Someone checked on her and discovered that she was ill but otherwise OK.

“That’s part of being part of the community,” says Anne.

“You’re not contracted to do that. But that’s what your nature is.

“The Post Office doesn’t care about anything like that. They don’t care about it being a central point of the village.

“My brother and I put a letter into the Post Office saying we would take the building on, if on the same contract. We could not do it with the pay cut.

“Without the morning trade and parcels, it would not be a viable concern.”

The pair, who co-own the property, have charged only minimal rent for a decade to retain the Post Office, and they have avoided passing on many transactio­n costs to the firm.

In the letter, Anne wrote: “Historical­ly, Garelochhe­ad Post Office has been subsidised by my family for 35 years as we felt it was important for the village to have the services of the Post Office.

“We also modernised the premises with open counters at no cost to PO Ltd.

“By retaining the current subpostmas­ter contract, Garelochhe­ad Post Office is still a substantia­lly financiall­y profitable operation for PO Ltd.”

Anne said she felt “insulted” by the current salary, which had not increased in at least a decade.

They have two cash registers, and even that isn’t enough to cope with the trade at some points in the day.

Customers and residents “will just have to go to Helensburg­h or around to Rosneath”.

“I don’t know how they will cope,” Anne said. “The Post Office doesn’t care.”

“That’s the bottom line,” added Evanda.

The Post Office told the Advertiser the blame was on Anne and Evanda.

A spokespers­on said: “The temporary Postmistre­ss who runs Garelochhe­ad Post Office has resigned.

“The premises are also being withdrawn for Post Office use on Thursday, March 28 at 5.30pm. We want to thank the current Postmistre­ss who has run this branch for the past 10 years.

“The vacancy is currently advertised on www.runapostof­fice. co.uk and we would welcome interest in the business opportunit­y. We are in talks with local retailers.

“We apologise for any inconvenie­nce caused by any temporary closure. Alternativ­e branches are at Rosneath and Helensburg­h, which are both open daily from early until late.”

Laurie Breach, 29, one of the owners of The Perch cafe, a short distance along the road, said: “I think it will be a huge loss. They’re really reliable, really lovely and it’s a bit of a queue in Helensburg­h.

“As a business, we use them quite a lot for banking. It will change that. People will feel the loss. Everyone knows everyone. It’s going to be a real shame.”

Local MSP Jackie Baillie said it was “disgracefu­l” that the Post Office was “happy to lose branches”.

She said: “I am disappoint­ed that, amidst the current Horizon scandal, Post Office Ltd has still not learned to offer hard-working postmaster­s and postmistre­sses the respect they deserve.

“I would urge the Post Office to recognise the efforts of Ms McQueen and her family and do their utmost to recognise their wealth of service to the company.

“It is vital that services such as this are retained in rural communitie­s like Garelochhe­ad.”

And once it’s gone, Evanda warns, it won’t come back.

“It will be a bit strange,” she said.

“You will still see people you know. As long as they don’t come to the door wanting a stamp.”

Anne added: “This must happen country-wide when old people are leaving these one-village post offices. It’s the Post Office’s way of avoiding having to pay somebody.”

Anne says she’s looking forward to later starts to the morning, whie Evanda has children and brothers she will now have time to visit.

There will be an open day in The Anchor Inn in the village, on a date yet to be announced, for residents and regulars to pop along to raise a glass to Anne and Evanda and their years of dedication and service to the village.

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 ?? ?? Evanda Street and Anne McQueen have served Garelochhe­ad for many years. Image: Newsquest
Evanda Street and Anne McQueen have served Garelochhe­ad for many years. Image: Newsquest

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