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Blow as butcher and baker close the doors


By Graham Crawford

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Bill and Douglas Murray with some of their grocers and bakery staff outside the family business which closed on Saturday after almost 120 years in Main Street, Gardenstown.
Bill and Douglas Murray with some of their grocers and bakery staff outside the family business which closed on Saturday after almost 120 years in Main Street, Gardenstown.

Bill and Douglas Murray with some of their grocers and bakery staff outside the family business which closed on Saturday after almost 120 years in Main Street, Gardenstown.

GARDENSTOWN has suffered a heavy blow with the closure of its famous bakery and grocers and a neighbouring butcher’s shop.

No fewer than 17 full-time and part-time jobs were lost when Murray Brothers bakers and confectioners in Main Street shut its doors for the last time on Saturday.

As well as the loss of the jobs at the village’s largest employer, there was also great sadness at the loss of a traditional family business and name going back almost 120 years.

Bill Fraser, the neighbouring butcher, said the loss of mutual business between the Seatown area’s only two outlets, meant he had no option but to close too after a presence of 31 years in the village.

He and his assistant, Nicky Menard, also now find themselves out of work.

"It is a sad affair, but it is a sign of the times," Mr Fraser (51) told the ‘Banffshire Journal’ last Thursday. "I am not sure how I am going to feel after I close the door for the final time.

"I am so grateful to all my regulars who have stood by me over the years, otherwise I would have had to close a lot sooner.

"I provided Murray Brothers with the meat for their produce, and they covered and fired my pies.

"The bakery closing is too big a hole for me to survive."

VILLAGE HEART

One of his customers, who did not want named, said: "This is all desparately sad. To lose the bakers and the butchers is like the heart going out of the village."

The Murray Brothers’ grocers store will continue under a new name. New owner Amanda McIntyre has vowed to keep it open alongside a planned coffee shop, however she was unable to retain any staff and will be assisted by her teenage son and daughter.

When she first made an approach to take over the premises last year, brothers Bill (69) and Douglas (67), who both live in Gardenstown, felt it was an offer they could not refuse.

They admitted that the business they had run together up to seven days a week since leaving school was starting to take its toll.

"It’s all we’ve kent, but it was becoming a struggle physically, particularly for my brother who was still leading most of the bakery work," admitted Bill. "If the offer had not come in from Amanda we might have gone on till summer or the end of the year.

"We took over from our father after leaving Bracoden School at the age of 15 to work here.

"We have employed a lot of folk from the village over the years, women and retired fishermen.

"Crovie James (Watt) was still working with us as a part-time van driver and he is 82."

Bill Fraser also shut his door in Main Street, Gardenstown for the last time in Saturday, ending 31 years in the village.
Bill Fraser also shut his door in Main Street, Gardenstown for the last time in Saturday, ending 31 years in the village.

Bill Fraser also shut his door in Main Street, Gardenstown for the last time in Saturday, ending 31 years in the village.

Douglas told the ‘Banffshire Journal’ last Thursday: "I have very mixed feelings about this, and the past few weeks have passed very quickly.

"I will be sorry to see the end of the family business, and it is hard to speak about it. I have enjoyed my work but it is hard physically and the pace has increased as I’ve got older.

"I have been getting up before 6am since I was a boy of 13 delivering rolls. I used to start at 4am for the bakery but it got earlier as the years went by. I’m now up at 1.30am for a 2am start, and holidays were infrequent.

"I’ve essentially been tied to the place seven days a week."

His son, Steven (39), is a foreman in the bakery where he has worked since he was 15. A father of three, he is hoping to find work soon offshore.

Produce from the bakery was delivered all over the North-east, from Elgin to Peterhead and Aberdeen.

The past few decades have seen big changes for both Murray Brothers and Bill Fraser’s butcher shop.

Strong demand to supply Gardenstown fishing boats fell away as decommissioning saw the number of boats sailing out of the harbour drop from almost 50 to around 15.

At one point Murrays could employ four women full-time on a Saturday just to make up the orders for the fishermen.

"A lot of people up the Brae don’t come down to shop," said Mr Fraser. "The hill’s too steep to walk and it is too difficult to get parked in Main Street.

"I will miss my customers. They have become friends, and have been really good in supporting the shop. Without their loyalty I would have been finished years ago.

"I thanked one lady recently for her support, and she said, ‘no, I can only thankyou for giving us such good, quality produce all these years’. That was really appreciated.

"I was also a regular at the monthly Macduff Farmers Market, however I have arranged for another butcher to take over my stall.

"What will I do now? I’m not sure – it’s time for a fresh start."

Also looking for a fresh start are some of the full and part-time workers at Murrays.

Sandra West (50), from Gardenstown, worked there full-time for the past 24 years. "There is no work in the village, and it is not a good time to be looking for work elsewhere," she said.

"A lot of people are going to be affected by this in different ways. We catered for all the village’s school fetes and Sunday school picnics, and the likes of the harbour gala.

"We even have holidaymakers from England who regularly ask us to post them their favourite cakes. That will all end."

* Do you have fond memories of Murray Brothers bakery and grocers or the butcher’s shop? Write to Letters, ‘The Banffshire Journal’, 22 Old Market Place, Banff AB45 1GE, or e-mail@banffshire-journal.co.uk



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