Whithorn as we know it today is a far cry from the Whithorn I spent my childhood in. Shops have closed and businesses have gone.
In the sixties, we had Molly Hannah’s sweet shop opposite Costcutter. We had Denton’s bakery, where Essential was. Jack Kilpatrick’s television shop. Cathy Hughes’s sweetie shop. Kinnear’s clothing and carpets, where Ketview Kitchens are now, then Sam Gordon’s grocery shop, which also had a wee cafe then, almost next door to Martin’s shoe shop. Eddie Gibson had an ironmonger opposite the war memorial, with petrol pumps on the main street!
We had Archie Taylor’s grocer’s, Mullholland’s dress shop, Peggy Cain’s wee ice-cream shop and McGhie TV repairs, not to mention Jessie Guffie’s top of the town shop.
We had two chemists, John Baxter and Jack Hannah, along with G B Drape’s ironmongery and farm supplies. There were two paper shops and a fancy goods shop, and Jimmy Whannel’s grocer’s in St John Street, and a bike shop as well.
There was Brown and Charters clothing, not to mention no fewer than four thriving pubs, and, of course, Doughty’s Fishmonger’s. Shops like the Central Cafe and Galloway’s have always been there, as has the Post Office. The above has to be married to the fact that jobs were more plentiful in that era, especially on the farms as we are predominantly an agricultural community.
We also had the creamery, Wyllie’s stores, West Cumberland Farmers’ store, and a thriving piggery. We had a blacksmith’s and a tractor repair garage. Slowly but inexorably change came into farming. Bigger, more advanced machinery and milking layouts and parlours appeared. The combine harvester halved the work on the farms and men were needed in ever-decreasing numbers, so job losses ensued.
Bigger creameries appeared and led to the demise of our wee creamery. Wyllie’s store closed and the Solway Precast in Creetown, a major source of employment, also shut. “Progress” marched on and the list of unemployed grew. No longer had families the money to spend supporting local shops and some fell by the wayside, never to re-open.
Nowadays monster tractors and huge farm machines gobble up the crops which would have kept a team of men employed all those years ago. Modern times call for modern methods, but I often think back and wonder if the dole queues might have been just that little bit smaller in Whithorn had progress not been so impelling.