24. Post Offices of Tweedsmuir.

We are indebted to the Rev. Gray Minister of Tweedsmuir who completed the entry for Tweedsmuir in the Third Statistical Account of 1964(1).   It is here that he states "The Post Office has been variously located at the Crook, then at the Bield, then at the Old Toll, then Newbigging, at Quilt Burn, and now at Oliver Bank.   It is, of course, more than a post office and supplies needs even more various than its own changes of site."

Oliver Bank remained as the post office until c2000 when it reverted back to the Crook where it remained until the Crook finally closed in 2006.  The post office over the years has been at seven locations - the first and last being the Crook.

The Bield could claim however that it had the earliest post office by a long way as John Graham of Claverhouse (Bluidy Clavers) when staying at the Bield in 1682 sent "ane express" to the Duke of Queensbury at Drumlanrig.(2)  This service could be termed a Postal Pony Express!  see page 1.5. Bield.  

The GPO inluded the telephone service as well as the postal service.   The first telephone service to the Tweedsmuir area c1900 would have been one line, longlined probably from Biggar, with a Biggar telephone number.  The first telephone service proper with Tweedsmuir numbers would have been provided by a manual switchboard then subsequently an automatic exchange that were always located at what is now called The Old Telephone Exchange building. This building also housed repeaters on the trunk cable routes to/from the south.  The current exchange is now located in a new building next door.

The Rev Gray did not mention any dates of the various moves of the post office.   However the following gives an approximate time line.

c1830 and for several decades prior during the stage coach era the post office would have been at the Crook Inn.   In June 1824 the Rev William Ker "writing from Leith to relatives at Heartstanes to tell them about a family funeral ...we write to you by the coach.   We expect this will come to your hand tomorrow as soon as the post reaches Crook."(3).   We know that the coach service was still running in 1831 as that is when the mail carrying coach heading north from Moffat was caught in a snow storm several miles short of Tweedshaws.  Both the driver and guard of the coach perished.   See page 13 Postie Stone

According to the 1841, 1851 and 1861 census the Bield was the post office.   However as 1841 was the first census the Bield could have been a Post Office prior to that date.   According to the 1841, 1851 and 1861 census Tweedie McGarth was the  post master.  In the 1871 Census Tweedie McGarth is now a sub post master.    He died in 1876 and it was probably at this time that the post office moved to the Old Toll.

The actual dates of when the post office was at the Old Toll House is difficult to ascertain but it was not long as by the OS map of 1897 the post office is shown as being at Newbigging.   The census of 1881 and the census of 1891 do not indicate where the post office actually was during this period.   The census of 1891 shows that a Mary Ann Tod , aged 18, living at Oliver Bank was a "Post Runner".   The census of 1901 shows that Agnes G Currie, aged 24, living at Newbigging was a "Post Office Clerk" her father and brother being tailors at that address.  The Newbigging post office was on the south of the main lane from the main road to Carlow's Bridge - see map and image with post office on the right below.  The site of the Newbigging P.O. is recognised by HES and is on Canmore ID 263763.  The Old Toll House was at the lane juntion on the main road.   Oliver Bank is the building on the west side of the main road opposite Newbigging. The building opposite the PO was the residence of shepherds employed by Oliver(1) - notably a James Geddes(2). -not much now remains of this cottage.



The upper right of the notices on the wall of the PO announces Tweedsmuir Post Office

However, although the census of 1901 shows Agnes Currie as a Post Office Clerk at Newbigging the same census and also maps indicate that there was also a post office at Quilt Burn as stated by the Rev. Gray above.   The cottage here formally named as Kingledores Cottage was now named the Polmood Post Office.   The cottage is located on the west side of the main road about a mile north of Polmood House ie in Drumellzier Parish.  The 1901 census shows that the occupier was James Turnbull a shepherd with his wife Williamina Turnbull the postmistress and their daughter Janet, aged 14, a Telegraphist.   The 1911 census indicates that Williaminia is still the Postmistress with Janet, now 24, a Letter Deliverer and her younger sister Isabella a Post Office Assistant.  

Williamina had a side interest in publishing postcards with real photographs.   Below is a detail of the reverse  of one of her postcards - of Polmood House - showing her business address.  The date of the post mark cannot be ascertained but it was posted in Broughton and the stamp was of George V.  To see the image of Polmood House with impressive entrance gates go to page 25 Polmood and the Hunter Family

Above map of c1900 shows Polmood Post office beside the Quilt Burn at the 34 Milestone.   The cottage is sandwiched between the main road and the new railway line to the Talla Dam.  There is a footbridge across the railway cutting at the rear of the property to allow the occupier - James Turnbull, a shepherd, access to the hills.  The Turnbulls were resident in the property in 1891 when it was known as Kingledores Cottage.   They must have witnessed the construction of the railway as it went passed their property.  Prior to being at Kingledores Cottage the Turnbulls were at Gameshope in Tweedsmuir.    James and Williamina were married at Gameshope in 1884 by the Rev. John Dick, the Minister for Tweedsmuir.   The reason that the Rev. Dick had to go all the way to Gameshope to carry out the nuptials was that Williamina was eight months pregnant!

The census of 1901 appears to show that for a period that there were post offices at Newbigging and at Quilt Burn at the same time suggesting that there were two post offices for Tweedsmuir.   This concept is enhanced by a photograph of 1834 that shows the post office still at Newbigging. Photograph below.

The reason for the requirement for the Polmood Post Office is possibly due to the introduction of the telephone/telegarph service that had only got as far as Polmood.   This being the technical limit of the service that must have been longlined from Biggar with a Biggar telephone number.   The clue to this theory is the inclusion of a "telegraphist" in the census for 1901 at Polmood Post Office.  The post office at Polmood would close when the telephone/telegraph service reached Tweedsmuir.   The image of Tweedsmuir Post Office of 1934 above shows the Telephone pole against the gable end of the house and the sign that announces Post Office, Telephone. 

The "roll out" of the rural telephone service appears to have been rather slow and done in stages.   The service south of Tweedsmuir Village did not take place until 1949(1) when it reached Glenbreck, Fingland and Badlieu.   It never did reach as far as Tweedshaws as that site was finally serviced from Moffat.

The Rev. Gray states that the post office is "and now at Oliver Bank".  The Rev. wrote the entry for The Statistical Account in 1951.   However the Rev. Gray died in 1957 and his entry was "revised" by a third party in 1963 prior to publication in 1964.   Hence we can say that the move to Oliver Bank was before 1963 but more likely it could have been prior to 1951.

Oliver Bank acquired a red telephone box on the roadside with a post box and the community notice board on the pathway.  The Postmistress at Oliver Bank for many years was a widow Mrs. Dalgleish.   She had the post office in her left front room.   She had a very large retired sheep dog as sentinel at her door that kept customers corralled in the porch until Mrs Dalgleish had been summoned from the rear of the house.   As soon as she was installed behind the counter the dog gave you permission to enter.   However the postman who came daily to empty the post box and to pick up parcels/packages etc was greeted as a long lossed friend.  The site of the Oliver Bank P.O. is recognised by HES and is on Canmore ID 98024.

c2000 Mrs. Dalgleish retired and the post office moved back to the Crook Inn.  The post box and community notice board were moved to the cross-roads in Tweedsmuir.   The telephone box disappeared its use having been superseded by the mobile telephone.  

The Crook had its own post box beside the main road and also a telephone kiosk inside that was in an elegant polished wooden enclosure - Art Deco?   The post office remained at the Crook until it sadly finally closed in 2006.


1)  Gray, G. J. W. Rev; Third Statistical Account, Peeblesshire, Tweedsmuir Parish, Collins, Glasgow, 1964. p189.

2)  Scottish History Society; Miscellany, Claverhouse Letters, Edinburgh, 1990.  Vol XI p183.

3)  Scott, Sheila, Compiler; Tales of Tweedsmuir Glimpses of an Upland Parish in the Past, Biggar, 1995. pp 2 and 5.


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