LIFE AT PRESTONPANS POST OFFICE - Richard Ormiston
I joined the Post Office on 20 August
1967 and started First in Edinburgh GPO at Waterloo Place for
two weeks to learn the rudimentary' duties of a postman. After
this period I was sent for another two weeks training to Prestonpans
Post Office which became my permanent posting. Prestonpans was
made a Crown Office in the 1950s. The present business run by
Scot-Mid, counters only. has sub-post office status.
The Postmaster at that time was a Mr Hogg who was responsible
for counters etc. and I served under him until he retired. But
the main person to me was Finlay Ralton, PHG (Postman Higher Grade).
He was responsible for the running of the Sorting and Delivery
Office. I learned a lot from Finlay. both in theory and practice
and served under him until he retired in 1977 after 51 years.
I must not forget to mention Eddie Marshall who also was very
helpful. To start my working day I rose at 4.30am and signed in
for a 5.30am start. The mail for 1st Delivery came from GPO to
Musselburgh then Prestonpans. The mailbags were opened for sorting
into the various 'Walks', about fifteen of them. so many postmen
on letters, some on packets etc. and after that the staff proceeded
to their own Walks.
A Walk comprised of various frames and pigeon holes which were
allocated to different streets. My Walk was No 5. Eddie Marshall
was No 4. We both shared the top Pans which consisted of Polwarth
Terrace. South and North Crescents for No 4, Preston Village.
Gardiner and Bankton Terraces, and the Prestons Avenue. Terrace.
Road and Crescent for No 5. Once your Walk was made up it was
possible to be out on delivery by 7am.
Any pillar boxes on your Walk had to be cleared by a certain time.
my last port of call was Hawthorn Road Sub post office for their
mail to take back to the main Office. After that there was a half-hour
break and then the parcel round had to be delivered.
If it was your week for dispatching the outgoing mail. which was
also hand-sorted, you had to tic the bag(s) and carry them to
the bus stop at Ayres Wynd for the Edinburgh bus and chain and
padlock them to the rail on the bus platform. They were collected
at St Andrew Square by the postman on duty there. Then you crossed
over to the other side of Ayres Wynd and collected the incoming
mail for the Second Delivery from the Edinburgh bus.
For the Second Delivery a bicycle was used as there would be two
Walks involved and then back to the Mail Room to help the PHG.
Another duty we took in turn was to empty the money boxes from
the red telephone kiosks at Ayres Wynd. once a week and in the
dark with a torch!
On average, the hours were 5.30am to lpm, deliveries were two
daily. Monday to Friday and one on a Saturday. This lasted into
the late '80s and then '90s when things began to change with mechanisation
and new technology and also the introduction of the Postcode system,
no doubt for the best.
At Christmas time. from the 60s to the early 80s. things were
a little different. We started at 5am till 9pm some nights on
the two-week run-up to Christmas Eve. We were in the sorting office
all the time. never out on our Walks. 'Casuals' were employed
for this period from Preston Lodge 6th Year and the University.
Each Walk was split in two, one casual in each half. and you were
held responsible for their delivery.
At this time only. Head Office gave us the use of a franking machine
for Christmas cards: packages and parcels were hand-stamped. The
franking machine, at one time hand-driven then eventually electric,
was for outward mail to the various towns, cities, countries,
though this still had to be hand-sorted to the various destinations.
Also at this time the Grange Church Hall was used for the sorting
and storing of parcels for the district. A bus was hired to deliver
these around Prestonpans and to Cockeny.ic. Port Scion. Longniddry
When Finlay Ralton retired in 1977 there was a photo and interview
in the "Evening News" when he said "Of course,
things have changed a great deal since I started. In the old days
there were three daily deliveries and that meant a working day
of 6am to 7pm. Now everyone is finished just after lunch".
Then. the Post Office was in Dickson's the Printers and Stationers
on the site of the flats opposite Safeway's. Around 1950 it was
transferred to the tiny shop that had been Don the Chemist's at
the top of the Druggist's Wynd, where the Co-operative chemist
is now. After that it was in the former Buttercup Dairy shop at
the foot of Ayres Wynd. Finlay must have seen a great improvement
when the new Crown Post Office opened in 1958.
I must say the Post Office was a good employer to me but I was
still pleased to retire when I hung up my Post Bag in November.