For long beyond living memory, despite being a sma’ toun of just 6,000 Souters, Selkirk has sustained at least three butchers’ shops: Halliwells’ in the Market Place, Waters’ of High Street and Kerr’s in Tower Street.
In fact, retired butcher John Nairn remembers when he came to work at Kerr’s during the 1960s, the Royal Burgh kept as many as five on the go. Now that era is coming to its end, as T. Kerr butchers has been sold as an arts and crafts shop.
Mr Nairn, who bought the business in 1981 from the late David Kerr, said selling the building, which has a history of more than 100 years in the trade, was sad, but a sign of the times.
“Times change. These are the days of supermarkets and people aren’t eating as much red meat as they used to,” he said, adding: “The era has gone, the shop’s butchering days are over.”
But it was not for want of his trying. “I retired three years ago, and I tried three different tenants,” he said, “and every one didn’t last a year. The fourth one didn’t stand a chance. That trade has gone now.”
David Kerr inherited the family business from his father, Thomas ‘Tammy’ Kerr, who inherited it from his father, also called Thomas Kerr. Before them, the butcher was owned by J. Blair. Mr Nairn, who became an apprentice at the Tower Street shop in 1964 beside David Kerr, always kept the family’s trusted name, T Kerr & Son, painted above the door.
After 2009, when Mr Nairn retired from the trade (without a single day off sick), the butchery passed first to Grant McLusky of Galashiels, then to Craig Douglas of St Boswells, and finally to James Cockburn of Galashiels. But the counter has lain empty, and the window blinds drawn, for four months since Mr Cockburn called it quits in September.
Mr Nairn said: “Once that trade goes and people get into the habit of going to different butchers, and because the shop’s not on the High Street, it’s hard to claw those customers back. I was very lucky to sell it. At least now it’s not going to be shut.”
Indeed, there is another reason for Souters to be relieved, because the new shop draws on the illustrious textile history of Selkirk and the Borders.
The Tower Street shop’s new era began last week when it was bought by Jennifer Burgess, whose daughter Penny Burgess will sell vintage and antique textiles, such as linen, lace and clothing, as well as other arts and crafts. “I love textiles,” Penny told The Wee Paper, “and if they’re old and have a sense of history, I love them even more.”
Her shop will be an expansion of her internet-based company, Penelope’s Vintage & Antique Textiles. She plans to open by Easter.