A RETIRED couple have set up Scotland’s smallest official Post Office – in a flatpack garden shed.
Margaret and John McDowall were so fed up with the lack of a Post Office in their tiny rural community they took matters into their own hands.
Former civil engineer John and his hospital worker wife bought a £500 DIY shed and built it in the centre of Southend, Mull of Kintyre.
The Post Office approved the 8ft x 10ft structure and granted the couple official status as postmasters meaning they can proudly hang the organisation’s logo on the hut door.
The move has proved a massive hit with the 450 residents of Southend who previously faced a round trip of almost 50 miles just to post a letter.
The community lost its previous Post Office service – which operated out of the village pub – in November 2010 when the new owners decided they did not want to take on the role.
Margaret, 62, said: “John and I had been talking about it for ages.
“We were sick of trudging 24 miles to Campbeltown for the nearest office so we called the Post Office and said we wanted our own counter.
“They said no to building a new office but we said we planned to buy a shed and do it ourselves which they were fine with.”
John, 60, bought his future office for £518 in March and had the shed installed on a paving slab foundation, complete with full electrics and a phone line, by April 8.
The Post Office is even fitted with a burglar alarm linked to the nearest police station.
Margaret added: “We had it up and running in about a week or two. The Post Office then sent a training person out for a week who took us through the motions about how to carry out transactions.
“We’re open Monday to Friday from 10am to 12pm but on a Wednesday it’s 9am to 10am so that John can still get his golf – it’s good to help but he’s retired and deserves to enjoy himself too.”
She added: “I think we’re the smallest office in Scotland both in size and custom.
“There’s about 450 people we serve from surrounding villages and farms and we have about six customers a day.
“It’s not a lot but we can still do everything a larger office can – people can lift their pensions, pay their bills and top up their electricity meter.
“The only thing we don’t do is lottery tickets and vehicle road tax – we were told this has to be done at the bigger branches.”
For security purposes the new village postmasters take any valuables home with them and lock them in a safe.
Margaret added: “We wouldn’t dream of leaving anything – any cash or items of a valuable nature are taken home with us and locked up.
“We have full burglar alarms and it’s connected to the police station – but at the end of the day it’s still a shed.
“We’re going to paint it red though when the weather picks up so that it feels more like a post office.”
Margaret and John have been married for 36 years and settled in Southend five years ago to be closer to their son and daughter-in-law.
Margaret added: “John was a civil engineer and we travelled all over the world with his work.
“We lived in India for nine years, Australia for five and Thailand and all these other wonderful places.
“But Southend trumped the rest as it is simply one of the most beautiful places in the world and our son and family are here – you could say Southend chose us.”
A Post Office spokeswoman said: “I’m aware of the shed on Southend and I think it’s likely it’s the smallest of our outlets.
“However there’s no way of knowing exactly because I don’t think we hold that kind of information.”