We all use our local post office and most of us take it for granted. Our current post office is located in the Scotmid store on the Loan, but it has had more than one home since its beginnings in the 18th century. In 1747, the Town Council needed someone to act as Post Master, carrying letters to and from Edinburgh three times a week for a penny a letter. According to Dr Mason’s “History of Queensferry” the first “postmaster” was John Allan, the baker and Treasurer of the Burgh, who volunteered his services under certain conditions. He rode into Edinburgh every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday carrying mail to the city and returning with any mail for residents of Queensferry and the nearby district. Any such mail would not be delivered, it would remain in the post office – presumably John Allan’s house – until collected.
Postal markings at the time would simply have the cost of postage written in ink on the front and would be expected to be paid by the recipient. The first handstamped postmark used in Queensferry was the circular “SOUTH*FERRY” in use from August 1793 to October 1807.
This example was posted on November 30th 1795. Although it is a poor strike, the “SO” and the “FERRY” can be made out.
The red mark on the left is an example of a “Bishop” mark bearing the date NO / 30 (November 30th).
Postal markings incorporating mileages began to be used in Scotland around 1808. These carried the name of the town and included the distance of the town from London.
This letter was posted from South Queensferry by Mr. Charles Ross of Rosshill on the 22nd of July 1814, the cost being 4½d.
The “mileage mark” can be seen in the top right corner. The mileage (405) can be seen in the centre of the circle between two horizontal lines; “South Queensferry” is written around the inside of the circle and the letter “E” at the bottom shows that the distance to London has been calculated via Edinburgh.
Another type of mileage mark is seen here. This one is boxed and dates from March 1821.
The mileage is no longer required as this letter dated 1831 shows, but the “South Queensferry” is much easier to see.
In 1840 adhesive postage stamps (the “Penny Black” and “Two pence Blue”) were introduced. These were cancelled by means of a simple handstamp, issued to all post offices, which had no indication of the issuing office. In 1844 a new type of obliterator was issued with each post office being assigned a number. South Queensferry was assigned number 306 and this number was used on handstamps until 1906, although this example is slightly later.
This handstamp from South Queensferry Station Office does not have the number as part of the design. Notice that the stamp is precisely angled, rather than being upright. People would do this deliberately to pass on information that they did not wish others to read!
Quite apart from the everyday cancellations, South Queensferry has featured in at least two “special cancellations” over the years. The first appeared on “First Day Covers” bearing the stamps issued to commemorate the opening of the Forth Road Bridge on September 4th 1964.
The second was used on covers designed to commemorate the centenary of the opening of the Forth Bridge in 1990.
The Post Office has been in several buildings over the years. Although we do not know where John Allen worked from, at some stage the office was in what is now “Old Post Office Close”. Sometime in the 1890s it transferred to the building opposite “The Ferry Tap” adjacent to the Clydesdale bank and remained there for some years; it then seems to have moved to the premises currently occupied by the “Boathouse” restaurant. The building which today houses the bookmaker’s premises was the post office for some time before it moved to its present location. There have been many people who have held the post of postmaster or postmistress since John Allen; Emily Borrowman, Mrs Priest and Mr Goodwillie are but a few. We all complain about the postal service at some time, but we would be lost without it!