Friday photo; There’s a time and plaice for everything

Sorry to carp on about this, but Norrie Macgregor from Stornoway Historical Society solved our query about the above photo when he popped in yesterday.  We were floundering about wondering why shops would hang up fishing rods outside their doors, coming up with suggestions that they were in honour of the herring fleet being in town, or indeed conversely to remember those who had gone off to join the fleet.  Norrie asked around his fellow keepers of knowledge and came up with a much simpler answer, which certainly gets our seal of approval.

The o-fish-al story is simply because the shops stocked angling gear.  Apologies if you have haddock nuff but the top photo shows the rod from where Boots is now, and could either be from Macpherson’s chemist or Roderick Smith’s Ltd, Chemists and Newsagents.  Roderick Smith served as an apprentice to Macpherson, later on purchasing Macpherson’s business from his widow in its new location on the corner of Cromwell Street.  The photo directly above shows Macpherson’s shop in its original location on Point Street.

Its hard to kipper lid on the material, and so the photo above shows Tolmie’s chemist on Cromwell Street.  Tolmie’s chemist was another business that moved around the town, in the photo above occupying the space now filled by K J Macdonald’s pharmacy, to the building on Point Street now occupied by the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, and then back over to Cromwell Street, occupying the building most recently used by the Scottish Christian Party as a headquarters for the 2010 election.  If you look at this building now you can still make out the sign for Tolmie’s, which I have posted below, just for the halibut.


It is interesting to note that two of these buildings have either retained or regained their original porpoise as chemists, though curiously have failed to carry on the tradition of stocking angling gear! Perhaps it just does not reel in enough custom.

If anyone can kelp us out with the dates of these photos, that would be hunky Dory! Please e-mail us at or leave a comment.

About David Powell

Project Manager and Archivist with Tasglann nan Eilean Siar
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2 Responses to Friday photo; There’s a time and plaice for everything

  1. The third photo above, looking along Cromwell Street, is dated June 1906. The clue is in the serial number 53779, which is a Valentine’s postcard serial number usually prefixed by JV. St Andrews University has a section on Valentine’s postcards in its photographic archive, and this one is shown in the archive.

  2. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact date of the second photo above, looking up Francis Street. However, there is clear evidence that it is after 1878 but before 1911. On the right side of Francis Street, the “tower” of the (now named) Martin’s Memorial Church can be seen…….but with no spire. Evidence follows below.
    Here is an extract from the website of Stornoway Historical Society
    “The demand for more English services continued to grow, and the next major development came with the establishment of the Free English Church in 1875, to provide for English speaking residents and visitors who were adherents of the Free Church. They obtained a site for a new church the following year at the corner of Francis Street and Kenneth Street, and the Free English Church opened in October 1878. The church hall was built in 1890, and the spire erected in 1911.”