BBC ALBA Monday 27 June, 9pm
Village shops have been at the heart of communities for generations with almost every village having its own at one time. However, this has changed dramatically over the years and a BBC ALBA documentary ‘Trusadh: Buth a’ Bhaile/Village Shops’ will examine the reasons why, and explore the vital role that those which still survive, play in remote communities.
In the stunning, remote district of Uig in Lewis, the thriving shop is owned by the community themselves. We meet those who run it including local, Uig born and raised, Donald John Robertson, or Finn as he's better known, who delivers supplies to the scattered townships in the area in the shop van.
The Uig community co-operative shop, set 40 miles from Stornoway, injects money back into the community through salaries as well as providing an essential service in the provision of food, fuel and tourism facilities, including a commercial laundry service. The shop committee meets four times a year and have been advising other communities on how to set up community co-operatives.
Out on his daily delivery run Finn (Donald John Robertson) remarks: “The van was donated by someone in England, he gave it to the shop, which was very good of him. I’d say he was a secret millionaire.
“Some come into the shop but others phone in with their order, or email. Plenty of people can’t get to the shop but the van can get to their door. More often than not there’s a cup of tea waiting.”
In Laggan, in the Cairngorms National Park, the local village shop is very much a lifeline to the area, with the nearest town, Fort William, an hour’s drive away. Many people know the shop, Laggan Stores, as ‘McKechnies’ from the Monarch of the Glen Series. Locals say that ‘if you can’t buy it in Laggan Stores, you don’t need it.’ From fresh fish to wild bird food it’s all there.
Jo Cumming and Ian Hall are the current owners who took it over from the community eight years ago in a ‘mad moment’. They pride themselves on being open 8.30am to 8pm. Seven days a week.
Iain Seoras Rockliffe ‘Rocky’ goes there once a day for the ‘social side’ of things. Iain said: “There are some brilliant characters here. This [shop] is what keeps us going. This is what holds communities together. A small shop is like a way of life.”
For many such as the islanders of Eigg, getting supplies to the shop via ferry is one of their biggest challenges but on another Hebridean island, Eriskay, a causeway was built in 2002 which many thought would be the end of the local island shop. It's been anything but though, with a unique bus service making all the difference.
Bus user Mairi MacInnes said: “You see these old ladies. This is the day we do our shopping. It’s a social event! We all have a good chat.” Another bus user, Peigi MacInnes said: “You can get everything you need, from a needle to an anchor. You can get everything here.”
The programme also visits the award winning 'Mither Tongue' in Keith, Aberdeenshire which is not a typical village shop, selling gifts and cards for every occasion, all celebrating the Scots dialect, demonstrating how communities can be defined in many ways.
Produced by MacTV for BBC ALBA ‘Trusadh: Buth a’ Bhaile/Village Shops’ will be broadcast on Monday 27 June at 9pm.