The Family Shop

Postcard showing my great-grandfather’s name, Adam Edgar, above his newsagent’s shop in Linlithgow, Scotland.

This is the family shop. It’s not the only shop that has ever been in my family. But it does have the honor of being on many postcards. My Great-grandfather, Adam Edgar, had a newsagent in Linlithgow, a small, historic town about 20 miles from Edinburgh. The focus of many of these postcards wasn’t his shop, of course. The imposing building with opposing staircases in the left of the picture is the Burgh Halls of Linlithgow, originally constructed in the 17th century. A little way away from the Burgh Halls, set above Linlithgow Loch, are the remains of Linlithgow Palace, the birth place of Mary, Queen of Scots. There were and still are many reasons to put Linlithgow on a postcard. Adam Edgar’s shop was situated on “The Cross” – an open space in front of the Burgh Halls containing an ornately-carved stone fountain. (Interesting fact – the fountain was carved by a one-handed stone mason). The fountain is another famous landmark in Linlithgow and yet the photographer missed it in this picture. The statue in this postcard is an anomaly – it doesn’t appear to be there anymore and I haven’t been able to find anything about it online.

Adam Edgar and family in the 1911 Scottish census. Image courtesy of National Records of Scotland.

Adam Edgar was a “tobacconist” according to the census. In our family the shop was always referred to as a “newsagent.” In reality he probably sold newspapers and comics, tobacco products and possibly some more general items. My granny was his daughter “Katherine” age 4 in the census. (Her name was usually spelled with a “C”). The family lived above the shop. In 1911 there were 3 Edgar children. Another 3 were born over the next few years. Another family shopkeeper was visiting them on the day the census was taking – Catherine Fairbairn. Her shop was a “fancy drapery shop”, in Jedburgh in the borders of Scotland. As a fancy draper, Catherine (auntie Kate as she was known in the family – she was my granny’s maternal aunt) – sold fabric for dressmaking as well as buttons, ribbons and other haberdashery items. Auntie Kate’s reputation in the family, (at least amongst her nieces and great-nieces), was that of an unwelcome guest. There are considerably ruder names that they called her. She was a “spinster” (unmarried woman) for all of her life and seemed to enjoy bringing misery and criticism into family gatherings. Hopefully she was not making too long a stay at the Edgar house in 1911.

I spent many happy days visiting my granny in Linlithgow as a child. In her later years she lived a stones-throw from 10 The Cross where her father’s shop had previously been. With a quick spin on Google street view I can see even stop by now and see that the shop is currently a barber. The Google street view lets us look squarely into the shop in a way that the old postcard never can.

10 The Cross as it is today. Image courtesy of Google Streetview.

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