Burr’s of Tongue
As part of Museums & Galleries “Show Scotland Weekend”, 1-3 May 2010, Strathnaver Museum held an exhibition in the neighbouring village of Tongue to mark the culmination of the collection of material by interview and donation to bring the story of the business of ‘Messrs Peter Burr’s of Tongue’ to the public.
The present Spar Shop in the neighbouring village of Tongue is now simply a grocer’s but in Burr’s day it was a vast business catering for every need, as can be seen from the display.
The research was undertaken to highlight the incredible contribution made by ‘Burrs’ to the local community and beyond. Bear in mind as you read that Burr’s operated, for the most part, in a time when few households had their own transport or phone, telecommunications were limited and electricity a distant dream.
Early Shop with Bakehouse in Foreground
and is that he Luxury Coach at Shop Door?
We have brought the exhibition here for those who were unable to attend the event in Tongue. It should also be born in mind that the project is ongoing and anyone who has anything to contribute should take a memories leaflet and/or speak to museum staff, all information about Burr’s would be welcome. Please conatct Strathnaver Museum
The services provided by Burr’s were of paramount importance to the local community as many depended on Burr’s for provisions of all kinds as well as for mobility.
At times of hardship these services were exceptional, as in the severe winter of 1955 when Burr’s men walked to Loyal, 8 miles from Tongue, through very deep snow, with boxes of essential supplies and then trudged all the way back again. Others used their initiative to commandeer a boat to keep the Melness shop and community supplied: they, too had a long walk home. On another occasion a Melness woman who was unwell fancied a taste of salt herring. Although Gordon had none on his van and didn’t finish his round till 7pm he made sure that the herring arrived that night, along with some Golden Wonder tatties.
People living in remote areas welcomed ‘the van’ as a social contact point; a blether with Gordon brought them up to date with the local news and gossip!
The only regular entertainment available came by wireless and Burr’s would make sure your batteries were charged! On a Saturday you could have a taste of the high life by taking the “Picture Bus” to Thurso. You could also have a trip to Inverness when the Circus came to town.
Old Folks’ Parties, as they would then be called, were held in the tea-rooms. The Burr family attended local dances and ceilidhs. Gordon provided entertainment at fancy dress dances with a series of outlandish and, sometimes, shameless outfits! Picture him as a mannequin or a bunny girl. Tot was always willing to do her part by singing at a concert. She and Gordon brought Jimmy Shand, the popular accordionist, to Tongue. Tot sang in the Church choir and she and Gordon were stalwart supporters of the local Church.
Mrs Burr was a founder member of Strathnaver Museum and Burr’s till, which she donated to the museum, is one of our most popular exhibits. It is still in good working order and rings up the pounds and pennies daily while the museum is open.