IT was the end of an era in Halkirk as local butcher Hugh John MacKay hung up his shop apron for the last time.
Hugh, who ran MacKay’s of Halkirk as well as the Lifestyle Express grocery store, decided to retire after five decades of service.
However, the Bridge Street butcher’s shop will still be run by a MacKay as Hugh’s son Matthew will take over
Hugh was the third in line of MacKays who owned and ran the butcher’s shop for the Halkirk community.
Hugh grandfather, John, started the enterprise with a store in Lybster before setting up the shop in Halkirk then it passed on to Hugh’s dad – who was also named Hugh – with his uncle Angus taking over the Lybster shop before handing it over to his son, David.
As for the Halkirk shop, Hugh, now 68, was only 16 his father died, leaving the family to take over the running of the shop.
Hugh revealed it would not have been a success without the determined work of his mother, Belle.
He said: “I had just turned 16 when my father passed away. I stepped in to help with the shop.
“It was proposed by the bank to sell up but my mother was determined to keep the family home and business and we all rallied round to make it a success.
“She would do the book-keeping while also combining that role by milking five cows twice a day and ensuring the villagers had their milk.
“Sadly she passed away in 1978 and it was at this point that I took over the shop.
“I’ve had some fine staff working alongside me – including Grant MacDonald who has been with me for all this time apart from three years he spent in the late sixties and early seventies working as the butcher on board the QE2 cruise ship.
“Although he’s the same age as me, Grant is carrying on as a butcher to assist my son Matthew who is taking over from me.”
Hugh also owned a grocer’s shop on Sinclair Street, which he purchased in 2001. That store has now been sold to the McColl’s group, which owns and runs newsagent shops across Scotland.
Hugh is looking forward to a well-earned retirement. He said: “The hours involved have been close to 24 hours a day and seven days a week at times so I’m deciding to slow down a wee bit.
“Grant is still carrying on as he’s quite fit but I’m stepping back now after more than 50 years.
“The family has done well with the shop. People like good local produce and that’s what we’ve given them over the years. Plus there is also some good interaction that a local store has with the community you might not get with a big supermarket.”