Scaling back after 70 years
A THURSO fish shop dynasty comes to an end on April 15, when Colin Mackay puts away the gutters and filleters at A Mackay & Son for one last time.
More than 70 years after his family opened the harbour-side business, the fishmonger is moving out with Scrabster’s JPL Shellfish waiting in the wings.
Colin numbers the late Queen Mother among the shop’s more notable clients, but the Mackays also have illustrious origins of their own.
“My great-grandfather was the pilot for taking sailing ships into the harbour and this shop has been run by three generations since 1947,” he said.
Unlike some other long-standing local businesses, however, Mackay’s is not sinking without a trace. JPL’s buyout will see the same staff kept on – minus Colin and his wife Jane.
“I’ll come back here to buy fish as a customer when JPL take it over next week but I have to say it’ll feel a bit strange,” he said.
“But at least I know it’ll be in good hands.”
Colin closes up on Monday and the new owner takes up the reins the next trading day. They clearly have a lot to live up to. On the wall of the shop is a royal seal of approval.
“The Queen Mother used to come here regularly for her fish and we supplied the Castle of Mey for years. She was a great seafood lover,” Colin recalls.
Over the years, the shop – based in a building that originally housed the town fishmarket – has seen rivals come and go, and even seen off much larger competition.
Colin says the supermarket giants did have an impact on business at first but then the customers gradually started filtering back in their desire for “quality”.
Given the puns that abound fishmongery, Colin’s a little “koi” when asked if there’s a funny side, suggesting that I “clam down”.
He does, however, recall a time someone cut a hole in a haddock’s head and inserted the eye from another fish.
“They took the box in and on top was a three-eyed haddock. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” he said.