The Great Shop

George C. Durrant was a Tea Dealer, provision Merchant, Dressmaking, Millinery and also had a mourning Department with a "New Hearse" at the "GREAT SHOP". At this period Durrant's employed a staff of over fifty and twenty of them were dressmakers who lived on the premises. As a very young boy, I can still picture George Durrant standing at the shop door in a bowler hat, long coat and slippers. He opened the door in his friendly manner for each customer and as they were about to leave he always asked if they had been suited, and if not, would endeavour to obtain whatever they required as quickly as possible. He was one of the two gentlemen who financed the development of Loch Neaton and his grandson is still carrying on the family business and has also given many hours of his time for the Loch Swimming Pool, painting the whole of it on his own a few seasons ago. The property, built between 1761 and 1787, is one of the oldest in the High Street. All of it, as well as some others, were owned by the wealthy and influential Youngs family and a monu­ ment to them can be seen in St. Mary's Church dated 1770-1805. Besides an extensive grocery and drapery business, they were also brewers and later there was a "Tallow Chandlers" at the rear of the shop until the whole estate was sold in several lots on November 11th 1839.

The Durrant and Kendall families were friends, but George and William were keen business rivals and they made regular checks on each others prices. Each had built up a great number of regular customers and by means of extended credit and personal attention, kept them. Perhaps George's were more church than chapel and William's the opposite. In due course they provided a funeral for their customers and keenly competed for the business of those who were not. One day George was arranging the funeral of somebody who William considered to be his by right. After the service at the Methodist Chapel, William, complete with walking stick, was standing on the kerb next to the horse. The coffin was being loaded, but before the hearse door could be shut, the horse bolted, causing the coffin to be dropped in the road, The driver could not pull the horse up and it reached the railway crossing gates in Church Road, where fortunately, the gates were shut for the arrival of the train and this enabled the driver to gain control. The local populace were treated to the sight of an empty hearse galloping up the High Street only to return a few minutes later. The coffin was duly collected and the funeral proceeded at its befitting pace. William Kendall was heard to remark, "What a way to conduct a funeral".


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