The Story of Pitlochry Station Bookshop

Bookselling on the station platform 18th October 2005. From left, Councillor Eleanor Howie, ScotRail MD, Priscilla Lorimer, Mandi Lewis
Norman McCandlish (Chairman, left) makes a speech before Councillor Eleanor Howie opens the Bookshop's first premises in 2006.
On one of his television railway journeys, Michael Portillo visited the Bookshop and met some of our volunteers.
The Bookshop stall at Pitlochry Theatre's Winter Words Festival is always popular.
Members of the Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership present a cheque to Bookshop members to finance new shelving (2016).
Generous grants helped us to renew all the Bookshop's shelving in 2017.

Pitlochry Station Bookshop grew from a small idea into a thriving supporter of charities in a surprisingly short time.

 

Small Beginnings

Pitlochry Station Bookshop began in 2005 after a local Councillor, the late Eleanor Howie, publicised ScotRail’s new “Adopt-a-Station” scheme and asked the public for ideas to revive the empty buildings at Pitlochry Station.

Three local women – Priscilla Lorimer, Elizabeth Templeton and Nancy Cameron – responded with a plan to raise money for charity by selling secondhand books at 50p (now £1) each to rail travellers.

          Norman McCandlish, the Bookshop’s first chairman, remembered having doubts as he stood by the box of books in the station waiting room on the first morning. “I wondered if anyone would buy them,” he said. “Then, whether people would donate enough books to refill the box.”

          He needn’t have worried. After a few summer Saturdays of bookselling, the group had raised £200.

 

ScotRail steps in

Early success brought quick expansion. ScotRail offered the old John Menzies newspaper stall to the group and when they outgrew that, the old Station Master’s office was added to make the Bookshop that we know today.

With larger premises came a greater commitment. More volunteers joined, opening hours were extended and the Bookshop’s takings – and therefore contributions to charity – increased.

          The £200 raised during the first months in the station waiting room had become £170,000 ten years on and a quarter of a million pounds was achieved in 2018.

 

Every penny to charity

The Bookshop premises are still rent-free and since the staff and manager are all volunteers and no one draws a wage, the only outlays are for electricity and insurance. That almost every penny raised goes straight to charity is what makes Pitlochry Station Bookshop unique.

          Customers come from all over Britain but an international clientele has developed with many foreign accents, especially from Australia, New Zealand and North America, heard amongst the shelves.

          The Bookshop supports six charities, chosen to reflect a balance among local, national and international concerns. The current charities are: Cancer Research UK; Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS); Highland Perthshire Shopmobility; Mercy Corps; Scotland’s Charity Air  Ambulance and the most recent addition, Tayside Mountain Rescue Team. Cheques are issued regularly.

          In 2017 the Bookshop’s work for charity was recognised when it was awarded the title of “Voluntary Fundraising Group of the Year” by the the Institute of Fundraising Scotland in 2017.

 

Other fund raising

In recent years the Bookshop has expanded beyond its four walls. The annual literary festival at Pitlochry Theatre, “Winter Words,” is a lucrative hunting ground. The Bookshop’s stall, run over two long weekends, delights booklovers with its range of unusual and exciting literature. Pitlochry Theatre makes no charge while, in another development, the Bookshop’s handsome bookmarks, crucial for advertising, are now provided free by Pitlochry’s Green Park Hotel.

          Excitingly, a watch is kept for any unusual volume which may command a high value. Successes have been a rare first edition of “A Naturalist’s Voyage,” by Charles Darwin which sold for £300 as well as a First Edition second impression, of Ian Fleming’s “Goldfinger” which raised £200. (A First Edition first impression, is worth £2000.) Some other unusual books have raised decent money at auctions in Montrose and Edinburgh.

          So many people have contributed to the Bookshop’s success. There are forty-five volunteers, countless donors of books of every kind, business supporters, customers from far and wide and ScotRail’s continued support.  

Brian Toner, May 2019

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