Barry and Mary Ford are now set to become the Sanquhar Post Office's 17th postmasters in its 311-year history.
The world’s oldest post office has been operating out of Sanquhar, Scotland for over 300 years. But when its manager put the building up for sale in 2019, some worried that this significant piece of Scotland’s heritage would be forced to close down for good. Now, a Florida couple has decided to purchase the post office and move to Sanquhar to run it.
Barry and Mary Ford are both initially from the UK. They had been living in Florida for the past 20 years, where Barry ran an aircraft detailing company, but they were looking to move back home to take care of their respective mothers, who had fallen ill.
While searching for a business to buy in the UK, the couple came across a listing that sparked their interest: a post office in southern Scotland recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest in the world. Barry had collected stamps as a child, so they put in an offer to buy the post office.
They were outbid. But then the sale fell through, and the Fords jumped on their second chance, according to the BBC.
“To be given a second opportunity to buy the Sanquhar Post Office came at the right time when our elderly mothers had sadly passed away,” Barry told Sky News. “Mary and I are very excited and humbled to be serving this community, and we also look forward to welcoming tourists from both near and afar who come to Sanquhar to sample the delights this vibrant community has to offer.”
What’s more, Mary Ford recently discovered she has ties to the area.
Sanquhar is a small village in the Dumfries and Galloway region of southern Scotland with a population of around 2,000. After Mary’s mother died, she was looking through her mother’s possessions when she found a pair of knitted gloves with a distinctive Sanquhar pattern. She then began digging into her ancestry and found that her family had come from Muirkirk — just about 25 miles up the road from Sanquhar.
“I was an avid stamp collector as a child and to discover that Mary’s ancestors were from the local area was fate,” Barry said.
The Sanquhar post office has been in operation since 1712. When it first opened, letters were delivered on horseback across the Scotland-England border, according to The Telegraph.
Surprisingly, the Fords are just the 17th postmasters in the office’s 311-year history.
“It is amazing that I have gone from living in Florida for 20 years, where the history is mostly 19th to 20th century, to becoming the postmaster for the world’s oldest post office which dates back over 300-plus years,” Barry said. “I am also proud to be this post office’s 17th postmaster, which isn’t that many considering its long history.”
“It’s important to us to keep it going for the local area for tourism and for the community,” Mary added. “We don’t want it to close if we can keep it going — especially for the local community because so many other branches of banks are closing.”
The Fords took over the post office from Nazra Alam, who had been running it with her husband, Dr. Manzoor Alam, from 2015 until Manzoor died in November 2022.
“Nazra continued running the branch for the Sanquhar community, and the thousands of tourists who visit every year, through her grief and throughout the COVID pandemic,” Post Office chief executive Nick Read said. “Nazra has been a remarkable postmistress and I hope she enjoys a happy retirement surrounded by her children and grandchildren.”
Nazra said she loved her time running the post office, but after the death of her husband, she wanted to move home to the Midlands to be with family.
“The people of Sanquhar are lovely and the scenery in all directions is beautiful,” she said. “Manzoor and I loved our time in Scotland, but the winters were too cold for us. I give my heartfelt thanks to the people of Sanquhar who have been very kind to us over the years and for their custom and banter that kept me going.”
The Sanquhar post office is a local tourist attraction. Visitors from around the world stop in to have their letters marked with a special hand stamp reading “The World’s Oldest Post Office.”
After reading about the world’s oldest post office, read about the children who were sent through the mail in the early 20th century. Or, read about the haunted Scottish castle that went up for sale.