A man who was an “avid stamp collector” as a child has moved from Florida to Scotland with his wife to run the world’s oldest post office.
Barry Ford has taken over Sanquhar Post Office in Dumfries and Galloway, which has been in continuous operation for 311 years.
Mr Ford, originally from Lincolnshire, and his wife Mary, from North Lanarkshire, had been living and working in Florida for 20 years when they first heard the post office was for sale three years ago.
He had an aircraft detailing company in Lakeland, cleaning aircraft for private owners, but the couple were hoping to buy a business back in the UK as their elderly mothers there were in poor health.
They put in an offer and were pipped to the post, but had a second opportunity to buy the business when the sale fell through – and are now only the 17th operators of the world’s oldest post office.
The couple were also delighted to discover that Mrs Ford’s ancestors were from the nearby Muirkirk area in East Ayrshire.
Mr Ford said: “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.
“I was an avid stamp collector as a child and to discover that Mary’s ancestors were from the local area was fate.
“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.
“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.
“I am also proud to be this post office’s 17th postmaster, which isn’t that many considering its long history.”
The post office opened in 1712 and is recognised by Guinness World Records as the oldest one in operation.
The second oldest in Stockholm opened in 1720 – while the third, in Santiago, Chile, opened in 1772.
Mrs Ford discovered her connections to the local area while sorting through her mother’s possessions, and found a pair of knitted gloves with a Sanquhar pattern.
She decided to further investigate her family tree and discovered that her ancestors came from around the Muirkirk area.
Mr Ford, who served in the RAF, has taken over from postmistress Nazra Alam, who had run the post office since 2015 along with her late husband, Dr Manzoor Alam, who passed away in November 2022.
She has now retired and is returning to the Midlands, where she lived before moving to Sanquhar.
Post Office chief executive Nick Read said: “As a nation we should be so proud to have the world’s longest-running post office. Just 16 previous operators have kept it going for more than 300 years.
“Not only does it support the wider economy by attracting tourists from all over the world, but it continues to provide everyday essential banking and postal services that local residents, like anywhere else in the country, rely on.”
The post office is a popular attraction for postal and philatelic enthusiasts from across the UK and the world, and many visit to have their letters marked with a special handstamp bearing “The World’s Oldest Post Office”.