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Elie Post Office

Post Office

The first Post Office opened in Elie in 1797 (possibly in Rankeillor Street, formerly Post Office Wynd). The replacement was build on to Westerlea in Links Place and operated from 1905–2008.

ELIE became a POST TOWN in 1797. Stamp canceller No.135 allocated 1844. By 1845 Elie sub office of COLINSBURGH, then in 4/1857 EDINBURGH. Became a Money Order office 1-8-1857; Savings Bank office 17-2-1862 and in 1868 a Sub-Office. A Telegraph Office (with unique 3-letter code ‘EHU’) in 1870 and in 1876 Elie became a Railway Sub-Office. On 1-8-1905 Elie became a Sub-Office/POST TOWN. It was downgraded from a Salaried Sub-Office (SSO) (ie. a Crown Office that is not a Head Office) to a Scale Payment Sub Office (SPSO) on 1-8-1967 (i.e. run by a self-employed Subpostmaster). By 1989 it came under LEVEN. Elie PO closed 18-7-2008.”


Built around 1846 and later was purchased by the GPO as the Subpostmaster’s residence. Up until the early 1960s it housed the village telephone exchange, until replaced by a new modern exchange located at the north entrance to the village next to the school. Westerlea & PO property owned by GM Penman (Draper Bank St) and leased to PO (1920s-30s). Tenant William Ovenstone (early 20c), Thomson (????).

Subpostmasters: William Ovenstone (1899-1905), Janet Ovenston (widow of John, 1905-?), Jessie Penman (wife of George Penman, Draper, Overton 5 Bank St) sold property to the Post Office 28 May 1951 (for £4,100), Andrew Mackie (1940’s), Bill Porter (1950–1960), Bill McIntyre (1960–1970(?)), William Thomson (1977(?)-1980) (Thomson purchased property from PO on 16.2.77), William Porter (28 Aug 1980-12 Aug 1988), Tony Haggar (1988-2000), Graham Meacher (2000–2008). PO closed 18 July 2008.

Sorting Office

Built as part of improved PO in 1905 with major alterations carried out in 1932 (copies of plans and sketches in archive). Closed as SO in 1974 and sold (to incumbent Subpostmaster William Thomson) in 1977. Converted to residential use, including addition of upper floor. Now a holiday home (The Old Sorting Office).

John Ireland at Elie PO Summer 1900
Plans of new Post Office building at Elie 1905


Memories of how the Post Office [Elie] operated in the 1930s onward.

Julia Campbell [nee Crombie]. b. Elie 1922

The time was September 1939 and what we had all feared, we were at war with Germany everything was to change for us all. After leaving school at age 14 and having worked in John Menzies’ Bookstall at the local Station in Elie for one year I decided to have a change of work so I applied for a vacancy in Elie Post Office. Enjoying book keeping at school I decided this would be more of a challenge and so it turned out to be. The duties were Counter & Sorting Office. I was told to begin with I would have to pass an exam at the Head Office in Leven later.

The office opened at 8.30am but we had to be there roughly 15mins before the door opened. There were quite a few things to do before 8.30. First of all we had to check and count the money from the safe. Postal Orders to count from the price of 6d to £1- 1/-. Probably 20 of each denomination; they had to be correctly counted as you would never balance at the end of your duty. People came in with Family Allowance Books to be cashed every week also the weekly OAP pension. This wasn’t all of course. There was another the stamp drawer to balance too containing [National] Insurance stamps as well as postage stamps – and this drawer to balance exactly. No calculators. We were allowed three claims in a year for any shortages balancing all these books every day. Finishing at 1.00pm we handed over the main balance over to the next member of staff whose duty lasted until 4.30pm.

She had to do the whole thing over again before handing over for the evening girl who had a duty till 6.30pm and balancing once again. This wasn’t the end of balancing everything. Next came the Big Cash Book. All three counter transactions for the day were put together for the Postmistress. Correct to a ½d. This was completed every night. Had to be completed in ink actually everything was.

Counter duties serving the Public were interesting. Difficult sometimes as we dealt with savings and all kinds of licenses, foreign postage & various questions on the foreign perspective. But a lot of this was cancelled in Wartime.

The Polish Army arrived and we had to do our best to understand the language. They cashed money every now and again at the office. Our own soldiers at Kincraig collected their mail every day. Telegrams were sent and received by phone. Some very sad war news ones had to be delivered by the Telegram Messenger to relatives and friends.The phone boxes were cleared every month with their cash counted and sent to Leven Head Office.

Elie was a Crown Office and we had a Postmistress in charge. I served under eight Postmistresses but the Head Office had a Postmaster and we were accountable to Head Office. Sorting Office duties were interesting too. We had three postmen. The first delivery of mail arrived at the Office from the station at 7.30am and wheeled by a postman on a barrow. The Clerk in charge saw that the letter and parcel bags were opened and the form inside removed and checked. Register letters were also checked written into a delivery book given to the postman and signed. Very important it was to do that. The counter clerk also received cash from H.O. this way which had to be counted and signed for. Probably £500 or so. All that done by the clerk in charge, we had to get the mail out. Boxes cleared of letters sorted and stamped by hand then they were put back in appropriate boxes all over the country and abroad for despatch. When completed they were tied in their correct bundles and bagged. The postman had the next duty to put parcel and letter bags on to his barrow and trudge to the station 15mins allowed to catch the train returning with empty barrow for the next despatch of mail, three a day. The handstamp for stamping the letters changed for every despatch stating the time and date. That was more or less our S.O. duties.

To add to this part of the things we had to do a heavy delivery of letters from the post boxes in the village plus the one at the Office itself meant quite a rush especially at Christmas. However, despite being overwhelmed at times we always managed to get the postman on his way to catch the train in “time”. Great fun too.

H.O. Duties.

Once I was fully established and passed one exam and made a S.C. & T.O. [Sorting Office, Counter & Telegraph Officer] we had to take up duties when they were short of staff at H.O. in Leven. The first time this happened to myself I was in digs as the duties were awkward and demanding. This was where I had the unpleasant encounter of an Air Raid Shelter. There was an Air Raid warning one night luckily no bombs were dropped but it was still a scary experience.

Back to work and counter duties were hard. It was a town and industrial. We never ever stopped all day and balancing was difficult and still no computers or adding machines. The other Office for extra duties was Methil also a very busy Office with a postmistress in charge. When the convoy ships came in at the docks we had a rush as the sailors got forms to cash probably some payment or other. Can’t remember that, but they certainly kept us busy. On Sunday at Methil we did four hours each, two of us taking down coded messages all numbers on special paper to hand to the Admiralty. Very important that was and you had to concentrate and be accurate.

Back to Elie for another spell but in 1948 I decided I wanted to move somewhere else and I was able to get a year’s transfer to Kilmacolm Office on the west coast. The Office was very like the Elie Office and the Postmistress from there came from Islay. The staff and myself all jelled well together and I made good friends in a busy office. Duties were similar to Elie but much more money to handle and more responsibility. The year passed very quickly. Came back to Elie but could not settle so I applied for a Permanent position somewhere else. It all happened very quickly and I found myself in Cupar Angus.

Once again, this was a similar Office with a Postmistress. Whilst there, I was asked to take charge when the Postmistress was on holiday but before I could do that I went on a course to Edinburgh for a week. The Office was a busy one with four or five postmen on rural duties. However, when the time came to take over for the holidays I managed and the staff were not a problem. Duties were the same again but very busy.

That was until 1951 when I got married and left. However I had three months in Cupar Main Office, later Markinch and returning to Cupar in 1963 a spell in the West Port Sub Office there. After the war foreign work was introduced again.

Observing how so much easier working in the Post Office is in 2010 with calculators, etc. the girls and boys I worked with had more of a responsible outlook on the work we had to do, especially with the very accurate balancing of the books.

Hard work with a lot of responsibility and wartime to contend with which has set us up well for our future.

Julia Campbell (Cupar, September 2010)

1 thought on “Elie Post Office

  1. A lovely story. Thank you.

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