FAMILIAR FACE John Pat Scott in his post office in Aughagower. Pic: Frank Dolan
Name: John Pat Scott
Occupation: Rural retailer/postmaster
I run a shop, post office and a pub here in Aughagower and it has been in the family for the last 140 years and I am the fourth generation to take it on.
I start the day around half seven when I’d get up and start with with a cup of coffee and porridge and if I have time I will have something more substantial later on in the morning.
There is a lot to do in the morning before you open the doors at all. You have to sort through orders and go through deliveries of bread and milk and so on and then you have to get the post office ready for the day. On Friday, which is pension day, you could be there for most of the day dealing with the pensioners and so on.
The morning time up to 11 would be busy and then again around lunchtime. There is a playschool around the corner from us which also has a pre-school and an after-school and since it opened it has been a big boost to us.
There is always an influx of parents coming in the morning around 9. There is only one thing they are after and it’s coffee. We had a coffee machine installed there last year and it has been a big success in getting people into the shop.
We’d always have the radio on in the shop, my daughter who works with me here is a great Midwest fan and we have those stations on with music. Sometime if you have RTÉ on with the news it can be too much for people who just want a bit of light-hearted music.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak, we have found a boost to business, especially during the first lockdown in the spring when people had to stay local and they supported the shop and the post office. Even since then we have held onto a lot of that business and have been able to invest in the shop such as an ice-cream machine in the summer. We got a great few weeks out of that.
I have noticed that the packages and parcel market is increasing because people cannot travel to birthdays and other celebrations and they had to post the presents and things like that. We have a number of small SMEs in the area who have adapted to online sales and they are coming in with their packages for sending and they are helping us to survive as well.
When the Covid restrictions eased people did not forget about us. We have been able to get in extra stock because people are happy now to stay local and the chickens have come home to roost. Okay you still have to go to the larger shops for the big shop, but for the basics they are available here at a good price.
It has been difficult for people, especially the older generation, who suddenly found they couldn’t go to town or to the mart and it can be difficult for them to take that in. They know they can still come into the village and talk to people while social distancing, especially on pension day.
Pension day is a great day and it is always great to see people from the different townlands come in and meet their friends and have a good chat. It might be their only outlet for the week to meet people. They all tell me it gives them a great lift to come in and meet people and see what is going on. We often top up their mobile phone for them if they are out of credit and they really appreciate it.
I am the chairman of the Ballina Mayo South branch of the Irish Postmasters Union which takes in a largely rural area. We had a cull, for want of a better word, of post offices last year which resulted in more losses of post offices leaving the branch with 30 members now when there was up to 60 before … you have to wonder what the future holds.
It is highly unlikely that people will take over a post office from someone who is retiring without a business going with it. Whatever chance there is with a business attached, there is very little without because the income from it would not be enough.
It can be a long day, we are open until 10 and when the pub was open you would be open later. I had a landmark birthday this summer and when you reach that age you can feel tired, but I am used to it as I have been at it all my life.
Security would be an issue for rural businesses, especially at this time of the year when the time changes. It can be dark at five o’clock and while we are alarmed, it is a big concern when you are closing up. There is no doubt about it, you would be on edge closing up.
The pub hasn’t been open since March and it is a big loss to us. We were on the point of opening a few weeks ago but the numbers started going up and I had a feeling they would be closing again. The pub is a great outlet for local people but by God, how that has changed and it is hard to see will it come back the way it was. It’s unlikely but nobody knows how people will react with Covid.
I would be what you’d call a summer farmer, I’d buy cattle in the spring time and keep them on a small farm and look after them. It is great to get out in the summer time when the evenings are long and do a bit of work on the land. I find that as good as anything.
I would be known as a passionate Liverpool fan and of course, I’d go with a few friends to watch Liverpool a couple of times a year but, of course, that has now gone by the wayside. That was great in the winter time. I’d go over midweek for Champions League matches and fly from Knock and be back in 24 hours. I miss that now, especially at this time of the year.
We were all set to celebrate the league win early in the year, we had booked the weekend in May to be there for the celebrations but it didn’t happen. We were waiting 30 years for the league win so we had to have a little local celebration when it finally happened.
In conversation with Anton McNulty
If money was no object what would you do?
I’d buy a farm and go hobby farming
What’s the most unusual thing you have eaten?
I would be conservative when it comes to food. I can’t think of anything unusual I have eaten
Favourite place you have visited?
Anfield in Liverpool, especially on big European nights
What makes you nervous?
When I’m ready to close up at night and someone comes in
Best advice you ever got?
Treat people as you would like to be treated
Most prized possession?
My mobile phone, not alone for pleasure, but also for business
Three things always in the fridge?
Jack and Eddie sausages, bananas and milk
Who was you first hero?
Growing up, it was the former Liverpool footballer, Steve Heighway
What do you look forward to the most when Covid goes?
Going to a match across in Liverpool, definitely
Three celebrities you’d invite to Zoom party?
Jurgen Klopp, Bill Clinton and John Hume
Most famous person you met?
Describe the coronavirus in three words?
A big pain