The oldest shop in Durness is the Mathers grocer and has been a family business for over eighty years. At some time in the past the shop repaired shoes. Iris Mather’ great grand uncle took the shop over from people called Gall, and was called Campbells for a time, originally built as cotter’s houses the building now housing the shop was divided into four. As the years passed, the shop has expanded to three quarters of the building with the remaining quarter as a holiday home of a distant relative of the original owner.
Deliveries used to come by a coastal steamer once a month to Rispond or Port-na-con and delivered by horse and cart to Durness. Sugar, cheese, dried milk was the kind of supplies delivered in bulk and the shop would have then packed to the required amounts. There is local knowledge of the croft house, now a holiday home at fifty four Sangomore housing a shop run by the Sutherlands but details are unknown.
It is suggested that it was a branch shop of a businessman from Orkney, Robert Gordon. Around the 1890’s, he discovered the untapped market of the isolated north and west and had a string of shops supplied from a little steamship.Up until 1994 Mathers was the only licensed shop for wines and spirits. Until her death in 210 Iris Mather had a mini bus hire service, the contract to convene the children to primary school each day and the Cape Wrath mini bus service. Mather’s shop is well known for the local social news and discussions of community interest are debated regularly over the counter.
In June 1981 the Richard Mackay shop, which had been housed in the corner site of the Park Hill Hotel for over ninety years, moved to its present position and became the Mace Supermarket. Previously this site was garages and stores for provisions. The post office moved into this shop from its site within the house opposite the footpath entrance to the school in the early 1960s.
The staff and shop when Mackays was housed in Parkhill
A diverse stock is held, food, clothing, farming supplies, gas, fuel, and practically every want of a remote community. In 1982, application was made to the planning department to resite the petrol pumps to their present location opposite the shop. In 1994 this shop was granted an off sales licence. For a number of years a large van was taken to Inverness at least once a week to pick up supplies. This practice has ceased since more deliveries are now made to Durness from suppliers. Until about 1975, the store operated a mobile van that loaded up each Wednesday night and delivered each Thursday in and around Durness.
In the 1920s, the Durness community was much more self-sufficient. A butcher’s shop in Durine next to the then church supplied meat. The bakery ( shown on the right) now demolished on the Durine was a busy enterprise. There was a number of small grocery shops scattered throughout the area. The shop at Sangomore, The McCallum’s (Miss McCallum was the French and Latin teacher at Durness school) operated a grocery from Rispond and delivered around doors by van. Mathers was a bootmakers shop where footwear was bought and repaired. There was a tailor’s shop at Lerin.