Lifestyle & Culture

Manzoor Alam, Postmaster at the Oldest Post Office in the World

The tiny post office in Sanquhar, Scotland, opened in 1712 -- making it older than its nearest rivals in Sweden and Chile.

09.10.2019 | by Christy Romer
Photo by Evening Times
Photo by Evening Times

1712 was a remarkable year. Philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau and the ‘Wild Child of Songy’ were born. Sweden temporarily decided the month of February should have 30 days. And Sanquhar Post Office — officially recognised as the oldest post office in the world — opened its doors for the first time. 

Only 16 people have ever held the title of Sanquhar Postmaster. Since 2015, that privilege has fallen to humble stamp collector and postal historian Manzoor Alam.

“I feel really very pleased, very privileged to have a post office with such a rich heritage,” the Birmingham, UK, native said when he took over the position in the quaint Scottish village of Sanquhar.

“It was July last year [2014] when I saw mention of Sanquhar post office and I realised it was going to close, and I thought if that happened the heritage would be lost,” he told the Daily Record.

“I thought I should do something about it.”


Rich history in Sanquhar

Sanquhar Post Office — located in the Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway — has been in continuous use since opening as a ‘staging post’ for mail carriages more than 300 years ago. Beating off competition from rivals in Sweden and Chile, the site has been officially recognised as the oldest in the world by the Guinness World Records.

All of this makes Sanquhar key for postal and stamp enthusiasts, who have their letters marked with a hand-stamp and the phrase: “The World’s Oldest Post Office.”

2015 was a bit of a crunch point: Attempts to sell the site were initially unsuccessful, and the postal functions were at risk of being subsumed by a local supermarket.

But Alam’s takeover of the iconic white and black-trimmed building, carried out in partnership with his wife and daughter, has been a hit. The 18th century post office remains open and thriving, serving travellers, drivers and villagers six days a week.

Alam’s tenure followed a period in which the site was run by Postmistress Penny Murphy. The advertised price was £195,000 for the post office and adjoining accommodation, with an associated salary of around £50,000 a year.

The story re-emerges in the annual celebration of #WorldPostDay, sharing the power of postal services to connect people in rural and urban areas around the world.

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