Christmas shopping in Shearer’s

There is a traditional grocers in Kirkwall called William Shearer. They have been going quite a while, and in recent years have changed with the times to sell a lot of speciality foods as well as Orkney produce. They have been in the same building for a long time, and at present, for most of the year, only the ground floor is used.

However, over part of the building there is an upper floor, left much as it would have been a hundred years ago, and before Christmas that area is opened up and filled with Christmas goodies.

note pram in the foreground and REAL fire

all the shelves etc are originals
note hand cart front right

As well as lots of lovely things to buy, if you look, there are all sorts of bits about from long ago.

girdle (top right) goes on the fire to cook pancakes (drop scones)

this is one of the high desks where the clerks would sit and hand write the ledgers

I couldn’t JUST take photos of course. So I HAD to do my Christmas food shopping while I was there. Various things – from special sardines and savoury biscuits to jars of fruit in various alcoholic liquids; the odd packet of chocolate enrobed fruit, and chocolate enrobed ginger biscuits (Duchy Originals for those to whom that means something – didn’t see any of the lemon ones this year, but I will be going back to check it out again!!).
This is my first time off Flotta for 4 weeks, and I am now staying on South Ronaldsay to look after Nigel while Steve has his holiday. I have been shopping twice in two days, and tomorrow we are all going out to lunch in Lucano’s, the wonderful Italian restaurant in Kirkwall. All this excitement….!! And what is more, my car has been mended and when I go home, it will be able to take it back over with me. Bliss…!

17 thoughts on “Christmas shopping in Shearer’s

  1. Oh, how utterly marvellous Liz! This reminds me of the shop next door to my grandparents. When I was a child it was still a very old fashioned grocery store – scarcely changed from when my father was a child. It was not quite as old as the one in your pictures of course but it brings back memories.
    Please tell Nigel hello from Australia if you are still there with him

  2. Thanks, Liz. I needed this!

    In our town, winter brings the adornment of all the trees downtown (even in the alleys) with tiny white lights. It’s magical, and helps a lot to give a special feel to the dark months. Two of the three funders of this endeavor have pulled out this year, though, and today’s newspaper says the tradition may not continue. I hope it does.

  3. that looks very inviting! I am of the supermarket generation, but that shop reminds me of “the waltons” etc. they had a grocery shop like that made up and I envied the actors, who manned it in the series:)) maybe it didn’t seem quite so great to the people, who had to stock and clean in there, but still – it gives off a warm vibe, esp. at christmas time!

  4. I just love reading about, and seeing photos of, your life in Orkney and well… just let this post be an example about what tickles my fancy. I actually have friend in N.Ireland who’s been to Shearer’s… so I had to show him your post. Thanks…keep it up… we’re waiting for the next.

  5. I spotted that pancake griddle right off & want one!!! I can think of all kinds of things to cook with that on the old wood stove!!! The ironstone tea pot sat on a trivet on the front & the big soup pot simmered most days on the back . . . What fun to shop in the old store!! The closest I’ve ever come is the old General Store in the small town where we used to holiday when I was a kid. My dad liked to fish & mom could visit with family. My aunt had the one General Store with everything from cheese to saddles & an ice cream parlor next door!! The town had one garage,one hotel with a bar, cafe & two rooms. One motel with eight rooms. And lots of rafts & boats for fishing.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing – now that could get me in the Christmas mood. We’re just gearing up for (American) Thanksgiving here, so it’s really great to feel the holidays starting, even if it’s a bit weird to see Santas everywhere you go before Thanksgiving.

    But, if they came complete with roaring fire! Now that’s a different matter entirely.

    1. We don’t have Thanksgiving like you do (just harvest thanksgivings in churches – the original of the US Thanksgiving) so the shops feel free to have Christmas stuff from mid October if one is lucky, and the beginning of October if one is not. By the time Christmas actually comes, everyone except the children are sick of the decorations etc!

  7. What a charming group of pictures. I completely fell under Shearer’s spell. Thanks so much for this virtual shopping trip. Mary in Ann Arbor

  8. I love Shearers! I stock up on beremeal there when I’m up and my DH loves all the fishing and shooting supplies out the back. It’s just like Narnia that place. Seeing that they’ve opened up the top floor means another thing has been added to the list of things to do when I pop up before Christmas to see folk 🙂

  9. I’ve never been upstairs in Shearers but love even the downstairs. I always try and pick up bere meal too. My Dad doesn’t have a girdle anymore so we made bere bannocks in a frying pan instead – turned out pretty good! And I’m glad to see it called “girdle”. Everyone over here mocks me for calling it a girdle not a griddle but the couple who looked after me when I was a kid were from Burray and made bannocks at least once a week so I always called it a girdle like they did. Mind you, I had an Orcadian accent until I started school as I spent as much if not more time with my Orcadian neighbors as I did with my own parents. William Shearer often visits my Dad when he goes over to Caithness and brings seed potatoes (?) with him, I think. Thanks for bringing back happy memories!

    1. Yes – they have 20 or 30 types of seed poato in the tattie planting season… And most folk here call it a girdle not a griddle. Very good they are too – but as you say, a frying pan can also work!

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