It’s the end of an era, as Buccleuch Cleaners pulls the plug in Selkirk

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One of Selkirk’s oldest businesses, Buccleuch Cleaners, is heading downstream to Galashiels, after washing Souters’ dirty laundry for four generations on Buccleuch Road.

“Buccleuch Cleaners will continue exactly as it was,” owner Allan ‘Hedgie’ Hogg told The Wee Paper, “but the only difference is the Selkirk premises will be closed.”

All the company’s equipment and six staff will be moved to its second base at Gala Park, opened in 2008 and run by Allan’s son Stuart.

Selkirk’s laundry and dry cleaners, which Allan’s grandfather Thomas Hogg started on the site beside the Mill Lade in the 19th century, will be shut for good at the end of January, but locals’ washing can still be dropped off, and picked up clean, at Allan’s agent, Needlepoint, in the West Port.

“I know a lot of people will feel let down,” he said. “It’s a cost-saving exercise: we’re a very energy-dependent industry, and energy prices are hitting home for us, but the biggest change is we have to pay full price for water, and for effluent – all our waste is charged.

“Without the help of very good staff, and my sister, it wouldn’t have been able to continue. We survived three really bad recessions.”

The Hogg family also kept the service going during the First and Second World Wars, when Allan’s father Thomas, in a reserved occupation, washed many soldiers’ uniforms. Later, in the early 1950s, the main building was rebuilt, at the same time as Philiphaugh Primary School.

“My whole life’s here,” Allan told us: “I started in 1966, so I’ve been 49 years at it now.

“Five years into it, I never thought I’d still be working here, but it was just the way things panned out. My father died when I was 24. I was quite pleased when my son came into it.”

“There used to be 14 laundries in the Borders in the 50s and 60s,” he recalled: “Every town used to have one. There used to be 14 people working here in its heyday. We were swamped with work. We are the last of the old traditional laundries. There won’t be another one.

“The volume of business has dropped off, purely because of the domestic washing machine. The BGH has its own laundry, and it does private work as well – but that takes away work we might have had. How a public company can do private work, it’s sticky one. It sticks in my craw because we’re not big enough to compete – yet.

“We’ve tried to keep up to date with modern machinery,” he said, but, since the 1920s, they also kept “probably the country’s oldest working roller ironer” going until 15 years ago. “It was a working museum piece,” Allan told us, “and it never missed a beat. I’ll miss the people, and we’ve got the most fantastic view over the hills. Where we are in Gala, there’ll be nothing to look at. I’m not sure what we’ll do with the Selkirk building: it’s still undecided. I’ve no plans for retirement, except maybe take it a bit easier.”

If you can identify anybody in Allan’s old photos of Buccleuch Cleaners, please write to them at 66 Gala Park, Galashiels.