End of an era as Adam hangs up his scoop

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Britain’s oldest ice cream vendor by a country mile, Adam Kelly of Galashiels, has been forced into retirement, aged 94.

While his round never took him out of his home town, Adam’s Ices is an institution. There are not many in Galashiels who have not ran for a nougat wafer, penny sweetie or cigarettes at the sound of his distinctive chimes.

Each cone, each bag of crisps, was handed over with a smile. Because Adam loved his job ... which is why he kept doing it for over 50 years.

He told us: “I just loved meeting the people. I was really busy when I started, because nobody had freezers in those days and no shops were open after five, so I could have gone on till 11pm if I wanted.

“The kids I served back then now have their grandchildren coming out to my van.

“There was nothing better than driving the van around on my rounds.”

Adam said there has never been anything like the ice cream wars of Glasgow in the Borders, and no-one has tried to edge in on his rounds.

“However,” he said, “there was one Kelso bloke who said he was going to put six new vans on the road and was going to run everybody else off the road. Not sure what happened to him.”

He said he stayed in Galashiels for financial reasons.

He said: “Some of my customers flitted to other towns in the Borders, and asked me if I would go there, but you can’t make money when you are travelling.”

Adam explained why he has taken the decision to quit after all these years.

He said: “I’d still be driving now, but I have been told I have to stop.

“I can’t read the small type in the papers, so I thought I had better get my eyes checked.

“The optician said I shouldn’t be driving any more, so I’m having to sell up.”

Adam’s love of driving was what saw him through the war.

He had been called up in 1941 with his good friend Toni Macari – of Macari’s cafe fame.

But while Toni was sent to India, Adam was posted to El Alamein, Tobruk, Benghazi, Tripoli, Tunis, Algeirs and across to Sicilily and Italy.

He said: “We were almost at Monte Cassino, when we were called back to England for the Normandy invasion.

“From there, we fought through France, Holland, Belgium and into Germany.

“We were away for about six years ... we were hardly in this country at all.”

“I was a driver, carrying ammunition.

“They promoted me to Lance Corporal in the end, but all I wanted to do was drive.”

Once back in the Borders, Adam resumed his job driving tankers for the creamery, delivering to Dumfries and Lockerbie. It was during this time he met his wife, Elizabeth, who was walking to a friend’s house when he offered her a lift in his tanker.

They will be married 65 years in October.

He started selling ice cream round Galashiels part time for his pal Toni, but set up on his own by 1966.

He quickly established a loyal customer base, and in latter years even had his own online fanbase – with the launch on Facebook of the Adam’s Ices Appreciation Society, which has more than 700 likes.

Of his customers, Adam said: “I’d like to thank them all for their custom and I will miss seeing them all.

“I saw a lot of them in Asda today when I was shopping! And in M&S, the manager gave me a card to wish me well in my retirement.”

“I never like to be sitting idle, so I’ll still be out and about. I like getting the bus down the street to get my papers in the morning, and I like to spend some time in my greenhouse.

“I haven’t got round to selling the van or my car yet.

“Maybe someone will give me a bob or two for the business.”