End of an era as Gala butcher’s business closes after 90 years

Jim Hogg, butcher in Galashiels retiring.
Jim Hogg, butcher in Galashiels retiring.
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When Jim Hogg started his apprenticeship at Peter Walker’s butcher’s shop in Galashiels in 1961, there were six such businesses in the town.

But Jim’s retirement and closure of his High Street shop at the weekend, leaves just one independent butcher in the town.

Jim Hogg, butcher in Galashiels retiring.

Jim Hogg, butcher in Galashiels retiring.

And Mr Hogg says big supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda, which both have large stores in the town centre, are to blame for the demise of many small town centre 

The firm of Peter Walker & Son owned the shop at 60 High Street from 1953 until 1983, and prior to this it was owned by the same proprietor for 30 years, meaning the shop had been a butcher’s business since the early 1920s.

Jim is now in negotiations with the J D Wetherspoon pub chain, which owns the licensed premises next door to the butcher’s shop, with a view to selling them his High Street property.

“Yes, it is the end of an era, I’m afraid,” Jim told The Southern this week. “I have two sons, but neither followed me into the trade.”

Jim joined Peter Walker & Son as a 15-year-old apprentice, joining his elder brother George in the firm. The two brothers then started working at Galashiels abattoir, where they spent the next 12 years. It was in 1983, following the death of Peter Walker, that Jim and George returned to take over the High Street shop, renaming it G & J Hogg Butchers.

Another name change took place when George passed away, with the shop now known as J Hogg Butchers.

“In 1992 we had six people working in here, but eventually that dwindled to just me. I’m convinced that the shrinking trade to the High Street has been to do with big supermarkets opening in the town.

“With their 24-hour opening policy and having everything under one roof, they have killed off much of the trade.

“Pledges that they would bring more trade into the town centre have turned out to be a load of rubbish.

“When I started there were six independent butchers shops plus the Co-op butchery. Now I’ve closed, it just leaves Stewart Noble in the town.”

Jim says closures of butcher shops has not been the only changes to Galashiels High Street that he has witnessed over the decades.

“When the mills were all still operating, people used to come along the High Street in droves. And with Scottish Power and the gas board having offices nearby, you would get people coming in after they’d been to pay their bills.

“They call it progress, but it’s not always for the better.”

A former stalwart of Gala Opera, Jim says it was a combination of several things that convinced him now was the right time to retire.

“Well, I’m 67 now and environmental health officials wanted me to spend a lot of money on improvements to the shop. Then a couple of my machines broke down and I thought ‘someone’s trying to tell me something’.”

Jim says retirement will be life-changing. He said: “The other day my wife asked me to pop out to buy some milk and I saw all these people going to work and felt guilty as I thought that should be me as well.

“I’ll just have to see what life throws at me now,” said Jim, a keen walker. “But one thing I would like to do, is thank all my customers who have loyally supported the shop over the years.”