Ian Scott: Step back in time to Falkirk High Street of the sixties

Walking along the High Street recently I found myself humming ‘Things ain’t what they used to be’. Charity shops, bookmakers, and cut price stores fill the spaces where once upon a time, butcher and baker, fishmonger, fruiterer and publican plied their trade.

By Ian Scott
Thursday, 9th December 2021, 4:30 pm
Alexanders Stores  and the Red Lion.
Alexanders Stores and the Red Lion.

The 1960s saw the beginning of the end of this world so over the next couple of weeks I want to take a stroll along the High Street of 60 years ago starting at the east end.

Not many cars about but one of the many buses drops us off at Alexander’s Bus Station, a thing of beauty compared to the sorry, neglected stance of today.

In the Callendar Riggs, the great empty ‘sandy hole’ surrounded by billboards for so many years is all animation as cranes and diggers begin the transformation of the east end of the town to create the long gone and unloved Callendar Centre.

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The high street from the Herald office.

The old Callendar Arms points our way up the High Street where we are spoiled for choice.

There are over 80 shops to visit as well as ten pubs, five cafes and three big stores.

But mind how you go! Buses and lorries, cars and delivery vans, and the occasional horse and cart, squeeze through the narrow street as people spill from crowded pavements.

Across the road near Samwell Smith’s radio shop the Broadway Cafe is doing a roaring trade and, if the queue at Fishers Bakery is too long, don’t worry, there are five more further up the street.

Passing the Cross Keys Inn, Harpet Electrical and Lindsay Cooper’s opticians we arrive at the celebrated York Cafe. Too early for a fish tea? Never!

From the upstairs window we can see the empty shops across the road waiting for demolition but the Red Lion Inn is still in business on the corner of the building which houses Alexander’s Stores.

The highlight of many a visit the town, Alexander’s is a wonderland of glass and china, kitchen and household goods, televisions and new fangled electrical equipment.

Beside the York is Alex Munro’s butcher shop – he has another one further up the street – and, there are at least four others happy to serve us.

The Cat Inn (now Greggs) is next not far from Henry Dillon, one of Falkirk’s favourite drapers.

Across the road stands Joe Rifkin’s furniture store beside the former Commercial Bank with its Greek columns housing the offices of Festus Moffat.

Another pub, the Black Bull is next door near Massey’s grocers one of 16 in the town centre.

There are many offices, insurance companies and banks too, like the Falkirk and Counties Savings Bank on the comer of Cow Wynd.

A little further on is Brough the optician, Hipps tailors and the head office of the Herald next to Watson’s shoe shop. (Today these two buildings are occupied by Pound World and Waterstones respectively).

Here the men among us might nip up the close to have Mr Armstrong give you a short back and sides while listening to the barbers and customers discussing the latest racing certainties at Ascot or Ayr or find out what’s going wrong with the teams that play at Brockville or the Shire’s park.

Now we are near the heart of the town and it’s time to escape from the crowds to the shade of the Pie Office or the Gaff Inn. Next week we head for the west end.

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