A fond farewell to Margaret Barr - last of the Falkirk hawkers

Margaret Barr in her heyday - she was the last of the Falkirk hawkers.
Margaret Barr in her heyday - she was the last of the Falkirk hawkers.

As late as the mid-60’s Margaret Wardrope Morton Barr was maybe the best-known woman in Falkirk, a local institution the town couldn’t do without.

For years she sold fresh fruit from the back of a lorry.

On March 26 family members, friends and well-wishers will gather for her funeral - and reflect on the rich and colourful life of a lady who took up the reins of the family business to carve a very special niche in local history.

Margaret passed away at Falkirk’s Barleystone Care Home on March 5, aged 91, but her memory will remain evergreen in the hearts of Bairns old enough to remember the days before late night supermarket shopping and convenience food.

Her daughter Margaret recalls: “She worked very hard, and was very strong - she had to be to shift the fruit she bought at the market in Glasgow.

“She was taken there by lorry first thing, and sold it on a Saturday. That’s the day you could buy apples, oranges and the rest”.

A large crowd invariably gathered when the lorry arrived in Market Square (what’s now Callendar Square car park), and trade was brisk - and so was the banter.

Margaret remembers helping out for an hour or two when she was a wee girl, and the fun of being at the centre of attention on a busy Saturday morning.

She also remembers the horses that were such an important part of the business for so many years - especially Judy and Misie (who may have started out as “Maisie”).

Born and brought up in Burnhead Lane, her mum quickly learned the ropes of the business run by her parents David and Margaret.

“She was good at her job, and well-respected in Falkirk” says daughter Margaret.

The family had perhaps more than its fair share of tragedies - Margaret was pre-deceased by husband Dougal, and daughter Margaret and her sister Elizabeth are the last of four children, so past memories are inevitably precious.

The business was a flourishing concern as far back as the 1920’s, when a photograph of family members gathered around the very smartly laid out stall shows the pride they had in their work.

The family also sold herring, which seems to have been very popular at the time, and in December diversified into Christmas trees as well.

“Margaret was out in all weathers”, said daughter Margaret. “It was the way things were done then, because people needed what was being sold and the family were used to doing what was necessary to make their living.

“People expected us to be there, and I don’t think while mum was working it ever missed a day”.

Margaret senior’s three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren were all hugely important to her.

However many others, some perhaps just young children when Margaret, last of the Falkirk hawkers, was in her prime, will remember her with great fondness on March 26.

“She was a very special lady”, says daughter Margaret - “and like all her family before her was ‘Falkirk’ through and through”.