Remember, remember the fourth of November…
Although there were no fireworks or fanfares when the doors first opened at our first-ever grocery store in Ponton Street, Edinburgh 160 years ago today it was a truly monumental event – a modest start that led to an everlasting presence in the Scottish retail landscape.
Scotmid actually started life as St Cuthbert’s Co-operative Association in July 1859 when 12 Edinburgh workmen met in Grove Street and decided to form a co-operative society.
It was a case of ordinary working-class people, coming together with an extraordinary idea – a vision to improve their own lives and the lives of others by pulling together and co-operating for the greater good.
There is still an element of mystery as to why the name St Cuthbert’s was chosen. It is widely believed that the name was taken from the parish church of the district in Edinburgh where the society was formed.
But other historians argue that the name was chosen because St Cuthbert was a saint whose body was said to have been indestructible and it is fitting that we have survived intact for the next 160 years while many others have perished or fallen by the wayside.
Coincidentally and fittingly St Cuthbert is also buried at Durham Cathedral – near our Lakes & Dales stores in northern England – and the Bishop of Durham recently visited our Frosterley store; it seems as if the indestructible spirit of St Cuthbert has never left us.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Edinburgh was an area of great deprivation and hardship and St Cuthbert’s provided an invaluable service and a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of people in the Scottish capital.
Fastforward to 100 years later and St Cuthbert’s had become an integral part of Edinburgh life – merging with neighbouring societies and growing in importance. St Cuthbert’s farms and bakeries provided the bread and milk that fed Scotland’s capital city plus our department stores sold pretty much everything you could ever want or need – from school shoes to three-piece suites.
By 1965, our wee Society was even rubbing shoulders with royalty – our transport department received the prestigious Royal Warrant (no other co-operative had achieved this at that point in time) for Coach Painting. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh then visited our transport department the following year.
Throughout our existence, our progress has always been driven by innovation and ambition underpinned by prudence – when you examine the role Scotmid has played in Scottish life it really does take your breath away.
Over the past 16 decades, our core purpose has stayed the same – to serve our communities and to improve people’s everyday lives.
Scotmid are living and breathing proof that applying co-operative values and principles can work.
The ancient dream of 12 ordinary workmen is still alive and well and extremely relevant in modern Scotland – thanks to all our members, customers and staff, who have contributed to our success story.
So please celebrate our big birthday today and here’s to many more…