I was interested to read Bill Drever’s article on Tom Cree of the Cree’s Inn in the last issue of the Village Crier. I particularly noted the claim that, at the time of his death in 1911, Tom Cree held the record of being the longest licence holder of the same premises, having held the licence continuously for 53 years.
The Abernethy connection to what follows is tenuous as I have lived in Abernethy for only seven years. The next licence holder to exceed Tom Cree’s record was my maternal grandfather, Matthew Dickie. When he died, 44 years later than Tom Cree, in July 1955 at the age of 84, He had been the licence holder of the Ayr Arms Hotel and public bar for 56 years.
Mr Dickie’s record was beaten many years later. I recollect a press report in the mid 1990s that a lady had retired as licence holder of a hotel in Kingussie, having held the licence for 61 or 62 years.
Burns enthusiasts will be able to pinpoint exactly where the Ayr Arms was situated, being in Ayr’s High Street almost exactly opposite the Tam O’Shanter Inn.
I doubt if Mr Dickie ever got anywhere near Perthshire as being a hotel-keeper was a 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year commitment.
His 50th anniversary as licence holder was marked by a dinner and presentation ceremony in the hotel on 16th December, 1948. This was arranged by the Ayr Arms Burns Cronies club which was formed by Mr Dickie, a Burns enthusiast, in the depths of wartime around 1944. The members were regular customers in his bar. There were over 60 present at the function and I attended as his only grandchild being, by a substantial margin, the youngest person present.
The function was reported at length in both of Ayr’s weekly newspapers and in greater length in the National Guardian, a weekly licensed trade newspaper. This report took up most of the centre pages which included several paragraphs reporting the marriage, on 1st December 1948, of Christine Thomson and Ian Hume in Dron Church; Miss Thomson being a daughter of the then licensee of the Bein Inn, Glenfarg.
To us in Ayr, which to us was the centre of the known universe, Dron and Glenfarg were places far away and over the hills but, 60 years on, I realise what a small world it is. I wonder if any of the Thomson and/or Hume family members are still living in or around Abernethy?
R D Jamie
25 Sutherland Crescent