Compared to other High Streets, Newport’s main thoroughfare has changed remarkably little over the last 120 years. We have photographs from the turn of the last century where, although the names overhead are different, we can easily recognise the premises below them. Presumably David Doig, the chemist in 1900, would enjoy a fish supper from the Fifie (previously The Silvery Tay) in 2020?
Beatt and Tait
Beatt and Tait enjoyed a prime position on the High Street for over 50 years, and customers helped them celebrate their 50th anniversary in 1984. Charles Beatt and Charles Tait started their grocery business near the top of the High Street in 1934. They were a progressive firm – they were the first business in Newport to use motor transport instead of horse and cart, and in 1966 they became one of the earliest self-service shops. In 1962 the store started trading under the VG Foodstore banner. By the 1970s the business was in the capable hands of Ronnie and David Beatt. In 1984 the store celebrated 50 years with various events in store for their customers.
Many have fond memories of Jimmy Fairlie’s shop. It was definitely a case of ‘Ask within for anything’. Previously Jimmy’s shop was in the old Royal Buildings at Robert Street. He recalled one night in black-out conditions during the war when the Fifie ran aground at the bottom of Robert Street. The captain had mistaken a rogue light showing from Royal Buildings to be the guide light at the end of the pier.
Tayfield Estate Office
This unusual little building at the bottom of the High Street is now in 2020 a private house, but it has seen a wide variety of purposes over the years. It started life as the Tayfield Estate office, and everyone shipping any goods in or out from the old (Tayfield) pier at the bottom of Granary Lane had to pay their dues here. Our photograph shows it in the days of Modelia, a fairly short-lived fashion house in the late 1970s. Many still remember it as Muir Son and Patton’s Coal office, where Newport residents could order and pay for their coal deliveries, so essential for their large coal warmed houses.
On the other side of the street, the four shops there have seen a variety of uses. In our photograph at the top of the page, we can see the Clydesdale Bank. It would later be over the road, in the premises occupied in 2020 by New Paws on Tay and Hair for Men. The bank shop would later become Miss Duff’s much-loved drapers shop, and people have fond memories of her being able to find anything at all in her many little cupboards and drawers – a soft goods version of Jimmy Fairlie’s across the road! Next door was R S McColl, a branch of the newsagent and stationery store that was found in every town and city across Scotland. Betsworth and Barlow, local plumbers, had their gas and plumbing showroom here for 70 years until the 1970s.
Nowadays of course these two shops are occupied by Sutherlands. Sidney Sutherland started his business over the road at Number 24 High Street (now in 2020 Yoga on Tay) in the early 1960s. It would soon be one of the most modern looking buildings on the street, with its bright orange frontage and geometric lines. In the 1990s son Bruce expanded over the road and established a beauty salon at No 9. Alan Beaton opened his interior design shop at No 11 also in the 1990s, and when he vacated it Sutherlands was able to spread into both shops bringing both parts of the business under one roof. It’s lovely to see the original shop front design preserved here. Nearly 60 years on the High Street, Sutherlands is in 2020 by far the oldest business here.
Not exactly a shop, but there’s no doubt the gasworks were a very obvious presence on the High Street with the tall chimney towering overhead. The gasworks were just over the wall from the High Street, between the granary and the old pier. The gasworks were established here in 1856 and soon coal gas was replacing oil and candles in most of the houses in the village. Fire damaged part of the gasworks in 1903, and they were replaced by new ones just outside the village on the Tayport road: these were administered by the new town council. Meanwhile the site of the old gasworks became the burgh yard until local government re-organisation in 1975, and is now the site of the Granary Lane housing development.
For more images of shops and businesses , search our archive.