The Back of Woolies and Other Lost Locations

One of the weird things about moving back to a place where you grew up so once knew very well, but in the interim you have lived elsewhere for twenty years, is that past locations that are so clear in your head are now lost to the present world. The back of Woolies in Inverness is one such lost location.

The two-storey Woolworths store in Inverness had a great corner location with the front doors on the High Street, but with the ‘back’ door (actually at the side of the building) opening up onto Lombard Street, a short quiet pedestrians-only back street creating a quick and easy cut through to Union Street. Woolies was a favourite shop for so many bits and pieces, so always enjoyed a high footfall including capturing extra trade via plenty of casual through-traffic.

When I was growing up and catching up with friends on a Saturday afternoon ‘the back of Woolies’ was a regular central meeting place. In those days, before the advent of purpose built shopping malls to pull the bulk of people away from the middle of the town to congregate in cavernous indoor off-centres elsewhere, the buzzing High Street with its jumble of large and small retailers all jostling for prime position was the pinnacle of our everyday shopping universe.

Sadly, Woolworths as a company died a death many years ago, and the retail company that now inhabits the ground floor only of the site has closed off the back doors entirely, losing the fluidity and flow of customers in the current configuration. The street, of course, remains intact, but inside my head Lombard Street will always be called ‘the back of Woolies’, even though the Woolies store referred to no longer exists exept in my memory.

Other lost locations in my memory include the Record Rendezvous on Church Street, one of only two dedicated vinyl record shops in Inverness. (Incidentally, the other record shop was on the Market Brae Steps at the other end of the High Street and was actually called ‘The Other Record Shop’, known affectionately as TORS.) However I see that the aptly named Rendezvous Cafe now sits happily on exactly the same footprint as the old Record Rendezvous, and the continuity of the name makes me smile every time I walk past it.

And in the same vein only a few yards away along the street from the Rendezvous Cafe there is also now a pub/ cafe bar called ‘The Auctioneers’ on the site of what was in my day actually a proper old fashioned auction house selling household furniture and similar items – it’s so nice to see a nod to the old businesses of the past in the naming of the new.

Alternatively, places where the name has changed but the business is the same still catch me off guard – the Victorian hotel built in to the fabric of the train station may now be branded as the Royal Highland, but it’ll always be the Station Hotel to me. And in my head the more modern Mercure Hotel overlooking the River Ness is still the Caledonian Hotel, known to all and sundry of my generation as the ‘Caley’, although its probably been a good decade or so at least years since the name changed πŸ™‚

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