ISLANDERS have launched an urgent appeal for someone to take over a local shop and award-winning sub-post office which is the hub of island life on the Inner Hebridean Isle of Lismore.

Lismore Stores is the only local source on the 10-mile-long island for a range of groceries, fresh supplies of bread and dairy produce, newspapers, beers, wines and spirits.

It is also an information exchange point, as well as somewhere people can relax with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and enjoy the local craic.

Husband-and-wife team David and Teenie Wilson have been running Lismore Stores, in the centre of the island near the ferry terminal at Achnacroish, for over 22 years and the 160-strong community is looking for someone to take over the local lifeline.

The Post Office has its own “Lismore” franking stamp, and won the 2006 Post Office Best Rural Branch Award.

“It’s pretty close to 23 years now and we want to retire,” David Wilson told The National.

“We’ve changed it a lot in the last 20-odd years and we now have a coffee machine and a nice table for people to sit at.

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“The shop supplies the island’s needs in terms of groceries, and also I stock haberdashery, small tools and things you might not necessarily get otherwise, except online or by going to the mainland.”

Wilson said they had enjoyed the support of the community over the last two decades, but the new proprietors would have to enjoy it, otherwise it could be “a stone around your neck”.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with the community. I’m not the best financial person in the world, my wife does most of the finances, but in the front of the house as it were I enjoy visitors and islanders.

“It’s always interesting to see who’s there and we have quite a lot of holiday homes on the island, so we have people who come back year after year as well as new ones.”

He admitted that island life did not always run smoothly, organising fresh milk and bread and gas supplies, which mainland shops did not have to cope with. “You also have to rely on the assistance of others. Yesterday there was no boat so I organised somebody else to do the shop [on the mainland] because I didn’t think I could get back, but you do stock up for those kind of emergencies.”

Lismore sits in Loch Linnhe and is serviced by a car ferry from Oban, and passenger ferry from Port Appin.

The shop and post office has occupied its leased premises for more than a century and, although it does not have living accommodation, there is ample scope for renting or buying housing and islanders are eager to facilitate the welcome and settling-in of a new operator.

For longer-term residents with perseverance, self-build sites do occasionally come up.

Sebastian Tombs chairs the Lismore Community Trust working group which has started the search for a new proprietor, and said although the population was weighted towards more elderly residents, the island’s demographic profile had improved. However, he said depopulation still had to be tackled: “We’re very keen not to lose the shop and post office because that’s a vital hub for the whole community.

“We have been attracting some younger people to the island. A few people have been on work-aways – often international volunteers who come and stay for a period for board and lodging and they offer some hours every day to support work on the croft.

“Some of them have decided it’s so nice they’ve come back and some have put roots down, so if we can get the right people here, they really like it.

“The school population is holding up, but any more losses are a concern and we need to keep the facilities in good order to attract people.”

Dirk Parker, who arrived early last year with partner Krissie and primary-aged Bronwyn and Heidi, said: “Moving to Lismore has been great for us and our two daughters.

“They love the school, and we love the place, even though we are running businesses at some distance – across the UK!”

If Lismore Stores sounds like your cup of tea, contact Sebastian Tombs on 01631 760128.