Stornoway’s Chemists

In 1891 and 1901 we find these Chemists in the town (there are none in the previous censuses):

Thomas C Henderson, 25, Chemist & Druggist, 78 Keith St, b. Alyth, Perth
Edward Tucker, 47, Manufacturing Chemist, 23 Keith St, b. Ireland
John C Smith, 24, Student of Practical Chemistry, 44 Francis St, b. Stornoway
Robert Mcaulay, 16, Chemist’s Assistant, 8 James St, b. Stornoway
Alex D Morison, 15, Chemist’s Apprentice, 21 Cromwell St, b. Stornoway
Roderick Ross, 14, Chemist, Apprentice, 3 Newton St, b. Stornoway

Roderick Smith, 28, Chemist & Druggist, 33 Newton St, b. Stornoway
Charles Hunter, 30, Chemist, 50 Kenneth St, b. Borham, Banffshire
William John Tolmie, 22, Chemist, No 5 Frances St, b. Inverness, Inverness-shire
Angus Macrae, 19, Chemist, 10 New St, b. Stornoway
Alexander D Macleod, 16, Message Boy (Chemist), 9 Plantation St, b. Stornoway

It is difficult to untangle precisely which type of Chemist some of these men (and boys!) were. The terms Pharmacist, Druggist and Chemist (although having precise definitions) have all been applied in different places and at different times to those retail  premises that provide a wide range of commodities from hand cream to prescription drugs. However, there are clues such as this recent photograph of Tolmie’s shop in Cromwell Street. We can see the word ‘Chemist’ on the left and what appears to be ‘Drugs’, or ‘Druggist’, on the right. This is an example of a ‘Chemist’ in the retail sense, rather than a ‘Manufacturing Chemist’ such as our Edward Tucker of 1891. Thus we cannot be sure whether the assistants and apprentices of 1891 were working in manufacture or in retail, or even both, but these 11 records are significant in recording an aspect of social change (Druggist becoming Chemist) as well as developments in science education (Practical Chemistry’s recognition as a subject in its own right) during the closing quarter of the 19thC.

Ref: Science Educationin 19thC Scotland –

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