Stornoway’s Druggists

The term ‘Pharmacist’ is not found in the 1841-1901 censuses but the alternative ‘Druggist’ is:

1851
Alexander Macpherson, 33, Grocer & Druggist, Bayhead St, b. Gairloch, Ross
Neil Clapperton, 18, Druggist Assistant, Bayhead St, b. Oban, Argleshire

1861
Alexander Mcpherson, 43, Druggist, 7 Francis St, b. Gairloch

1871
Alexander Mcpherson, 53, Druggist & Bookseller, 33, Kenneth St, b. Gairloch
Donald Mcaulay, 18, Shopman (Druggist & Bookseller), Apprentice, b. Uig, Ross-shire
Alexander Mckenzie, 14, Shopman (Druggist & Bookseller), Apprentice, b, Ardnamurchan, Argyleshire

1881
Alexander McPherson, 63, Druggist & Book Seller, 48, Point St, b. Gairloch
Donald Murray, 18, Druggist Salesman, Inaclete No 20, b. Stornoway

1891
Thomas C Henderson, 25, Chemist & Druggist, 78, Keith St, b. Alyth, Perth

1901
Roderick Smith, 28, Chemist & Druggist, 33 Newton St, b. Stornoway

We can see that Alexander Macpherson was the town’s ‘Druggist’ for at least the 30-year period of 1851-1881, from the making of the first synthetic dye, ‘Perkin’s Mauve’, to Mendeleev’s brilliant innovation of the Periodic Table and beyond. The field of medicine was making giant strides in understanding and combating disease and the ‘Druggist’ played a significant role in improving public health, preparing many of the lotions and potions in his shop using a huge variety of ingredients ranging from herbs collected from the wild to refined chemicals. It must have been an exciting (perhaps one might even say ‘intoxicating’?) time to be performing this role. The pace of change would have been even greater during the time of his two successors.

Note: The end of the 19thC also sees the first Chemists in Stornoway since the days of the Lewis Chemical Works (1852-1874) and I shall endeavour to examine them in my next piece.

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