GRACE MURDOCH COOPER (1892-1992)
Grace Murdoch Cooper celebrated her 100th birthday in September 1992 and had an extra special reason to be excited by her telegram from the Queen.
Miss Cooper celebrated her birthday at home in Beechwood with “open house” for family and friends and a visit from Brigadier Alastair Pearson and Councillor Margaret McGregor and a box of prawn cocktail crisps and a bottle of Lucozade.
Gracie was the first village postmistress and remembered the days when there were no telephones in Gartocharn and all communications came by an ABC instrument and were sent out by telegram. After leaving school she recalled taking the mail down to Ross Priory and became postmistress at the outbreak of WW1. She continued in this position for over 30 years. The post office was in Beechwood and this doubled up as the first telephone exchange. Gracie had the first telephone number – Gartocharn 1, later becoming 830201. She operated the first manual switch board connecting calls probably in the early years of the 20th century. The first manual telephone switch board opened in Glasgow in 1879.
Born at Rowantree Cottage in Gartocharn, Gracie lived all her life in the village. As a babe in arms, in the days when Loch Lomond would occasionally freeze over, she was wrapped in a shawl and carried by her father and mother onto the frozen surface of the loch. This was a risky adventure, but one which has provided an enduring family story.
As a school girl she developed a love for horses as she watched the animals being shod in her father’s blacksmith’s shop. The photo shows her brother, Pop Cooper, outside the old Smiddy. The Cooper family later moved from shoeing horses to motorised vehicle repair; the garage was behind Beechwood at the foot of Church Road. They started a livestock haulage business trading as John Cooper & Co which is still flourishing today. Gracie looked after all the lorry drivers and fed them when they were busy all hours. She was a remarkable lady, sustained through her long life by a firm faith, and loving to read the bible every day.