End of an era as Robert Brown fries his last fish

Robert Brown, left, and John McIlroy, right, standing in front of the iconic Campbeltown take-away.
Robert Brown, left, and John McIlroy, right, standing in front of the iconic Campbeltown take-away.

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One of Campbeltown’s longest-standing and most iconic fast food aficionados has switched off his fryers and hung up his apron for the last time.

Robert Brown, 73, owner of Rab’s Chippie on Shore Street, has retired after 42 years of serving up fish and chips to Kintyre’s residents and visitors, with last Saturday his final day in the shop.

Robert’s chip shop career began in 1977 when he decided, after 15 years working at East Drumlemble Farm and a year driving lorries, that he wanted to set up his own business.

He purchased a chip van and drafted in his wife Margaret’s family to help peel and hand-chip potatoes.

‘We got a quarter of a bin filled and headed to the airport, near to where the RAF was stationed, and pulled into a lay-by,’ Robert said.

‘A traveller came along and we sold our first bag of chips – but we forgot to take a float, so we were all going through our pockets looking for some change!’

Robert said he became a bit of an Agony Uncle during his years out and about in the van.

‘I could write a book with stories from the van – people would come to me crying, others shared happy news,’ he said. ‘I enjoyed the van, I met a lot of people over the years.’

Robert said that the most famous people were probably Caroline, Princess of Hanover, the daughter of Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, and American actress Grace Kelly.

‘Princess Caroline and her boyfriend came to the van when we were parked at the top of the pier. A while later we went to collect some fish from a boat beside the princess’s ship – we could see down into the galley and it was nothing but chip pokes and champagne bottles!’

In 1988, after 11 years in the van, Robert bought his Shore Street premises.

‘It must be the most photographed shop in Britain,’ he said, adding that visitors came from all over the world to visit both the van and the shop.

Among the highs, there were some lows – primarily when the shop was gutted by fire in 2007.

‘It was a hard time,’ said Robert, who had been recovering after hospital treatment at the time. ‘It was burned to the walls, but the family rallied and we were back on the go in seven weeks.’

Robert’s plans for his retirement will see him make something of a return to his early working life on the farm, as he plans to focus his time on his own goats, sheep and hens which live in a paddock beside his home.

‘They’ll keep me going – plus what the wife has got for me!’ he quipped, adding that he will now have more time to spend with his family, as well as ‘doing up’ an old tractor and some bikes.

‘I’ll be kept busy,’ he said. ‘After 58 years of working, I think I’m due a wee break, and Christmas seemed a good time to wind up.’

The chip shop is for sale, although Robert’s right-hand man in the shop for the last 38 years, ‘faithful employee’ John McIlroy, is taking on the lease for the time being.

Robert said: ‘I’d like to thank my family for all their support over the years, plus all my customers who were loyal from the start. I’ll miss them.’