Mary celebrates 50 years working in Wilkies pub

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Her first shift was “a favour to the landlord” – but half a century later Mary Martin is still pulling in punters at the same pub.

Edinburgh’s longest-serving barmaid is celebrating 50 years’ service in the only venue she could – Wilkies in Leith.

Mary Martin serves regular Michael Lettis at Wilkies. Picture: Greg Macvean

Mary Martin serves regular Michael Lettis at Wilkies. Picture: Greg Macvean

The ever-popular 81-year-old once covered a Saturday night at the then-Whitson’s bar after her dad, Willie Willis, learned they were short-staffed.

Five decades on, the great-grandmother says that she has no plans to retire from what will always be her “favourite local”, yards 
from where she grew up on Henderson Street.

She said: “I still remember my dad telling me he’d told Willie ‘I’ll get Mary’. I told him I couldn’t just drop everything as I had two young boys but he said he couldn’t go back on his word. But then I came in for a day and spent 28 years with the landlord Willie Whitson and now it’s 22 years under Jim (Wilkie).

“I don’t know where the time has gone but I’ve enjoyed every moment. If anything, it’s just got better.”

Before her job in the pub, Mary worked in another Leith institution – TG Willis and Company – known locally as Willis the Butchers.

She was married to her late husband, Jimmy, a master grocer, and the couple had 
children Keith and James.

When Mary started her new job, aged 31, a pint of beer would cost about nine pence and Leith boasted more whisky being bottled on its shores then anywhere else in the world.Over the years, the bar has had the odd facelift but Mary maintains that much remains the same.

She said: “When I first started I would serve the tables and the bar was in a different place. I had a float and came up to the bar to get their drinks.

“I would work 11am to 2pm and then run over the road to get my dinner, and come back at 5pm. The pub was supposed to shut but no-one would leave once they were in.

“I have seen a lot of laddies grow into men, get married, have a family and get grandchildren of their own.

“Nowadays it’s my friends in here that keep me going. Some people say I should be in my house watching telly but that’s not for me.”

Loyal customers are eager to make their pints

PUNTERS were queuing up, not just for pints, but to pay tribute to Mary.

Michael Lettis, 70, from Sighthill, said: “We all love Mary here but I didn’t realise she’d been her 50 years, it’s a long time.

“She’s always happy and serves you with a smile.”

Jim Wilkie, 66, who marks 22 years in charge of the pub this year, said Mary was “the best employee you could ask for”.

Regular Helene O’Neil, 63, said Mary was the reason why so many people still came to the pub. She said: “When she’s on, you’re always welcome when you come in.

“You can come in by yourself and if Mary’s on you’re fine. She’s always a laugh and likes her music and dancing.”