A husband and wife who worked in a popular garage in Ellon for 30 years have closed the bonnet on their time fixing the town’s vehicles for generations of customers – and thanked locals for loyal support over the years.
Derek and Lynne McAndie worked at the County Garage together for three decades, running it together for the final 14 of them, encompassing the majority of Derek’s half-century career as a mechanic.
The couple are such a town institution that they know of at least two local families where three generations have been regulars – described by Derek as both “customers and friends that we’ve made”.
But on Hogmanay they closed the doors of their business for the final time, as they look forward to a retirement that may prove to be just as busy as their working lives.
Five decades serving community
Mr McAndie, 65, got his start as a mechanic in Ellon when he was just 15, back in 1971.
In 1980, he also took on a role in the town’s fire service, and over the course of the next 29 years worked his way up the ranks to become watch manager.
He was among the firefighters who took on the devastating blaze that followed a gas explosion at Aberdeen’s Royal Darroch hotel in 1983, which killed six people.
Mr McAndie also spent a memorable day rescuing a cow that had fallen down a cliff near Collieston.
In the mid-eighties, he first met his future wife Lynne, as they both worked part-time behind the bar at the historic New Inn hotel.
Together, they became familiar to the town through their frequent appearances at fetes and gala days in support of the fire service.
Mrs McAndie, 57, said: “Between Derek and I, we’ve raised a lot of money for the fire brigade charity, doing fundraising raffles and the open day.”
The couple got married 31 years ago, and not long after both joined the staff at the County Garage. Then, in 2007, they got the opportunity to take over the Hospital Road-based business, and they have been in that position ever since.
But with Mr McAndie reaching retirement age, they have decided it is time to move on. Soon, neighbouring business Croft Autotech will take over the section of the building previously occupied by the garage.
While the pair are yet to make solid plans – daughter Claire, 26, suggested they are both fans of cruises – both know they will not be stepping back from the community any time soon.
Support for cancer charity
Mrs McAndie is particularly keen to step up her volunteering work for Friends of Anchor, the charity for Aberdeen Royal Infirmary’s cancer and haematology unit.
She said: “I’ve helped at most of the Courage on the Catwalk, I’ve done some Christmas dances and collection at doors.
“A couple of weeks ago I was in helping wrap up the Christmas presents for the patients, nurses and staff at Anchor.”
She added: “I really do think it’s a really good charity to help, because all the proceeds go to the Anchor unit.”
The charity is an important one to the McAndies, after Claire’s close friend Rosie Carr died earlier this year aged 26.
Miss McAndie, a project manager for a software company, said: “She’d been in and out of hospital quite a lot, she had leukaemia twice and she was always in Ward 112.
“A lot of the things she had were thanks to Friends of Anchor – things like having a TV in her room rather than having to pay the extortionate amount for a hospital TV, because she’d sometimes be in there eight weeks at a time.
“I think she got her wigs through Anchor, and just little things that made a difference.”
Aside from Anchor, there is another good cause the couple will be focusing on thanks to a familiar decision made by youngest daughter Chloe, 24.
Mrs McAndie said: “She’s away to do her training for the Ellon fire brigade.
“So I would think we would probably be back helping if they need any help for open days or fundraising, we’ll be helping her as much as we can.”