Willie Millar - the ‘Knicker Peddlar’ of Duns 1919-2013

Eyemouth museum clock tower
Eyemouth museum clock tower

William Millar (94) was born in North Street, Duns, above what is still the local butchers, on September 8, 1919, the son of a cattle drover.

At an early age he became a message laddie delivering round the town for local grocer Che Che Beveridge. As an early entrepreneur he also collected bottles, jeelie jars and silver paper and sold them to a local confectioner for a poke o’ sweeties! At the age of nine he joined the English Kirk as a choirboy, opting for the Christ Church over the Parish Kirk as they paid a tanner (sixpence) a month for his services!

William Millar obituary

William Millar obituary

Wullie left school at 14 and started work for British Petroleum assisting the delivery driver in his rounds. His ambition was to travel the world but ‘on the cheap’ as he put it, with the Royal Navy. He studied at Leith Nautical College and gained his ticket as a wireless operator ready for his mission with the navy. However, his plan to sail the seven seas at their expense faded in 1939 as war was declared.

He was drafted into the RAF and was posted to Blackpool for basic training. Wullie joined 203 mobile squadron and headed for India and onto Ceylon. From there the squadron was posted to the deserts of North Africa.

On his demob in 1945 he returned to his beloved Berwickshire and, with a partner, started up as a pig farmer on rented land at East Reston and later Foulden.

Wullie fell in love with Nora Gray from Castle Street in Duns and after a shortt romance they married in 1948 and set up home in South Street where they remained for over 50 years.

In the early 60s his pig farming partner wanted out of the business so they sold up and Wullie decided on a completely different venture moveing from pigs to panties!

He and Nora took over the locl draper’s shop in Easter Street, Nora running the shop and Wullie selling his wears from a mobile van all over Berwickshire. As a result everyone knew Wullie as the “Knicker Peddlar”.

Wullie was much involved in local activities. He enjoyed performing with Duns Operatic Society and became chairman of the Elm Fishing Club - although he never actually held a fishing rod!

He was a founder member of Duns Burns Club and was a keen golfer and played at Duns and Dunbar until the age of 90. He was also a great attendee of the British Legion and was honoured as a life member. He recalled the days when you could have a bath in the clubrooms for thruppence!

Wullie and Nora enjoyed holidaying in Italy and long weeknds in the Scottish Highlands. He never ventured far without his ‘mobile bar’.

He was a great ambassador for Scotland, Berwickshire and his native Duns and was a true gentleman. He was a household name to many Berwickshire residents, a freindly man who never had a bad word to say about anyone. He will be sadly missed.