ANTIQUE children's trikes, a doll propped in a rocking chair and an old bath tub line the footpath outside one of the most successful and long-standing businesses in a rural Ipswich town.

Inside, Les Birnie has been running Scotland Yard Antiques with his wife Kathy for more than 25 years.

Son Athol works in the back shed restoring old treasures, daughter Emily runs the next-door cafe and mini-nursery and another daughter, Lucie, supplies the plants from her property in Childers.

It's a family affair that started in Scotland before the move to Ipswich and eventually Marburg in the '80s.

At that time, there were 15 antique business between Ipswich and Toowoomba - now Scotland Yard Antiques is the last.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Emily Birnie and Dad Les Birnie run their businesses alongside each other in Marburg.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Emily Birnie and Dad Les Birnie run their businesses alongside each other in Marburg. Emma Clarke

"We ran the post office before we started out in antiques. I decided to have a go on my own and opened in 1991," Les said.

"When I opened, I was looking for something that was a bit catchier and different instead of the 'ye old' something. People used to call me Scotty so I just went with that.

"No one from the real Scotland Yard has ever complained.

"The whole industry has changed dramatically and there is not the same interest with young people or a lot of appreciation. They like modern things but we still do alright.

"We work hard at it. We don't sit around waiting for it to happen - we are out there working at it.

"We put a lot of work into this. It's all good fun and when it stops becoming fun that's when I'll give it away."

Scotland Yard Antiques is the product of hard work, dedication and commitment that Les, 70, can see lasting for generations to come under the watchful eye of his children.

"I'll gradually fade out and Athol and Emily can fade in. I don't plan to just one day retire. A lot of my good friends have retired and they are in motor homes and travelling around.

"That does not appeal to me. I'd be bored silly," he said.

"It makes me very proud to see us all working here, to have a family business. We came from a family business in Scotland - a bakery. My brothers and I were always involved in the family business. That has me wanting to keep this in the family."

Les said the family packed up and made the voyage to Australia looking for warmer climates. He doesn't mind the heat, even Saturday's 41C maximum.

"My family started to grow up and we saw there was a better life here. We wanted to get away from the cold. The coldest I have experienced was 27C below, so that was the main reason we decided to move to Australia. I quite enjoy the heat.

"This is the country," he said.

Les went to his first antiques auction in 1961 in his birth town, Keith, Scotland.

"There are so many facets to this industry from jewellery to glassware to ceramics, drawings, collectables, architectural pieces," he said.

"One particularly interesting piece was a very rare camera. There was only 33 made in the whole world by a company called Rolleiflex.

"I like nice, old country furniture.

"That is something that still gets me excited. Sometimes it's all fairly run of the mill but there are pieces that come along that make me think 'wow'."

Emily full of beans over next-door coffee venture

Emily Birnie opened Special Branch Collective at Marburg in 2017.
Emily Birnie opened Special Branch Collective at Marburg in 2017. Emma Clarke

"WHERE can we get a coffee?"

Before Special Branch Collective opened next to Scotland Yard Antiques in Marburg late last year, there was little choice in the quiet rural town.

Emily Birnie transformed the space next door to her father's antique business by moving out the furniture and replacing it with coffee and cakes, local art and plants.

"The pub has been the meeting place but if you don't drink, this is the new place to meet up and meet your neighbours. It has been nice to make the connection for people. I can't thank everyone enough for their support and letting the bush telegraph do its thing has been the best," she said.

The business combines fresh coffee, plants and locally made home wares with coffee beans from Dancing Bean Roasters in Ipswich.

"I spent some time with my sister on her farm and loved being around the plants and flowers and dad said 90 per cent of people who come in to the antique shop ask where can we get a coffee so I threw in the coffee machine," Emily said. "I guess there was a bit of debate as to whether it would be a plant shop with a coffee machine or a coffee shop with plants."

Coming home to Marburg

SHE flew around the world for 17 years, but small business owner Emily Birnie gravitated back home to Marburg.

The Special Branch Collective owner swapped the inside of airports, international cities and hotel rooms for family, a big backyard and the friendliness of her home town.

It was there she started Special Branch Collective which is a unique cafe and store inspired by Emily's ventures across the globe.

"Primarily, I wanted to be near my family after flying around the world for 17 years," she said.

"I call Marburg home now.

"This pace is perfect for me. I love it. I just wanted to simplify things and be out of cities and airports and hotels and have space and a garden and be near my family. It's a big change but I absolutely love it.

"If you had told me a year before that I would be moving back to Marburg and opening a little shop, I would not have predicted it.

"When I decided to leave flying, I just gravitated here.

"It was about being near my family after being away for so many special events."

Emily said Marburg had the village feel and the family and the community support she was craving after years travelling.

"Having lived in apartments in cities and now having a yard, it is much nicer," she said.

"I started flying when I was 20 and I loved every minute of it. It was an amazing job.

"My first Qantas flight ended up in the golf course in Bangkok.

"After that start, I had an awesome flying career and really loved it but ultimately after flying long-haul for 17 years, I wanted to come home to Marburg.

"After that length of time, I never thought I would because I left and went to see the world."
 



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