"The end of an era" was the one phrase no one could avoid when talking about Stewart Gorman's retirement.

The popular postman, who covered Dalry, Kilbirnie and the surrounding rural areas in the Garnock Valley locked up for the final time last week, marking the end of more than 47 years of service.

He started out working under the GPO before Royal Mail took over, and is the proud last man standing in Ayrshire from the GPO era.

In fact, so experienced is Stewart that three quarters of those he worked alongside in the current office were not even born when he started out.

Stewart says he has "built up a relationship" with everyone in the area over his time serving the Garnock Valley, adding “it will be strange not having that contact".

He commented: "Serving the community has always been the highlight of my career.”

It won't just be Stewart missing the people though, the people will miss Stewart in their daily lives. Even more than that, their pets will too!

Stewart's daughter Jayne told of his popularity with animals in the area as he delivered shortbread and biscuits as well as letters and parcels on his route.

His commitment to his job was unrivalled, and his retirement won't just be a shock to the system for Stewart himself, but his family too.

“It’s sad for us as a family because all we have ever known is Royal Mail,” said his daughter Jayne.

”He hasn’t lost a minute. He’s done just about every job in the post office apart from being the cleaner.”

Not just that, Jayne was born on Christmas Eve - a busy day for the post service.

So did Stewart get a day off? No - of course not.

What he did get was half an hour to go visit his daughter after he was informed of her birth by his postmaster.

"That counts as your tea break," he was reminded.

Family time is on of the things Stewart says he is looking forward to in retirment, as well a getting to further explore his love of hill walking, golf and metal detecting.

Though before he looks forward, he told the Herald some of the remarkable, and at time ludicrous stories from his 47-and-a-half years.

The GPO days were like "a military operation" according to Stewart, "you were accountable for everything".

So when he damaged his van he knew it would be an issue. When he couldn't get this fixed immediately, it was an even bigger issue.

Then "he had a lightbulb moment", as he decided to superglue leaves to the vehicle to hide the damage - problem solved!

Well not quite, as he was informed his van was due to be washed. As he was told the leaves wouldn't budge, he blamed the sap covered shrubbery around the office, "It's like superglue," he remarked, as he somehow dodged the bullet.

As much as he loved animals, he had his troubles with them too.

Fields were a common theme, with one story seeing Stewart take a tumble into one as he tried to save a sheep marooned on its back.

Or the time he was chased by an Alsatian as van-less, he cycled the end of his rural route.

To avoid the dog on the way past once more, he cycled across a field with letters in one hand while he steered with the other. It was a great plan till he hit a bump and came tumbling to the earth, breaking his glasses, cutting his face and hurting his pride.

One farmer appealed for Stewart's help when he wouldn't believe the vet's assurances that one of his cows had not swallowed barbed wire.

Knowing of Stewart's metal detecting hobby, he asked for help with a second opinion. The vet was correct.

His animal instincts could see him turn hero at times, too: he recalled hearing a regular's Border Collie acting out of the ordinary, barking loudly and relentlessly.

Acting upon this, he discovered the dogs owner had taken a fall and was in a heap at the bottom of the stairs.

And he couldn't help but recall his first Christmas, when he was a tad less experienced.

A customer bellowed down the street she had something for him - a gift perhaps? No, it was a letter wrongly delivered to her address.

Stewart said he could go on and on, as he reminisced on years gone by.

While he said he had "worked beside folk that couldn’t wait to get out" for Stewart it was simple. 

“Did I enjoy my job? Aye."

There was just one sour taste left in Stewart's mouth, as his employers failed to acknowledge his service and retirement in any way, despite his years of commitment and sacrifice.

At least he is safe in the knowledge that the people of the Garnock Valley will miss seeing him coming along in his shorts and red polo shirt every day.