Ballantyne Road





Frank Ferri

Newhaven, Leith

Thank you to Frank Ferri for writing about some of his memories of growing up around Ballantyne Road.  His stories would cause concern to some of today's Health & Safety officials!

Frank wrote:


   The waste ground behind the flats in Ballantyne Road ©

"Old Ballantyne Road, before it was demolished in the 1970s, was an ideal haven for kids to play in. The quadrangle in it’s centre surrounded by the tenements of Junction Street, Bowling Green Street and Ballantyne Road/Place provided a safe sanctuary, away from traffic for kids to play all the games of the day, rounders, cricket, football, peevers, even sailing home-made sailing ships in the huge stagnant pool that would form there when it rained, due to the constant clogging of a central drain.  This this was the main area for our bonfire on Guy Fawkes' Night."

The Balconies

   The waste ground behind the flats in Ballantyne Road ©

"We made paper aeroplanes and tiny parachutes from a wee handkerchief and launched them from the open air tenement balconies.  Some even bread homing pigeons from a hut in this square.  On days when it was wet, we could sit on the balconies, playing board games or with toy cars."

The Piggery

Olympic Games

"We played in the piggery, a colloquial name for a large stretch of waste land in Ballantyne Place, so called because in days gone bye, this area was probably used to keep farm livestock

This was another safe area. In summer, we held our own Olympic Games there, competing with our neighbours from Bowling Green Street (when we were not fighting with them).

We used makeshift hurdles and high jumps from any piece of brick or wood laying about, using railing spikes as javelins, roof slates as the discus and  big Yawkers (large stones) for the shot-put.

Track events were marked out on hard compacted earth.  We we used bows and arrows made from Bamboo sticks with the arrows tipped with tar. The Bamboo was bought from the victual dealers in Junction Street."

Axes and Fire Cans

"As kids brought up in the 1940s. There was no end to our imagination or improvisation.  I remember the kids having seen a movie about the stone age, circa 1940 “One Million Years BC” starring Victor Mature.

Influenced by what we saw in this movie, we purloined slates from any building we could safely climb and used these, tied to a stick to make a stone age axe, emulating the film.

An old Tate & Lyle syrup tin would come in handy. We attached a long piece of wire to this for a handle, to create a fire can. This was filled with a few very tiny sticks, pieces of old linoleum lying about, or any other anything small but combustible.

We would then light the fire can, then swing it about our heads to stimulate the wee fire inside.  In the dark evenings, you would see the sparks fly.  Where we got this idea from has been lost in time.  It was like the religious ritual that some South American natives do to ward off evil spirits."

Ladies' Football

"The Piggery was also used for football.  There was a local ladies team known as the Lady Dynamos football team.  They took on the boys, or anybody and gave all comers a good run for their money.  A tough lot they were.

One of their surname was Leslie, as I remember.  She was a very masculine looking woman, with short gents'-style hair cut.  She wore trousers and very manly clothes, which was unusual in those days other than the old  movie stars, Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn."


"Home made guiders (go-carts) were very popular.  These were made from old timber and a set of cannibalised pram wheels.

At the foot of Ballantyne Road, the road surface turned into a dirt track that exited at Bowling Green Street.  It led past the Piggery into an industrialised area containing a yacht builders, small chemical works, sawmill, stables, a cooperage that we named 'The Barrels' and an amalgam of other small businesses.

From the cooperage, we acquired girders (large iron rings used to bind the wooden barrels together).  The girder was our imaginary vehicle.  We propelled along by hitting it with a stick.  No one could afford bicycles in those days."

Swings and Slide

"Playing on the swings in the local Keddie Park, off Ferry Road, was another way to pass the time on a warm summer’s day.  We did 'broncos' - standing on the swing and making it go as high as you could, then jumping off.

Many a bang on the head was received if you did not clear the swing fast enough.  The park slide was also used constantly."

Frank Ferri, Newhaven, Edinburgh:  March 18, 2010




Christine Richardson (née Donaldson)

Waterdown, Ontario, Canada

Thank you to Christine Richardson (née Donaldson) formerly of Ballantyne Place, Leith for posting a message in the EdinPhoto guest book.

Christine wrote:

Memories of Leith

"What wonderful memories we Leithers have.  I wouldn't change my childhood for anything when I look at what the kids have today.

I'd say we did appreciate what we had, playing outside with an old shoe polish tin (peevers)."

Condensed Milk

"Do you remember having condensed milk on a slice of bread?  I still love it.   On a Friday night, after our bath, we would have cocoa and hot buttered toast round the fire."

Sweetie Store

"My sister and I would do the shopping in the store on Bangor Road.  When we were finished, we went to the sweetie store next door for chocolate drops and little jelly sweets that we stuck on our ears for earrings.  Sometimes, we forgot to take them off."

New Dresses

"We always got a new dress for Sunday School Christmas Party.  I remember Mrs. Smith, I think her name was, who lived in a top flat on Ballantyne Road.  She made long dresses for us and dolly bags to match.  We we thought we were the best."

Home Baking

"We also had backgreen concerts, where the mothers would bake fairy cakes and my favourite tablet.  It was great.  I loved to come home from school and my mother had a nice table cloth on the table and scones just out of the oven.  How lucky."

Wash House

"I remember, one day, my aunt got my mother to go to the wash house.  She didn't like it but she gave in.  When she got back, I said, 'How was it?' and she said, 'Never again!'

I had to wait ages for a clothes horse.  I remember thinking, 'What a shame all these lovely horses with dripping wet sheets on their backs.' "

Remember Me?

"I hope someone out there knows me I would love to hear from them."

Christine Richardson (née Donaldson), Waterdown, Ontario, Canada
Message posted in Edinphoto guest book, February 13, 2011



Leith Around Edinburgh