Recollections  -  Edinburgh Old Town

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St Leonard's District

St Leonards is a district situated about 3/4 mile to the south of the Royal Mile, between The Meadows and Holyrood Park.  Many of the tenement buildings in the area were demolished.




George Smith

British Columbia, Canada

Thank you to George Smith for sending me his recollections of St Leonard's.

George wrote:

Fishwives from Musselburgh

   Carbon Print of Musselburgh Fishwives ©

"The Newhaven Fishwives prompted a recollection of such a woman who had her pitch at the end of Beaumont Place in the late thirties. As a kid I was told she walked via Fishwives Causeway from, I always believed,  Musselburgh.

I remember her black and white skirt-apron and the strong strap on her basket which she wore as a brow strap when hefting her goods (including her three legged stool). She sold 'buckies" complete with free pin and a shot of vinegar for, I think, 2d a cup."

Yes, the fishwives are likely to have come from Musselburgh.  Both Fisherrow Harbour at Musselburgh and Newhaven Harbour, between Leith and Granton had fishwives with their own distinctive costumes. 

    -  Peter Stubbs



"Also in that area were carriers stables. One horse 'Arrow" used to return unescorted through the streets to his stall from the St Leonards coal yard/ Goods yard each evening after being unharnessed. A memorable sight."



"Edinburgh seems to have had several housing incidents around that time. One in the corner of St Patrick's Square was of a staircase collapsing and I remember seeing pictures of baskets of 'messages' being hauled up by clothes rope to sustain the marooned tenants.

I think that particular building was demolished. It used to be over an arch (a 'pend'?) which led on in the direction of Buccleuch Place."


George Smith,Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada




Catherine Taylor (née Clark)

Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England

Thank you to Catherine Taylor (née Clark) for sending a message to the EdinPhoto guest book.

Catherine wrote:

Kindergarten and Schools

"Does anyone remember the kindergarten in East Adam Street?

I hear Drummond Street School is now apartments and South Bridge School is officesI attended both from 1949-1956I'd love to hear from anyone who attended then.

My last teacher was Mr Brown. We marched into school to rousing military band music and up stairs to our classrooms.

Does anyone remember Miss Woolard the sewing teacher - and her ttt ttt ttt?"


"My parents had a newsagent and tobacconist shop in St Leonards Street.

I wonder if anyone remembers Nicol the baker.  The hot pies were wonderful the gravy ran down your chin.  Many of the pupils from James Clarks spent their dinner money there."

Catherine Taylor (née Clark). Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England.
 Message sent to EdinPhoto guest book:  July 14, 2008




Bob Henderson

Burdiehouse, Edinburgh

Thank you to Bob Henderson who replied:


"You can let Catherine Taylor know that the kindergarten is still there, in East Adam Street, and is still used by local children. From the outside it still looks the same.

I was there from 1940 to 1943 and still have memories of it,  I've even even been in contact by email with Barbara Brown who attended at the same time as me. She  lived across the road from me in 18 Arthur Street. and also went to St Ann's and St. Pat's schools."

Bob Henderson, Burdiehouse, Edinburgh:  July 17, 2008




John Harris

Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

Thank you to John Harris for posting messages in the EdinPhoto guest book.

John wrote:

St Leonard's Hill

"I originated at 15 St. Leonard's Hill, top flat, from approx. 1938 until 1948, when I emigrated to Canada with my family. I am enjoying all the nostalgia concerning 'the Hill' and would like to hear from anyone of that era, so we can swap stories and talk of old times.  By the way, I am still a Hibs supporter!"

John Harris:  July 17, 2008



"Yes, the fishwives are likely to have come from Musselburgh.  Both Fisherrow Harbour at Musselburgh and Newhaven Harbour, between Leith and Granton had fishwives with their own distinctive costumes."

John Harris:  July 17, 2008

John added:


"I enjoy looking up old haunts from around 1939 to 1948. I'd like to hear from anyone living in the area of St. Leonard's Hill during that time."

John Harris:  January 18, 2009





Marion McHugh

Thank you to Marion McHugh who wrote:

St Paul's Church


Nearby Shops

"I remember St Paul's Church at St Leonard's Street. The Church was still standing in the 1970s but the tenements on either side of it had been demolished for a long time.  It was as if the powers that be could not make there minds up about what to do with the church..

I used to stand at the bus stop opposite the Church, before the tenements were demolished.

To the right of the church, there was:

 a baker

-  a St Cuthbert's Store

-  a bicycle repair shop

-  a grocer shop on the corner.

To the left, half way between the church and Carnegie Court, there were:

a fish and chip shop.  I think it was called McConi's

Thank you to Geoff Thrower for telling me that the name was actually Mocogni. 

Geoff added

"The grand daughter, who we used to see as a nipper in the shop in the late '60s, works at the same place as me and the family now live near me"

Geoff Thrower, Gorebridge, Midlothian, Scotland:  28 January 2015

a couple of Sweet Cash and Carry shops.

-  a few other shops, but my memory of them has faded.

Marion McHugh, July 20, 2014




Mike Melrose

Greenbank, Edinburgh

Thank you to Mike Melrose for replying to Marion McHugh's Recollections 5 above.

Mike wrote

Fish & Chip Shop

"Marion McHugh recalls the Fish and Chip Shop at St Leonards.

It was a McCogni's   sadly missed"

Mike Melrose, Greenbank, Edinburgh:  July 24, 2104



Further Information

St Leonards:  The Edinburgh Room at Edinburgh Central Library has a collection of photographs of the St Leonard's district, taken in the early 20th century before many of the buildings were demolished.  I hope to add a few of these photos to this web site later.

Fishwives:  The Newhaven Heritage Museum at Newhaven Harbour has for more information on fishwives and has examples of their costumes.  Unfortunately, this museum has been closed for refurbishment since late-2006.


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