on the corner of
"I lived in Pilton Avenue
between the years 1947 and 1974, so I'm well
aware of lots of the recollections and insights already
posted on the EdinPhoto web site.
Here are my
memories of the shops around the corner of Wardieburn Drive and
Boswall Parkway. These were established to cater for the
needs of the large influx of new residents into the area through the
We may not have had a complete
range of shops, but it was sufficiently varied to meet the day-to-day
needs of that local community in the 1950s -- and the use of the phrase
‘local community’ is appropriate.
community is a social unit of any size that shares common values.
From memory, no shopkeeper
in the area needed to bolt and shutter his/her
premises for fear of break-ins or vandalism, certainly not amongst this
group of shops!
I can’t provide a complete
history, but I can give a snapshot of these shops as they were in the
mid-to-late 1950s, with references to some of the
earlier and later names of these shops.
was the first shop on the Wardieburn Drive row of shops.
Smeaton took over the shop after the death
of Mr McLuskey, who had lived very close to the shop, near the foot of
In the 1950s a haircut for
boys/men meant only one thing – 'short
Brylcreamed to give that ‘slick’ look . That’s how the vast
majority of role models at the time sported themselves – teenagers and pop
idols were yet to be invented.
The shop itself was rather small,
though it did open up at the business end, and it became very busy, very
early on Saturday mornings when schoolchildren descended. If you
weren’t early, then you were in for a wait,
although the staff did ‘get through’ the customers pretty quickly.
There was no shampooing, and there was literally just the one style
– more like shearing than cutting!
Mr Petrie, the Grocer
was next door.
His was another rather narrow shop. Some contributors have
identified this shop as Hardie’s
– and indeed it was, before Petrie took over.
It was a standard grocery store
for its time, selling cheese, cold meats, cereals etc. In some ways the
old grocery was more like the modern deli with less packaging and more
cutting and slicing to meet more specific requirements.
The difference was that there
just wasn’t a whole lot of choice of cheeses and cold meats – but Petrie
did have the regular cheese-cutting device that you see in specialist
cheese shops today – and he did have the regular meat-slicer.
was next, mostly selling fruit and veg. There would always be sacks of
produce ranged around the floor – potatoes, carrots etc. But the shop also
sold a wide range of cheap ‘affordable’ sweets, which registered firmly
with children growing up in the 1950s.
There were the
Penny Dainties, toffee bars etc, but the
most-prized were the Tobermory tatties. These
have been described on the
Retro Dundee web site as ‘solid white fondant covered in
cinnamon powder, and containing a small plastic charm’.
It was surely a reflection of the
time that a small plastic charm could arouse such interest and demand. It
is possible to buy ‘tatties’ today, but it’s doubtful whether they would
have the same charm!
Edinburgh and Dumfriesshire
- after the clutter of the two previous
shops - was an altogether fresher,
and more organised, shop
It had plenty of glass shelves
and cabinets and sold all manner of dairy products, as well as bread,
rolls and tempting cakes.
Looking at present-day bakeries
you would get a perfectly good impression of how the ‘dummy’ (as it was
known) looked back in the 1950s. The shop had previously been a fish shop,
but I’ve been unable to learn its name.
Confectioner and Tobacconist was
the final shop on the Wardieburn Drive block. Some contributors identified
this shop as Birrell’s,
which indeed it was, in succession to Maxwell’s.
It was a rather spacious shop,
and certainly the largest of the west-facing shops. Whilst Williamson’s
catered for the cheap sweets demand, Maxwell’s was the next step up.
numerous jars of
boiled sweets and other delicacies, priced per quarter.
tubes of sweets
(pastilles, gums etc) and
boxes of chocolates.
- the counter to the left
- cabinets of goods facing
- a lot of open floor space
As a tobacconist, cigarettes were
not always sold in full packs – it was not uncommon for them to be sold in
one’s or two’s.
the most interesting thing about Maxwell’s was that it had an outside
clock, between it and Richardson’s. That was a real focal point,
often used as a clearly identifiable meeting place –
"I’ll see you at the Maxwell’s clock at 7
was the shop on the Wardieburn Drive / Boswall Parkway block (apart from
It straddled the corner, although the entrance was on the Boswall Parkway
It was the
I found to be the most interesting on the block.
It's the one which you
would be least likely to find amongst local
It sold knitting patterns,
dressmaking designs and all the associated materials – wool, fabrics,
buttons, threads, needles etc.
That said a lot about the times.
Many more people still made their own clothes then, either out of
choice or necessity – and they mended rather
than threw away.
The 1950s and 1960s would prove
to be the peak for haberdashers as the increasing availability of
machine-knitted articles and mass-produced clothes led to a steady decline
thereafter. Back in the 1950s girls would
still be taught to knit – another age!"
Appropriately, for this rather
'end of an era store',
the ladies that ran it were themselves rather other-worldly.
From memory, they
dressed in what seemed home-made clothes and knitwear, and were rather
intimidating – to a young lad.
Brechin’s, the Chemist
was a typical chemist shop for the time:
- lots a dark, gloomy
a myriad of
mysterious bottles and
jars with strange labels – like the Misses
Richardson, a touch intimidating.
The age of the
more consumer-friendly dispensing chemist shops was a long time
coming. The positive was that in the mid-1950s we did at least have a
Howie's, which had
previously operated under the name of
was next door to Brechin's, the
drysalter, it may well have sold products such as glue, varnish, dyes and
paints, but it was also recognisably into the ironmongery/hardware store
business, selling the likes of nails, hammers, paraffin, mothballs etc.
This shop was strongly
distinguished by the various competing smells of its products.
Black’s, the Newsagent
was possibly the least interesting of
the shops from a historical perspective.
business remained relatively unchanged, whilst its neighbouring stores
were being transformed by social and cultural change.
That could explain its longevity.
The changes it did see were of
form, rather than fundamental.
The hey-day of the comic had been in the
1940s and 1950s, but their shrinking circulation was succeeded by the
growth of more and more specialist magazines as disposable incomes grew.
Another casualty of the times was
the pink and green Saturday evening sports papers which blossomed in the
post-war years – only to be rendered obsolete by the spread of television
and then the internet.
There is still a newsagent on the
Black’s site, still selling newspapers and magazines.
It's just the details that have changed.
Leith Provident Co-operative
shops made up the remaining shops in the block.
I clearly remember the embryonic
supermarket. It was decidedly primitive.
How could it be otherwise, given that there just wasn’t a wide range of
products at the time? All that it amounted to was a shop selling
groceries, bakery fruit etc under one roof instead of several –
not very super!
My only other definite memory is
that the end shop was a butcher’s, although I do recall the word ‘flesh’
in its title. This shop always had large carcasses suspended from hooks,
on the left-hand side as you went in."
contributors reckon that the Co-op had a separate bakery.
Other refer to a separate fruiterer, and still others both.
Being able to put a date on some of these
observations would help to track developments.
A final thought on the Co-op
regards the famous Co-op dividend (or divi) which was
paid out twice a year in the spring and autumn
to customers, who would be enlisted as members and
given their own numbers.
Members would then get
their divi which would be a share in
whatever profits the business generated, in
proportion to the amount of money each member had spent in the Co-op
Parkway - Co-op and Staff
Shops in the
recollections are as accurate as my memory is reliable. They have been
augmented in some areas by recollections from my elder sister,
The key point is that they refer to a particular time, the
welcome any corrections and/or additional recollections
of this period. I have a decent
memory of the shops but, apart from the Richardsons,
I have a zero recollection of any of the shopkeepers."
Douglas Roberts, New Town, Edinburgh
+ Judith Roberts, Holyrood,
September 2, 2014