Boswall, Granton, Trinity, Wardie





Phil Wilson
Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

with replies from

Kenneth Williamson
Silverknowes, Edinburgh, Scotland


Donald Grant
Penicuik, Midlothian, Scotland

-  The Boswall Estate

-  Milk Deliveries

-  1968 Hurricane

-  Leith Provident Store

-  Other Shops and Characters

-  Football at Inverleith Park


Bruce Johnstone
Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland



James Munro
South-west France

Boswall Parkway Shops


Douglas Roberts
New Town, Edinburgh

-  Wardieburn Drive

-  Boswall Parkway

-  Co-op

-  Any More Recollections


Kenneth Williamson
Silverknowes, Edinburgh

-  Boswall Parkway Shops

-  Smeaton's, the Barber

-  Birrell's, the Confectioner

-  Leith Provident Co-op

-  Drysalter

-  Petrie's Shop

-  Black's the Newsagent

-  Other Shops


Peter Stubbs

-  Boswall Parkway Shops

-  2014


Bill Keir
Doha, Qatar

-  Boswall Parkway Shops

-  2014




Phil Wilson


The Boswall Estate

"The Boswall scheme was originally built for returning services officers after WW1, and, even when we lived there,  there were some seriously posh people in the district. The lady who lived below us, was from an old colonial family from South Africa and India, and was tremendously nice in an old-fashioned sort of way.

There were also a few ex-military men with rust-coloured overcoats and big moustaches surviving in the early days, walking their boxer dogs occasionally.

In those days to get a  house in Boswall you had to pass an interview for 'respectability', and if you earned over a certain amount, like my Dad, you had to pay the 'economic rent'."

Phil Wilson, Aberdeen, Scotland:  February 2004

Milk Deliveries

"In my early teenage years I was one of a crowd of milk-delivery boys, working out of Leith Provident Store in Boswall Parkway, in the row just to the east of Granton Parish Church. This would be round about 1966-7.

My 'round' was up Boswall Drive, but occasionally I would get lucky, if one of the other boys failed to show on the day, and be given a second round.

I remember doing the Royston delivery, as well as, every so often, Boswall Terrace (which was a really long round although the amount of milk delivered was roughly equal) or rarely Boswall Avenue.

We used two-handled, reddish-brown,  low, oblong wheel-barrows, and had to load them ourselves.  The day started by getting up at four a.m., and starting at five. Usually I would get back home around seven-thirty a.m., have a huge and very welcome breakfast, and get ready for the day at school.

If I got second rounds several times in a week, the money was really quite good for a teenager (though I still can't seem to hang onto it, even now). We worked in all weathers."

Phil Wilson, Aberdeen, Scotland:  February 2004


Kenneth G Williamson who replied

Milk Deliveries

"I was reading one of the stories about delivering milk from Leith Provident store at Boswall Parkway. 

I used to deliver milk, once a day during the week and twice on a Saturday.  The Saturday afternoon run was something like the great Oklahoma land race with barrows and people heading off on all directions aided and abetted by whoever you could get to help you.

How nobody was ever knocked down in the melee was amazing. 

The Bert mentioned in the article was the assistant manager who tried to control us to no avail.  The reason he got a ribbing off almost everyone was because he had a speech impediment and 'Political Correctness' had not yet been invented."

Kenneth G Williamson, Silverknowes, Edinburgh:  April 25, 2006


1968 Hurricane

"When working as a milk-delivery boy I experienced the great 'hurricane' on January 15, 1968.

It really was a curious experience, listening to my bedroom windows nearly being blown-in overnight, and then having to pick my way across rubble to deliver to the doorstep the following morning in parts of Boswall Drive.

It seems that extreme weather isn't actually anything new."

Phil Wilson, Aberdeen, Scotland:  September 8, 2007

"Winds of up to 125 mph were recorded in parts of Scotland, particularly in the west that night.  Nine people were killed in Glasgow by buildings that collapsed, and at least two in Edinburgh.  80,000 homes were damaged by the gusts in Glasgow alone.

The rubble I stepped over in Boswall Drive was less dangerous, being the connecting arch between two properties on the west side, but the memory of the howling noise and the rattling windows overnight is still strong in my mind."

Phil Wilson, Aberdeen, Scotland:  April 27, 2009

Leith Provident Store

"In those days the store was staffed by a manager (short and stocky), whose name I've forgotten, but his assistant was called 'Bert'.  Bert was a decent chap, tall and gangly and bespectacled, but got a lot of ragging from the boys.

At the eastern end of the shop was the butcher's section, which was run by the expert Jimmy Dalgleish, who unfortunately died, at a too young age, of cancer at the beginning of the 1980s.

The thing that really sticks in my mind is smell of the fresh bread and rolls (the 'pan' loaves wrapped in LP thickly-waxed paper) combined with the powerful smell of fresh milk and cream.

In these days of supermarket bread and milk, the up-to-the-minute freshness of the produce is no longer the same. Part of the delivery task was to supply rolls as well to customers."

Phil Wilson, Aberdeen, Scotland -  formerly Edinburgh  -  February 2004

Other Shops and Characters

"Other shops in the area were 'Birrells' opposite Granton Parish Church,  a draper's which sold wool and cotton supplies in the old manner.

There was also a newsagent's next-door.

Also around that area at the time was a character called (not very originally) 'Jimmy', who was a shell-shocked war veteran, who had a distinctive twitching manner. He was harmless, and would show up for a chat out of the blue, but made little sense when he did."

Phil Wilson, Aberdeen, Scotland -  formerly Edinburgh  -  February 2004


Donald Grant added:


"The shops Phil mentions opposite Granton Parish Church occupy the site on the corner of Wardieburn Drive and Boswall Parkway.  I remember:

-  In Wardieburn Drive, the northern-most shop was occupied by a barber called Smeaton.  I can't recall how many shops were between that and Birrells which was the most southerly but I've a feeling one was a greengrocer.

-  The drapers, Miss Richardson was on the corner site going into Boswall Parkway.  Next to that was a chemist. Next came a Dry-salter owned by Mr Petrie and next door to that came Blacks the newsagent.

- The remaining shops were all Leith Provident Cooperative and originally consisted of a butcher, baker and grocer all in separate shops. They were all eventually combined into what in those days (late-'50s early-'60s) was called a supermarket. That was rather small by modern standards."

Delivery Jobs

"I had several jobs over the years:

-  delivering papers for Duncan's Newsagent and Post Office in Boswall Drive.

-  a milk round for Alexander's Dairy in Granton Road.

- delivering groceries all round the area on an old shop bike, complete with basket mounted on the front for Wilson the Grocer, again in Granton Road

- again on a bike, delivering bread for Mackies the Bakers at Goldenacre.

I hasten to add that I didn't have these jobs all at the same time!"

Donald Grant, Penicuik, Midlothian, Scotland


Football at Inverleith Park

"My memories of Boswall are of almost undiluted happiness.

My Dad used to run the local football team for the boys, and I remember 12 of us squeezing into an Austin A30(!) and going down to Inverleith Park, having at one stage to duck down when a Panda car was spotted.

A certain Gordon Strachan from Muirhouse made a guest appearance with us, aged 13, once."

Phil Wilson, Aberdeen, Scotland -  formerly Edinburgh  -  February 2004

Zoom-in to a photograph of Granton Road Station  -  1934 ©

" I remember waving to King Olav of Norway from my gran's house in 1962, as he made stately progress west on the railway, sometime in the late fifties. He waved back too."

Phil Wilson, Aberdeen, Scotland -  formerly Edinburgh  -  February 2004




Bruce Johnstone

Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland

Thank you to Bruce Johnstone for responding to comments about shops by Phil Wilson and Donald Grant, above.

Bruce wrote:


"One of the shops near Granton Parish Church was Birrell's, confectioners, previously Maxwells where my mother worked for a few years.

Other shops near Birrell's were:

-  Smeaton:  hairdressers

-  Hardie or Petrie:  grocers

-  Williamson's:  fruiters

-  Edinburgh & Dumfriesshire:  dairy

-  Richardson:  drapers

-  Brechin:  chemists

-  Howie:  ironmongers / drysalter

-  Black's :  newsagents

-  Leith Provident Co-op:  baker, fruitier, grocer, butcher."

Bruce Johnstone, Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland:  November 5, 2010




James Munro

South-West France

Thank you to James Munro who wrote:

Boswall Parkway Shops

"It's interesting to see how many people remember the shops around the corner of Boswall Parkway. 

I remember when Maxwell the confectioner was called Hallam's, and also the news which spread like wildfire around the 1948-49 era:  "The store has got bananas!" I was immediately dispatched by my mother to get some .  Of course, they were already sold out.

Before Smeaton took over the hairdresser, it belonged to a Mr.& Mrs. McLuskey.   I hated going there because they always gave you a short back and sides, and a deliberately ticklish going-over with the electric clippers on the back of your neck.  Smeaton owned a magnificent 1949 Rover 75 P3.

Reading these many reports stirs the memories, beyond doubt."

James Munro, South-West France:  June 10, 2011




Douglas Roberts

New Town, Edinburgh

Thank you to Douglas for sending all his memories below of the shops at Boswall Parkway that he knew when he lived in the area, aged about ten to twelve.

Douglas wrote:

on the corner of

Wardieburn Drive
Boswall Parkway

"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 1930s.

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.

A community is a social unit of any size that shares common valuesFrom 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.

Wardieburn Drive

- Smeaton's, the Barber, 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 Pilton Avenue.

In the 1950s a haircut for boys/men meant only one thing – 'short back-and-sides', and 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.

Williamson’s, the greengrocer, 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 Dairy - 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.

-  Maxwell’s, 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.  There were:

numerous jars of boiled sweets and other delicacies, priced per quarter.

tubes of sweets (pastilles, gums etc) and

-  more elaborate boxes of chocolates.

I remember:

-  the counter to the left

-  cabinets of goods facing the counter

-  a lot of open floor space in between.

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.

Perhaps 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 o’clock!"

Boswall Parkway

- Richardson’s, the Haberdasher was the shop on the Wardieburn Drive / Boswall Parkway block (apart from the Co-op).  It straddled the corner, although the entrance was on the Boswall Parkway front.

It was the shop that I found to be the most interesting on the block.  It's the one which you would be least likely to find amongst local shops today.

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 varnished wood.

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 local chemist.

-  Howie’s, the Drysalter   Howie's, which had previously operated under the name of Izatt’s (?) was next door to Brechin's, the Chemist.

As a 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.

Its 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."


"Some 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 stores."

  Boswall Parkway - Co-op and Staff


    Workers at Leith Provident Coop, Boswall Parkway, 1935 ©

Shops in the mid-to-late-1950s

Any More Recollections?

"These recollections are as accurate as my memory is reliable. They have been augmented in some areas by recollections from my elder sister, Judith.  The key point is that they refer to a particular time, the mid-to-late 1950s.

I'd 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, Edinburgh: September 2, 2014

More Recollections

I hope that somebody will have more recollections of the shops, to add to those provided by Douglas above.  If you do have any, please email me to let me know, then I can add them to this page.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  September 4, 2014




Kenneth Williamson

Silverknowes, Edinburgh

Thank you Kenneth Williamson for writing again, this time in response to the comments form Douglas Roberts above.

Kenneth wrote:

Boswall Parkway Shops

Smeaton's, the Barber

"I suffered several 'haircuts' at Smeaton's.

I think that, because money was tight, as much hair as possible, without making your head looking like a billiard ball, was cut off.   It was called a 'crew cut'.

 There was a family who lived in my street, Granton Terrace, who, every summer, had their heads shaved. Both the girls and boys received this 'haircut' which, personally, I always thought was a bit extreme!

I also remember that a plank of wood was placed across the arms of the barber's chair so that small boys could have their hair cut."

Birrell's, the Confectioner

"Birrell's shop was where I bought butternuts on my way to Ainslie Park school. Thankfully, I can still get them at Canderson's sweetie shop in Leith Walk."

Leith Provident Co-op

"There were once three Leith Provident shops but they were then made into one.  I delivered milk for Leith Provident."


"As boys, we used to buy canes from the drysalter, to make bows and arrows, as well as paraffin and briquettes for heating the house. How we never lost an eye firing the cane arrows at each other is a miracle!"

Petrie's Shop

"Petrie's shop was like 'Open All Hours'."

Black's, the Newsagent

"I agree that the least interesting shop was Blacks the newsagents. I knew people who delivered papers for that shop but we very rarely used the shop."

Other Shops

"The other shops, we also used on occasion."

Kenneth Williamson, Silverknowes, Edinburgh:  September 5, 2014




Peter Stubbs



After reading the Recollections 4 above, from Douglas Roberts, I decided to have a look at the shops on the corner of Wardieburn Drive and Boswall Parkway today, to see how they have changed over the past 60 years.

The growth in the number of families owning cars, and the new Asda, Sainsbury, Morrison, Tesco and Lidl supermarkets, all now built within a couple of miles of Boswall Parkway, with their cheaper prices, wide range of products and longer opening hours have presumably reduced the amount of shopping done locally.

The table and photo below show the shops that I found when I visited the corner of Wardieburn Drive and Boswall Parkway today  -  a narrower range of shops today than in the mid-1950s.

In fact, I find it surprising that the shops are all still in business.  Elsewhere in  Edinburgh, some of the former shops have been converted to houses.

Shops on the corner of

Wardieburn Drive


Boswall Parkway

These shops are listed in order, Wardieburn Drive (N to S)
then round the corner and into Boswall Parkway (W to E)


Thank you to Douglas Roberts for writing on September 8, after seeing my first draft of the table below.  The info that Douglas gave me has enabled me to line up the positions of the shops in the mid-1950s with those in 2004.






North Edinburgh Credit Union Ltd






Spice 'n' Nice

Indian Takeaway

Edinburgh & Dumfriesshire

Baker and Dairy

Hong Kong

Cantonese + Peking Takeaway




Cafe and Takeaway



Day Today

Licenced Grocer

includes Western Union

"Only 17 Thursdays until Christmas"

Cash Transfers





Alan Campbell

[shared shop]


Alan Campbell

[shared shop}




Boswell News

Convenience Store

Leith Provident



"Genuinely Scottish since 1859"
"Open:  7am to 10pm, 7 days"


Leith Provident





September 2014

Shops at Wardieburn Drive (on the left) and Boswall Parkway (on the right, behind the tree)

Shops on the corner of Wardieburn Drive and Boswall Parkway

©  Peter Stubbs.    Please contact                              Photograph taken Sep, 7, 2014

I took this photo today, at 4.30pm on a Sunday afternoon when all the shutters were up.  The only shop that was open at that time of the week in this block was Scotmid Co-op.


Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  September 7 + 8, 2014




Bill Keir

Doha, Qatar

Thank you to Bill Keir for sending me the message below.  I apologise for having taken over two years to find time to send you a reply and add your comments to this page.

Bill wrote:


The Shops

"I really enjoyed reading all the contributions from everyone, re Wardieburn.

I was born at 4 Wardieburn Place South in 1949 and remember the shops well. Credit to all who have contributed, really accurate memories of the shops.

I remember:

-  having my hair cut by Mr Smeaton

- going into Mr Petrie's and being served by ‘Minnie’

- going into Williamsons

I remember Mr Black having his wee Scottish Terrier running up and down the counter on top of the newspapers and mags and barking all the away.

The memories of  Richardson's are dead right.  It was so old and formal for a kid.  It was probably okay for the time but I only wanted to get out!

Milk Deliveries

I also delivered milk for the co-op and my run was 'Pilton Place from bottom to top'. It was an easy run (but not in the winter), It was all in one street, but it was the furthest run from the Branch.

Bert MacDonald

The reason I write is that the Assistant Manager, Bert MacDonald (who has been mentioned before) had the responsibility of dispatching 20-odd milk boys out in the morning.  He  took a really hard time from us all.

He turned up from his home (Graham St, Leith) very early in the morning to get us all loaded and out.  We actually went on strike when we discovered that the Crewe Road Branch were earning a couple of pennies more than us.  We got our ‘Union Advice’ from the Butchers next door. (I think it made the Edinburgh Evening News).

Bert married late in life.  He had one son and unfortunately his wife died soon after.  I used to meet Bert from time to time when my wife and I were strolling along the Portobello Prom with our kids at the weekend. He was always on his way to see his Mum who was in an old folks' home. He never forgot me and remembered the names of the lads who delivered the milk. 

Last time I met Bert was on a bus in Princes Street.  I think he was partially blind, but when I sat beside him to talk he remembered me immediately.

I stayed on the bus long beyond my stop just to catch up. He told me that he was not well and that things were not good.  He told me that I was always welcome to visit him in his home in Musselburgh.

Bert MacDonald was an absolute Gentleman -  Salt of the Earth. He was a lovely caring man and I will never forget him. He helped shape me into the person I am today."

Bill Keir, Doha, Qatar:  20 March 2015


More Recollections:    Boswall, Granton, Trinity and Wardie



Recollections:    Edinburgh

Recollections:    Contributors