The district to the
east of Leith Walk and south of London Road
- 'Black Hand Gang'
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
- Edinburgh Buses
- Easter Road
- Hillside Street
- Our Flats
Hillside Crescent Gardens
- Football Matches
- Work after School
- School Lunch Breaks
- Car Journeys
Thank you to Ron Goldie who wrote:
'Black Hand Gang'
was brought up in Elm Row at the top of Leith
Walk, between London Road and Montgomery Street. I am the oldest of
Some people used to call us the 'Black
Hand Gang' for some strange reason.
It might have been because we were always
manky. I think with five boys, my mother had a problem trying to
keep us up to a reasonable standard of cleanliness."
"Our first mode of transport was the
forerunner to the formula 1 racing car, the 'Guider'.
It was a self-built
vehicle, built from anything we could get
hold of and propelled by kneeling on it and shoving it along from
behind with one of your feet.
prototypes were made of a few planks of wood, a cross-member
whittled down, a piece of string which was our steering and four
ball bearings for wheels. Where we stole
the ball bearings from I cant remember,
but they did the job. The only
problem was that you could hear us
speeding down Elm Row from a mile off!
We then progressed and modernized our "Guider", by stealing prams
and removing the wheels - similar
to today's trend, but today its with cars.
Times haven't changed so much after all,
our suped-up vehicles were now silent and
we rocketed down Elm Row bowling over anything and anyone in our
path. The only problem was that we never
did devise ways of stopping them, nor a
method of self-propelling those vehicles
back up the hill. We had to walk, dragging this thing behind us and
start again from the top.
you, those self-built thingys turned out
to be useful to our parents too. We were told to pick up the
shopping or drive it to Abbeyhill goods railway station for a bag
of coal. Not so bad getting there, but, the journey back was a bit
So much for the 'guider'. I never
knew why it was called that. It was never really guided, just aimed
down a hill."
Ron Goldie: August 6 2009,
Peine, Germany: August 6, 2009
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Thank you to John Simpson who wrote:
story begins in the late-1930s when my grandparents lived in
Hillside Street, off London Road.
We arrived by train from
Aberdour and either took a tram or walked,
depending on the weather. From
1950 to 1956, I worked
at Thornton's in Princes Street."
"I travelled widely
throughout the city by bus and tram and was very
familiar with the route system.
I attended night classes at Bellvue school.
If I was there early, I would walk
round the bus garage nearby - Central Garage in
Annandale Street - to see anything new going on. I still enjoy the
Scottish Bus Museum website and visit it often."
John Simpson, Calgary, Alberta,
Canada: August 4, 2009
Thank you to Ronald Stout, Denmark, who wrote:
VI died in February 1952. I lived at that time at 288 Easter Road
and attended Lochend Primary School. I
remember we held two minutes silence in the classroom when the
king’s death was announced."
"By the time of the
coronation of Queen Elizabeth, in
June 1953, I had moved to Hillside Street
and was attending
Leith Walk Primary School.
I was about 7 years of age when I moved to Hillside
Street and lived there until I was about 15 or 16.
Hillside Street branches off the more prestigious Hillside Crescent,
the last outpost of William Playfair’s Eastern New Town project of
the 19th century.
The children on the street were more or less divided in two groups:
those born around 1940,
the beginning of the war
those, like myself, around 1945-46,
at the end of the war."
"I lived in number 23 Hillside Street.
There was some subsidence in part of the street.
I remember the hall in our flat sloping so much that
you could roll Easter eggs.
a cupboard in the hall where we stored coal for the fires – no
central heating in those days. In the winter it was necessary to
heat the bed with a hot water bottle, undress in the warmth of the
living room and run as fast as you could into a heated bed."
an age before supermarkets and refrigerators,
we had all the necessary shops on or around the street.
At the bottom of Hillside Street,
nearest Montgomery Street, on the uneven numbered side of the
street, we had a butcher and a greengrocer. On
the opposite corner we had a newsagent and
Wilsons grocer shop which retains the name
Round the corner, on Montgomery Street,
there was yet another butcher and, I
believe, a dairy.
On the corner of Montgomery Street and West Montgomery Place,
there was a baker (now a café) and
in West Montgomery Place,
there was another grocer/greengrocer run by a Pole.
remember him using tongs, never his
fingers, even when we
were buying sweets from him."
"There was only one family that had a
television, so every day,
the children on the street would troop up to see:
Bill and Ben,
the Flowerpot Men
The Sooty Show,
"I remember buying the first issue of the
comic, the Lion, in 1952. I should
have kept it! The choice was either
the Eagle or the Lion, and I was a 'Lion
Later, mostly influenced by my father who
had read them as a boy, I progressed to
the Hotspur and the Rover. An
occasional Film Fun was also bought by my
weekly pocket money."
"Hillside Street was still cobblestones
when I moved there, so we had our own Guy
Fawkes bonfire, but this ended ended
when the cobblestones were replaced by tar.
Our bonfire was subsequently
moved to Windsor Street.
From our bay window in the front room we had a great view of the
fireworks on Calton Hill."
"I remember, in an age
sliding down Calton Hill on
playing cowboys and Indians in
London Road Gardens.
football in Holyrood Park.
Otherwise the street was our playground, unless you made the mistake
of playing outside the windows of a music teacher who had her
address on Hillside Crescent but windows overlooking Hillside
Street. She was the cause of many visits by the local bobby who
chased us off the street."
"At the top of the street,
in Hillside Crescent Gardens, was the
King’s tree, a huge chestnut tree. One day
we decided to throw some chestnuts at the window of the music
teacher. This resulted in a visit to my parents by the police.
was not at home when they came, but the warning was passed on to me."
"Calton Hill became very much
1953, following the murder of two small
girls in the Greenside area at the back of the Playhouse cinema.
I had nightmares for ages
"Cinemas were plentiful.
The ones we visited most frequently
"The Salon had benches in the front rows
and an usher kept tracks of when we came in, so at precisely the
time when we were about to see the film second time round we were
tossed out the back door – to the infamous Greenside area."
"At the Regent, if you bought a ticket for
the balcony, you turned right up some stairs at the booking office.
On the other hand, if your ticket
said the stalls, this meant a longer walk through an underground
passageway before getting to, as in all
cinemas of the time, a smoke-filled
"When Celtic or Rangers played at Easter
Road the buses from Glasgow were parked as far off as Hillside
Street. Often, the drivers would gather in
one bus and leave the doors of the other busses unlocked.
The most daring would then sneak on to the busses in search of coins
perhaps dropped by the supporters. Sometimes we were lucky – mostly
Work After School
To supplement my pocket money I had jobs
The first was a delivery boy for a
chemist at the corner of Montgomery Street and Leith Walk.
was a delivery boy for a grocer shop at the corner of Brunswick
Street and Leith Walk.
Around Christmas and New Year
when I delivered a great deal of beer, besides groceries, the tips
One year, I remember earning
£8 or £9 pounds
in tips – probably a week’s earnings for some grownups."
School Lunch Breaks
"Sometimes I met my father for lunch.
School lunch breaks were
over an hour, many going home to eat.
I remember you could get a three-course
lunch for 1/6, and a little later for 2/6.
A lunch ticket at Broughton Senior
Secondary School cost a shilling."
"I was a member of the 8th Leith Boys’
Brigade at Pilrig Church and
attended Sunday School classes at Dalmeny Street Church.
I have many fond memories of those years
that time my pocket money was half a crown (2/6d).
I had a penny for the collection at
Sunday School. One Sunday I offered up my half crown instead of my
penny, entirely by mistake. I was in
qualms whether or not to go to the Sunday school teacher to retrieve
my pocket money. I didn’t dare.
The following week was marked by abject poverty combined with a very
holier-than-thou feeling of salvation."
"At the top of Hillside Street lived two
bachelor brothers. One collected military swords and helmets;
the other provided free haircuts for the boys in the street.
The latter also had an MG, two-seater
sports car. Sometimes he would take
two boys for rides in the car,
visiting castles and other places of interest.
There were no seat belts, and no
parents wondering what the man was up to – absolutely innocent,
by the way. It was another world
from today with much more freedom.
I suppose there were fewer dangers then, at least on the roads. I
can only recall two, or perhaps three cars
parked on Hillside Street in the 1950s.
Today it’s quite another story."
"Frank Dick, a
former athlete, athletic coach etc., etc. lived on
Hillside Street. He
was a bit older than me. I remember
him showing me how to be a good goalkeeper and not to stand with
open legs when a ball was on its way to the goal. Time
wasted, I’m afraid!"
I have no photos from Hillside Street from the
1950s. It would be great if someone did
have any, and sent them to the
Ronald Stout, Denmark:
October 15, 2010