Jamaica Street

Edinburgh New Town  -  between India Street and Howe Street


Cumberland Street

History of the Street

Jamaica Street was planned, in 1802, as the only street of artisan housing in Edinburgh's Northern New Town.   The street was were demolished in 1960 and the site was redeveloped as Jamaica Mews in 1981.

Source:  The Place Names of Edinburgh (Stuart Harris)

Demolition -  Update

 Comments from

Tim Jeffrey, London

Thank you to Tim Jeffrey who wrote:

"I lived in a top floor flat at 7 India Street, overlooking Jamaica Street, from 1964 until 1978. I remember walking along Jamaica Street to go to Sinclair’s grocery store, so the street was lived in at least though into 1965.

I remember, well, the trepidation I had as a 5-year-old walking along a very run-down street;  I normally took the longer Heriot Row route.

Jamaica Street lay derelict and empty for a period,  so it cannot have been demolished until at least 1965 or 1966. I remember watching the ‘bongers’ for hours as it was demolished.

Does anyone have any photographs of Jamaica Street?"

Tim Jeffrey, London:  August 18, 2010





Ian Sergent

Redditch, Worcestershire, England

Thank you to Ian Sergent who wrote:

Living in Jamaica Street

"My father, Robert Sergent, was born in Jamaica Street and lived there  in the early 1950s.   He left in 1955, came to England and joined the RAF just to get out of the poverty and have three meals a day.

It's hard to believe some of the stories he tells me - they sound more Victorian than 20th century.  He had  a brother, Alan, and has two sisters, Agnus and Jenny.

My grandfather (my father's father) was doorman at the Regal Picture House. picture house."


"In Edinburgh, my father was friends with Jim Patience.  He would like to get in touch with Jim again, if at all possible.  Does anybody know where he is now?  I hope you can help."

Ian Sergent, Redditch, Worcestershire, England:  September 10, 2009

Do you know how to contact Jim Patience.  If so, please email me, then I'll pass on your message to Ian.

Thank you.   -  Peter Stubbs:  September 10, 2009


Thank you to Robert Williamson who wrote:

"Ian Sergent has been looking for a friend of his father, Jim Patience.  There is a Jim Prentice now living in Alberta.  He comes from Leith, at about the same time"

Eddie gave me the email address for Jim Patience of Alberta.  I've now passed it on to Ian Sergent.

Robert (Eddie) Williamson, Pickering, Ontario, Canada:  May 14, 2010



Pat Brown

Thank you to Pat Brown who wrote:

Living in Jamaica Street

"My dad moved to Jamaica Street from Boness when he was about 11 after his mother died. He never told me about what it was like there and I would be thrilled if I could find out now.

He was the youngest of 11 children and he was called James Brown. Could you tell me about him and where he lived?

-   His brothers' names were Robert, Matthew, William and John

-   His sisters' names were Annie, Jennie and Lizzy

-  There were also others that I don't know anything about.  It would be nice if you could tell me about them as well."

Pat Brown:  May 11, 2010


I don't know anything about Pat's dad's family myself, but perhaps somebody else will know about them.  If you'd like to send a message to Pat, please email me, then I'll pass it on.

Thank you.    Peter Stubbs:  May 13, 2010



Stewart Mayne

near Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England

Thank you to Stewart Mayne who wrote:

Banned from Jamaica Street

"My mother was born and brought up in India Street, from 1919 until the war.  She used to tell me that she and her brother and sister were banned from Jamaica Street when they were little.

Once, they sneaked off there and bought sweeties. Eventually they confessed to their father what they had done because people had told them they would be poisoned by the sweets sold there.

Luckily he said that they would be unlikely to be ill, but might have had short measure. He was very sensible and became a noted judge."

Visits to India Street

When I was little, I used to go with my mother on the tram from Morningside to visit the grandparents at India Street. I don't remember going into Jamaica Street which seemed to be full of tenements.

I do recall a barrel organ lady on the corner of Charlotte Square, and the milkman making a noise on the cobbles with his pony and cart.

The India Street house had a rear extension with bath, designed by Basil Spence (!) and a coach house on Gloucester Lane (?).

My memories are vague because it was 60 years ago."

Stewart Mayne, near Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England:  June 28, 2011




Al Love

Leith, Edinburgh

Thank you to Al Love who wrote:


"Somebody was asking how Jamaica Street used to be.  Well, I can tell you my experiences of the street as I lived at No.40, first flat, for a short time with my Auntie Nan Hamilton my uncle Jimmy and cousins Richard and Wilma in 1949-50.

Here is a photo of my Aunt Nan, in her younger days, standing on the bridge at Deanhaugh Street, Stockbridge:

Al Love's Aunt Nan standing on the bridge at Deanhaugh Street, Stockbridge

©  Reproduced with acknowledgement to  Al Love, Leith, Edinburgh

The reason for my stay in Jamaica St. was my Mother passed away in June 1949 and the family thought it would be too much for my Father to look after my Sister and myself, so we went to stay with my Dad's Sister, but strangely he couldn't live without us.

The street had a terrible reputation, but I enjoyed my short stay there because I liked my relatives."


"There were quite a few Pubs and on a Friday and Saturday night we would sit at the window, no telly then, and watch the drinkers spill out of the Pubs at closing time.

There never failed to be a fight of some kind and if you have ever watched under-the-weather drinkers fighting, it's better than any Keystone Cops movie."

Collars Limited

"On the corner of Jamaica Street and Howe Street was Collars Limited where my Father used to get his stiff collars starched."


My Aunt and her family eventually emigrated to America and lived in New York and I had the good fortune to visit them in 1958 when I was on route to Christmas Island during my Army Service.

I hope that perhaps one of my Cousins might just read this.

Al Love, Leith, Edinburgh:  July 30, 2009

Message for Al Love

If you (cousins or anybody else) would like to send a message to Al, please email me, then I'll pass on your message to him.

            Thank you.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  July 30, 2011




Dorothy Finlay (née Cossar)

Queensland, Australia

Thank you to Dorothy Finlay who wrote:

The Banks Family

"My friends Peggy and Alan Banks lived in Jamaica Street in the 1950s.  Alan was a skipper on the trawlers.  Peggy had red hair and five bairns.  Does anyone remember them?"

Dorothy Finlay  (née Cossar), Queensland, Australia:
message posted in EdinPhoto guest book, January 25, 2012




James Patience

Thank you to James Patience who replied:

The Coghill Family

"I stayed at 34 Jamaica Street in the 1950s.  I don't remember a Banks family living in the street.

The only family I remember living there, who had a dad on the trawlers, were the Coghills.  They lived at 28 Jamaica Street.  The father was lost when the trawler sank in the 1950s."

James Patience:  message posted in EdinPhoto guest book, January 25, 2012




Rachel Godden

Lanark, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Rachel Godden wrote in the EdinPhoto Guestbook:

34 Jamaica Street

"My Mum's birth mother lived at 34 Jamaica Street at the time of her death in 1952Her name was Grace Hossack Cameron.  She was unmarried.

Does anyone have any recollection of her or could tell me about the place then .

Rachel Godden, Lanark, Lanarkshire, Scotland
:  message posted in EdinPhoto guest book, October 22, 2012

Within a day of posting her message in the guestbook, Rachel had received replies from two people who had lived ad Jamaica Street - Dave Ferguson and Jim Patience - but unfortunately neither remembersed a Grace Hossack Cameron.



Danny Callaghan

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland

Danny Callaghan wrote:

Rosemary (Rossie) Carr

"When I went to St Mary’s York Lane School from 1950 to 1957 one of our class mates -   Rosemary (Rossie) Carr  -  came from Jamaica Street.

She was the class Tom Girl.  I heard that she went on to become a very respected lawyer, so never judge a book by the cover.  Rossie is on the extreme right of this class picture."

School class -  St Margaret's RC Primary School, York Lane  -  c.1953 ©

Danny Callaghan:  Falkirk, Sterlingshire, Scotland:  October 25, 2012



Gordon Small

Gordon Small wrote:

Jamaica Lane and Street

"I had a garage in the late-1960s sixties in Jamaica Lane.  They were demolishing Jamaica Street at that time.

There was great hoo ha over all the copper and cables going missing."

Gordon Small, January 30, 2014




Michelle Beasley

near Willingham, Cambridgeshire, England

Michelle Beasley wrote:

27 Jamaica Street

Margaret Mary Ross

"I have no family left now, but have been trying to find out more about my family who grew up in Edinburgh.

I became excited when I saw photos of people who lived in Jamaica Street and might possibly have known my family.  They lived almost next door to them."

    Children playing with a gird in Jamaica Street ©          Three on a step in Jamaica Street in Jamaica Street ©

    Six girls and a dog near the Howe Street end of Jamaica Street, around 1952 ©              Three boys near the Howe Street end of Jamaica Street, around 1952 ©

"My grandmother, Margaret Mary Ross, lived at 27 Jamaica Street with her sister, Elizabeth (married name McGarry), and their father, John Ross, in the 1940s.

My grandfather was on war service in the Royal Navy, docked in Leith, when he met my grandmother.  They met  at a local dance hall and married in Edinburgh in 1944.

Does anybody remember them?  If so, I'd love to hear from them."

Michelle Beasley, near Willingham, Cambridgeshire, England:  April 16, 2014 (2 emails)

Reply to Michelle Beasley?

If you'd like to send  reply to Michelle, please email me, then I'll pass on her email address to you.      

         Thank you.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  April 20, 2014




Peter Stewart

Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Thank you to Peter Stewart who wrote:

34 Jamaica Street

Robert Brown

"I was born at Simpson’s in 1953 and lived at 34 Jamaica St for the first 9 years of my life. I notice that Pat Brown wrote her Recollections 2 above back in May 2010, in which she names among her uncles a Robert Brown. I suspect he’s the Robert Brown I called a friend back when I was 8 or 9 years old. I’d be more than happy to hear if he’s still with us as he owes me a penny ha’penny for some wee woodbines we all chipped in for and never saw!"

Other Neighbours

"Other names from around the street are a little more vague, although I do remember:

Margaret Macintosh and her brothers who lived on the same side as us, toward the Howe St end.

a slightly older boy called Ronald Marshall who I think lived on Heriot Row with his aunt. (Obviously didn’t mind slumming it!).

Donald or Ronald Campbell who lived in one of the terraces in India Place – it says India St on the map but I’m sure it was India Place back then – and whose dad was 'Mr Fixit' of children’s TV fame, or at least that’s what I was led to believe."

Our Home

"I think we lived on the third floor at No.34, next to Elma Haynes and had to endure the privations of one 'lavy’ for the entire floor of flats - a particularly traumatic experience for a sensitive young boy, particularly after old Mrs Baxter had 'warmed the seat' first!"



Return Visit

"We moved to Australia in 1962 where we have lived ever since.  I was disappointed to find on my first trip back to Edinburgh, many years ago, that the old tenements had gone although some of my less savoury memories give me an insight into why they had gone.


Time glosses over a lot of the bad, so it’s all:

-  yellow gas lamps lighting up snowflakes

bags of coal delivered for 2/6 to the coal bunker in the flat.

- earning threepence pocket money for swapping plastic tokens.

- working as a milkman's runner, collecting tokens and exchanging them for milk, while the old milkman sat Steptoe-like, all rugged-up with a tarp over his legs, on his horse-drawn cart rolling his own in fingerless mittens and a cloth cap.

- burly blokes heaving beer barrels off of a dray from Ushers and down to the cellar of my Dad’s local.

getting free cocoa and a buttered bun while listening to the missionaries on a 'slide night' at the Baptist Chapel off Charlotte Square.

-  making crank calls to the ‘polis’ using the free phone on the Police box up on Heriot Row

- watching with considerable amusement while the Fire Brigade tried to free my brother David’s big head from the railings at one of the private gardens

-  ‘recycling' chewing gum off the street having rendered it fit for further human consumption with the magical words ‘God before the devil!’ (That makes me squirm, even now!)

Happy days.

Peter Stewart, Perth, Western Australia, Australia:  9 November 2015

Reply to Peter Stewart

If you'd like to send  reply to Michelle, please email me, then I'll pass on her email address to you.      

         Thank you.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  April 20, 2014






Pat Martin (née Thomson)

Hawick, Borders, Scotland

Thank you to Pat Martin for replying to Peter Stewart's Recollections 10 above.

Pat wrote:

Jamaica Street Families

"We are the Thomson Family.  We lived at 40 Jamaica Street.  I cannot remember Michelle who wrote Recollections 9, but we must have both been brought up in Jamaica Street during at least some of the same time period. 

Most of what she says rings very distant bells for me:

-  I knew the Haynes familyWere the kids not Stevie & Avril?. 

I'll  throw a few other names 'in the mix' and see if it stirs up any more of the olde brain cells for you!

 The Hobsons

The Morrisons (2 families).  The would have been in the stair opposite yours

-   The Bells (No. 35?)

The McDonalds who ran the shop, Nellie and Sis and Nellie's daughter (Myrtle?) who had a corgi dog.  They lived in the stair next to the shop.

-  Nellie and Sis used to assist their old mum all the way doon from 'top flat' to sit in the shopI wonder how many 'fourpits' o' tat ties we purchased there!   LoL !

 The Dempsies, etc., etc., etc.

Jim Patience has some memories printed on the site. Did you know him?  I think he was 'pals' with my older brother.  I just recall the name.

Tam Cullen was another one....

They are still great friends.

I had forgotten about the 'God before the devil' ritual. Yuk!

But we are still here to tell the tale!  What that says, I'm not sure, except that I think the 'cleanliness' thing has gone way too far, like so many other things!

Thank you, Michelle for sharing your memories.

Par Martin (née Thomson), Hawick, Borders, Scotland:  13+15 November 2015




Colin Strutt

Baberton Mains, Edinburgh

Thank you to Colin Strutt who wrote:

Boys and Girls of Jamaica Street

"I lived in Jamaica Street, about 1946 to 1955, but I must admit that I felt a bit disorientated when I read so many different names above that I did not recognise.

Apart from Jim Patience, who I always knew as Jimmy, and his older brother Alec, the only other names above that I recognised were:

-  David McGarry.  He was my next door neighbour, and we used to play together.

-   Ali Khan who you showed in a picture.
Most of the guys I knew were,--Alec Cant-John Hardy Jim Melrose of course

The boys and girls that I remember from Jamaica Street are:

-  Alec Cant

-  John Hardy

-  Jim Melrose

the Patience brothers

-  Alan Derragetti  (spelling?)

-  Stewart O'Neil

-  Ronny Barry, who I believe became Roy Barry, of Hearts

Tommy Sanderson

-  Betty (Rebecca) Ramage

-  Ruth Whittaker

-  Cathy Begby

-  and, of course,  Davie McGarry's sisters


Cumberland Street

"Prior to living in Jamaica Street, I lived in Cumberland Street, about 1940 to 1946.

I've managed to bring up quite a bit on the Internet about Jamaica Street, but  and I can find very little on Cumberland Street - just modern day property prices.

Can you help me with this please?

Colin Strutt, Baberton Mains, Edinburgh:  9 May 2016

Cumberland Street?

Unfortunately, I don't know of pages on the Internet.  That's not a topic that I've ever investigated.

However, perhaps somebody will send in memories of Cumberland Street to me so that I can add them to the EdinPhoto web site.  Please email me if you'd lie to do that.

            Thank you.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  14 May 2016






Bob Sinclair

Noosa, Queensland, Australia

Thank you to Bob Sinclair for replying to the 'Cumberland Street' paragraph in Colin Strutt's Recollections 11 above.

Bob wrote:

Cumberland Street

"If your correspondent looks under Scotland Places and types in Cumberland Street Edinburgh in the top RH box he will get a photo of Cumberland Street in he 1960s.  That's the best I can do.

Bob Sinclair, Noosa, Queensland, Australia:  16 May 2016






Jim McKenzie

Portobello, Edinburgh

Thank you to Jim McKenzie for replying to  Colin Strutt's Recollections 11 above.

Jim wrote:

Dundas Street


Cumberland Street

"My formative years were spent in the New Town, Edinburgh, between 1959 and 1970.  I have great memories of playing in the streets alongside the abundance of other children who populated every inch of space in those days.

Although I lived in Pitt Street, now known as Dundas Street, most of my friends came from around the corner in Cumberland Street.  There were, of course, two Cumberland Streets to us as Cumberland Street was divided by Dundas Street which seemed to act as a replica for the Berlin Wall back then.

I had cousins who lived on the east side of Cumberland Street, (on the other side of Dundas Street) but in all honesty we did not mix outwith family gatherings.

My loyalties were definitely with the west side of Cumberland Street, the one with the St. Vincent's at the end not the Cumberland Bar."


Football in the Lanes

"Most of our time was spent playing football in the lanes. We would play all day and all night if it was not too dark.  The lanes were car-free, apart from a few working vans that were garaged there.

Our favourite football games would have, maybe, seven or eight a side and the players would change throughout the three or four hour sessions.

We never seemed to tire of kicking a ball or each other up and down the cobble-clad surfaces.  Variations on traditional football games would be:



Wally and

-  Long Bangers." 

Our Ball

"The ball we played with lived a very precarious  existence owing to a multitude of disasters laying in wait for it:

There always seemed to be a couple of dogs who would be joining in with the game, chasing and trying to burst the ball.

 On top of the surrounding walls there was an abundance of barbed wire and broken glass to contend with.

-   The lanes themselves would be full of  sharp objects like nails, tin cans and broken bottles.

I remember that my legs were constantly covered in bruises  and we lads were never short of a cut or two either.


No Ball

"If, for some reason, we didn't have a ball, we would have to find other things to do.  Often we would walk on top of the walls and jump the gaps between them.

On other occasions  we would play 'kick-the-can', a variant on 'hide-and-seek'.

 Our Bonfires

"Twice a year the football had to play second fiddle to collecting for the bonfires.  Of course, on November 5 we would have a huge celebration culminating in the traditional bonfire. 

Not content with this annual extravaganza, the good children of Edinburgh would do it all again in May on Victoria Day.

The collection of chairs, tables and anything else that would burn took priority over everything else in the weeks leading up to the fires. It was at these times that all of us would bond together in a communal effort to ensure that our street was going to have the biggest and best bonfire in the town.

Street rivalries would reach 'Lord of the Flies' proportions at some times.  Many pitch battles used to take place where stones were hurled back and forth and fights with cudgels were common place.

The End
 of a
Way of Life

"The death knells  for this way of life in the New Town were heralded by the building of new estates around the city.  Many of my friends simply disappeared, never to be heard of again.

Having said all of that, I have nothing but great memories of my childhood in that bygone environment.  It sounds like all of us should have been taken into care judging by today's standards, but nothing could be further from the truth.

People did look out for each other and nothing too bad seemed to happen to the kids.  Also, a load of great Scottish footballers were nurtured this way.  We could do with a few of them now!"


"Here are some of the names that I remember:

-  Stuart, Ian and Mary McDermott

-  Chicko, Davey, Jimmy and Mary Stewart

Roger Mcmoran,

-  Stewart Savile,

-  Ian, Brenda and Alan Robertson.

-  Jumble Kenmuir, 

-  Sambo  Paton,

This was not a racist name.
 He simply liked the sweets 'Black Sambos'.

-  Tommy Jones,

-  June Rob

She was a friend of my sister Eleanor McKenzie

-  A boy called Denzel,

Jim McKenzie, Portobello, Edinburgh:  29 January, 2016


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