Growing up in Leith
Ian M Malcolm
St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Thank you to Ian M Malcolm for telling me about his
accommodation in and around Leith while he was studying at
Nautical College in 1947-48.
1947, students stayed in digs, not flats. Digs were my
greatest expense and an ongoing problem during my year in Leith."
a friend of my father, I spent the first
two nights with Mr and Mrs Buchanan in Rosslyn Street.
They refused any payment and even gave me a row when I
went out for a meal!"
soon found accommodation in Mrs
Emslie's terraced house in
but didn't stay long there."
spent a fortnight with Jim and Margaret Johnston who lived in a
tenement in Dalmenny Street. They were ardent members of
South Leith Baptist Church and through them I met others who
the end of August, I moved to the
tenement home of Mr and Mrs Brown at 19 Constitution Street which
was just below the foot of Leith Walk and much nearer the College.
Although it was a poor area, the digs were comfortable and I was
treated like a member of the family. The room that I stayed
in had belonged to their young son, David. The wall over my
bed was decorated with pictures of railway engines, secured by 1"
couldn't care less about the decoration. I had a small table
to work on and a small electric fire to keep me warm, all
for about 30 bob (£1.50) a week.
listened to 'Forces Favourites'
at dinner/ lunch time on Sundays.
My room looked out towards the
back of tenements in Great Junction Street.
I have a memory of hearing the recording of Frank Sinatra
singing 'Time After Time' issuing from the open window of a house.
Towards the end of the
year, it came as a blow to learn from Mrs Brown that she was
pregnant and had to dispense with boarders. It was again a case of
searching for new digs."
"When I was absolutely
stuck for a place to spend a night in January 1948, Mrs Lord put
me up on the settee in her living room at Wellington Place. I was
absolutely freezing, but for supper, (bed) and breakfast, she
charged me only 2/6d."
"It was early January
before I got fixed up with another Mrs Brown, in Admiralty
Street. But the winter was a
severe one. It was
so cold that I invested in heavy underwear.
In the house, I had to
study in the kitchen/living room, as my room, even after I
obtained a small electric fire on paying an extra five bob, was
slept on the bed settee in the
sitting room with more clothes on than I wore during the day.
I also piled everything I could on
the bed, chair backs and even a rug,
but still froze.
Another problem was
the social life which went on in the kitchen and which made study
almost impossible. On my very first evening, they had visitors in
and I went to the Sailors' Home to study.
There was another boarder
called Charlie Thompson and, on my second night, he, the Browns
and another woman, played cards with the radio on. It was an
impossible situation so I gave Mrs Brown £2 and
told her I was leaving because of the cold."
"My last move was to the
centrally heated Sailors' Home in Tower Place where I got one of
the rooms in the officers’ section. There were about twenty-four
rooms in the section and all but one were occupied by students at
the College studying radio.
The rooms, separated only
by partitions, were narrow and spartan and without washhand
basins. But they were adequate and
there was an officers' dining room and a lounge, both overlooking
The dining room was
spacious and pleasant while the lounge, where we studied, was
palatial with tables, leather-bound easy chairs and pictures of
sailing ships on the walls. The name 'Sailors' Home' may sound
ominous, but it was comfortable, warm
and friendly. Dances were held there on
As food rationing was
still in operation, we gave our coupons to Mr MacDonald, a former
Chief Steward, who was the officer-in-charge. But as the amount of
food served was inadequate and we did not get the number of eggs
to which we were entitled. I
decided to do something about it. After
consulting the others, I wrote a letter of complaint to the
British Sailors' Society in Glasgow and got the others to append
their signatures below mine.
The letter had been sent
on a Wednesday and when we went in for lunch on Friday, all our
plates were so piled up that the boys were looking across to me
and smiling. Nothing had been said, but what a difference!
The crisis was over."
left with a great affection for Leith where I had met much
kindness and where, on the very day I left the College with my
brand new 1st Class PMG in my pocket, I got a friendly wave from
Mr Brown who happened to be passing with his horse and cart."
Leith, however, is a
changed place today. Luxury flats now occupy The Shore and the
Sailors' Home, at the dock gate in Tower Place, is now the
Malmaison Hotel. Above its
entrance the words Sailors’ Home are still faintly
The Kirkgate (pronounced
Kirgit by the locals) has all but disappeared as have the
consulates in Bernard Street which once signified a lively port
trading with the Continent. And it makes me angry that, with the
port now privately owned, the public are no longer permitted to
stroll in the docks as they once did."
Ian M Malcolm: St Andrews,
Fife, Scotland: January 24, 2010
lived in Leith since we moved from
Grove in 1974. My mum
bought our flat in Leith then for £1,700."
shortages of sugar, milk and meat.
I had syrup sandwiches and goat's milk in my tea.
We bought meat
from the butcher in the Kirkgate,
as there was talk in the
scheme that a butcher had been selling
meat quite cheap and that it was horse meat
- but it tasted all right."
Rab Lettice, Leith,
Edinburgh: March 28+29, 2011
Thank you to Vicki, Edinburgh for
posting a message in the EdinPhoto Guestbook.
have any pictures of Grampian and Cairngorm
Houses. There is a
photo of the flats already on
the EdinPhoto web site.
fact here are a few photos of the flats on the site. -
I wondered if anyone actually lived there and took pictures of the inside
(stairwells, lifts etc)."
"The flats featured in a BBC
drama 'The Advocate' and I wrote a story about these flats, as I grew up
around the area. When the flats were empty
and the council were setting a date for
demolition, I remember going inside the
stairwells and climbing the stairs. These
were in order of letter: A,B,C
and so on.
remember seeing needles and tin foil everywhere. It inspired me to write a
story about it, going
back the grim but great 1980s, when Edinburgh
was slate grey and these flats were many people's homes.
I'd love to see more pictures if
anyone has any."
Message posted in EdinPhoto Guestbook, October 16, 2012
Aldershot, Hampshire, England
Thank you to Heather
Lane who wrote about growing up in Leith. Heather says she
hopes I might be able to give her more information about Tennant
believe I was born in Tenant Street,
towards the bottom of Lieth Walk."
Tennent Street still exists, but it is
now in an area of small businesses, all the housing having been
demolished. It lies between Bonnington Road and Leith Walk.**
to be a bridge over Leith Walk. I
don't know why I remember this bridge."
Here is a photograph of the bridge, taken in the
mid-1950s. It was demolished long
ago, but I read recently that there are plans to build another to
take a new footpath and cycle track across Leith Walk, as part
of a route to Portobello.**
"I grew up
there in the early 1970s with my parents
Tam & Tessa Oliver. I remember
living in a basement flat.
Our next door neighbour was an old
man named Arthur. He had a bed-ridden
wife who I used to go sit with after school."
I went to Sunday School at Pilrig Church.
I used to walk to my Nana's home.
I walked past the church, then across
Leith Walk. There was a police box at the end of her
sure there was also a pub there with a
shoogy bar, were I could find her.
What was a "shoogy
I think she lived at
Albert Street, but I may be wrong.
Yes, Albert Street was about there.**
I only ever knew her as Nana, but I
believe she remarried and became Black.
She died in a home fire
My dads older brother
and Norma Oliver, also lived nearby."
"I think I
went first to Dr Bell's School, next door
to the swimming baths,
then to Bonnington Primary School.
From were I lived,
I would walk through a big park
and under the
bridge to get to school. That
would have been Pilrig Park.**
Junction st is a big memory for me.
When I was very young, my mum worked in a fruit shop there.
On my lunch break from school my friend
and I would sneak out and go see
but great, after starting to write you this, it's
as if some of the memories are just coming back. It would
still be great if you could fill in some of the gaps.
in England for a long time now, but my son
and I have booked a holiday for for five
days in Edinburgh next February. It
would be good if I could take him on a tour and
know what I'm talking about."
Heather Lane, Aldershot,
November 18, 2012
= comments added by Peter
Stubbs, Edinburgh: November 19, 2012
Some parts of Leith,
especially around the Docks will have changed a lot since you grew
up in Leith in the 1970s.
You'll now find new Scottish
Government Offices, a hotel, some expensive new apartments and a
casino, all in the docks area - and Ocean Terminal Shopping & Cinema
Complex has been built where the Henry Robb shipyard used to be.
Some of the old housing and shops
have been demolished and the old Kirkgate shopping street has been
replaced by a small newer shopping centre, offices and flats at the
foot of Leith Walk.
Other buildings, including some of
the old warehouses and Lamb's House, have been restored.
Some of the old pubs around The
Shore have been given a new lease of life, and have been joined by
several new restaurants, including one on board a boat moored in the
Water of Leith beside The Shore.
So, tourists, rather than sailors,
can now be found wandering around Leith in the evening!.
Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh: November 19, 2012
Joy Mikulandra (née
Thank you to Joy Mikulandra for writing
about her visits to
Goldberg's store in Edinburgh with her Mum. Joy went
on to tell more about her Mum who used to live in Leith.
(née Agnes Forbes McKenzie)
"Mum grew up in Leith and went to Yardheads Primary
School, probably from 1926 to 1933. Her parents Henry and Isobel Mckenzie
(née Forbes) and sister Minnie Henderson are buried in Seafield Cemetery as is
Sadly, Mum passed away in
2009 from dementia, so a lot of her history is missing.
I know that:
She sang in swing band in the
1940s. I found this out at the funeral!
suffered shellshock when she was in the WAAF
in Pocklington, England. The
ammunitions factory where she was working took
a direct hit. She was Aircraft
Woman 2nd Class.
worked in a bonded warehouse, Ross Bros,
73 Excise St Leith from 1943 to 1947.
emigrated to Australia, around 1959,
then married and had my sister and me.
If anybody remembers my Mum,
or has any stories about,her I'd
love to hear from them.
Joy Mikulandra (née Wyatt): February 5, 2013
Thank you to Gordon Davie who wrote:
"I have a question for your Leith readers.
My auntie used to live in one of the tower blocks at
the bottom of Prince Regent Street which were built in the early 1960s.
She was there for about twenty years but
eventually managed to get another house just off Lindsay Road, much nearer the
my auntie moved out, the tower blocks were
extensively renovated (though I'm sure there's no connection between these
events!) and were renamed:
(Citadel was a local landmark) and
of course, Leith's motto)"
when she lived there the buildings were named:
- John Russell
My question is - who were these two gentlemen? I
assume they had a Leith connection but I've been unable to find any reference to
Your readers have come up trumps in the past in
identifying the location of old photos and the like so I'm hoping somebody will
be able to answer this!"
Gordon Davie, Abbeyhill,
Edinburgh: June 3, 2013
don't have a full answer about the old names of the flats in Leith
that you ask about. However I did find the brief comment
below on a
Court and it's twin Citadel Court were built as John Russell Court
and Thomas Fraser Court respectively from 1961 as part of the
Leith Citadel redevelopment.
Russell was an author of Leith and
Fraser was his schoolmaster."
Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:
June 3, 2013
Malcolm J B Finlayson
Arbroath, Argus, Scotland
Thank you to Malcolm for sending me a topical story today, Palm
Sunday School Teacher
"My mother was a teenage Sunday
School teacher in the late-
1920s in a Leith church.
It was Palm Sunday, and my mother was
telling her class the story of Jesus sending two disciples ahead
to Jerusalem, advising them to untether, and take an ass, and
advising them that if anyone should enquire of where they were
taking the ass, "Wherefore art thou
taking the ass?", they should say that they were taking it for the
little girl, from a poor background, was
crayoning on a piece of paper,
apparently oblivious the the story that was being told.
Slightly irritated, and sure that she
could catch Mary out, my mother asked
her what the man would say, on discovering the disciples taking
Without looking up, or hesitating to
stop crayoning, Mary replied: "Hey You!
Whaur do ya think yer gaun wi' that dunkey?"
Bless her! Mary had been listening
after all, and responded in words to which she was accustomed.
My mother remembered that fond amusement for the rest of
Malcolm J B Finlayson, Arbroath,
Angus, Scotland: April 13, 2014.
Thank you to
Scott Rendall who
8 Coburg Street
Rendall. My late father,
William Rendall, resident of
Street played for Broughton Star, many
would have been 85 years old if alive now.
love to know if anyone remembers him."
Scott Rendall: December 24 2015
Reply to Scott Rendall?
If you remember William Rendall, and would like to
send a message to Scott,
please email me to let me know, then I'll pass on his email address to
Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh: 24