Milk Bars




Bob Sinclair

Queensland, Australia:  December, 2009

Thank you to Bryn Gourlay, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland for the following memories of Edinburgh Milk Bars in the 1950s:

Milk Bar Kids

"In the 1950s, we were more ‘Milk Bar Kids’ than ‘Milky Bar Kids’.

I can remember two Milk Bars in Edinburgh. The first was on the east side of South St Andrew Street, about three or four shops up from where McDonalds is now.

 South St Andrew Street

     South St Andrew Street  -  Tram heading to the south towards Princes Street ©

There was a second one on the east side of Lothian Road, a little up the hill from the Usher Hall.

Milk Bars were a no frills type of place, self-service, and a rather Spartan layout, where you perched precariously on bar stools at Formica-topped, tables and counters. The assistants were also no frills, no nonsense type women, with powerful forearms like Popeye the Sailor Man’s."


Milk Shakes and Sardine Specials

"Apart from flavoured milk, and trendy milk shakes, the Milk Bar also sold sandwiches and rolls.

Not, for us boys, the scrambled egg and cress model. These were for girls and old ladies. We knew exactly what we were there for – the sardine special.

This was a large, elongated, soft, finger roll, laced with butter and a filling which was two parts mushed-up sardines and one part vinegar."

There was a hard-earned skill to eating a Milk Bar sardine special. A big bite in the wrong place, would quickly have the vinegar running down your chin, all the way down your clothes. A bite too fierce, and the vinegar would squirt in all directions, power spraying anyone within five yards of you.

The trick  was a bite of just the right intensity, followed by a powerful sook, which grabbed  a chunk of roll and filling, and sooked up any escaping vinegar. This routine had to be repeated carefully several times, until the roll was completely devoured.

Then, you wiped your oily, smelly hands on your trousers, which gave the game away when you got home.

The 'bite and sook' technique was also used for devouring vanilla slices sold at Edinburgh's bakers' shops.

Bryan Gourlay, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland:  May 7, 2006




Danny Callaghan

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland

Thank you to Danny Callaghan who wrote:


"The Milk Bar group were one of the first businesses to employ furniture designers.   They designed a chair/stool specifically for the milk bars.  These were comfortable when you initially sat in them, but after a while became uncomfortable so you did not linger too long and therefore increased customer throughput."

Danny Callaghan, Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland:  November 4, 2009



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