The History of Leith

December 10, 2007


The Goal? A free fish, perhaps.
We’ve already had some interesting feedback about Peterina’s ‘Memory Lane’ and other memories of the Kirkgate and Leith. Let’s see if this extract opens up more conversations.

“St Andrew’s Street, adjoining the Kirkgate and Henderson Street was a street with closes on either side of the street. People were poor but had hearts of gold. My chum came from St Anthony’s Lane. There was a large family of brothers and sisters and I loved being with them. In my mind they resembled the ‘Broons’. The mother was a well-made woman and the dad a small man – and the family steps and stairs! But what fun we had, and we had hardly a penny between us.

Saturday matinee was a great thing. Laurie Street picture house was small in comparison to the Gaiety Theatre, and at one time you could get in for a jeely jar. Believe it or not, but it was true. Nearby was the Raggie store in St Anthony’s Lane, also the Rib shop and Jock Ward’s Fish and Chip shop. When Hibs won it was free fish and chips for all.

The Kirkgate was a great shopping centre and you could go with £1 and buy your weeks messages and still have change. The ‘Broad Pavement’ in Henderson Street was a meeting place for all the men near and far. ‘Joe Deponi’ had a fish and chip shop nearby and many a night I went as a wee lassie for chips to his shop. Scapitchie was another such shop in Duke Street, famed far and near.

Our walks used to take us to Craigentinny, which we called the Meadows, and at certain times the locks were opened and the ground flooded. On one such occasion I was nearly drowned in the burn which carried the refuse from The Royal Infirmary, Leith Hospital, etc, to the sewage pipe. I had walked on, never heeding where I was going until the next step I took would have been into the water. Luckily I drew my wits about in time and got out of the meadows which, by this time, were squelching with flood water. Soaked to the skin I got out and never walked in the Meadows again.

The first time I ever saw a name like mine, Peterina, was on a tombstone at Seafield Cemetery. We used to take a flower here and another there from graves that had a lot of flowers and put them on graves that had none – until we were caught.

Next month, Peterina tells us what was so different about Jackie the barber, and remembers some sad moments from Leith’s history.

Do you have any memories of ‘old’ Leith that you’d like to pass on? If so, speak to George (0131 467 7789) and you might find them reprinted here some time in the future.

source-St Thomas’-Junction Road’s December issue of the Church News

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