Tuesday, 27 December 2005


The Leith I remember is a place much in need of renovation.
The shops then, from the fifties up to the seventies, were always bustling places. We went there most Saturdays as Princes Street was half day closing on a Saturday. Half day closing, who gets that now, let alone on a Saturday? Not in big cities that is for sure.
It was full of folks scurrying about their business, women chatting in all the shops, men wearily wishing they were at the match, and kids being dragged unwillingly to and fro for things they did not see any reason to accumulate. The tenements were old and it showed, Victoria sat imperiously outside Woolworths, and in the dim distant past there was a cinema overlooking her.
Just up from the stone queen stood a large station building reflecting the once important, but long gone, railway. Pubs a plenty took the pence willingly from men willing to part with it. Buses followed the routes laid down long before up Leith Walk and into Edinburgh, the road trod by many over hundreds of years, hence the name.
Today, there is an abundance of dreary shops in Leith. Big stores have gone, or just faded, charity shops preponderate and a general 'down at heel' appearance is found.
The dockside is rapidly being renovated. Old whisky bonds are turned into trendy flats, statues to those men of the past remind us of their works, and pubs with dubious reputations are now wine bars, with camp waiters to match.
I was reminded of all this by a Christmas gift, the book ' Leith at Random' by David Stewart Valentine. An excellent production! Short pieces on Leiths' past and photographs to match.
The type of short book that carries so much weight, because it covers a lot of ground quickly and simply, revealing fascinating facts about things obvious but ignored.
A good read for me at any rate. I never lived there, but spent so much time there, and have memories from my early years in the shops and of finding my first job working in Arthur Bells Whisky Warehouse in Leith Walk! A death trap if ever there was one!
A book worth giving a glance at, and of a type I wish I had written.

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