Sunday, 20 October 2013


The Death Trap Whisky Bond

For some reason today I contemplated my first job, way back in 1966 before you were born, and made the strange discovery that almost all my previous workplaces had disappeared!  The whisky bond where I singularly failed to make any impression moved shortly afterwards outside of Edinburgh. The death trap building itself may well stand down the bottom of Leith Walk but I have no idea if it remains in use.  Wooden floors, stairs and tons of cardboard boxes mixed with a vat of whisky and thousands of bottles of the stuff do not enable Health & Safety men to sleep at night.  Having departed before being encouraged to leave I moved to Slateford Road where a company making biscuit tins and their plastic inserts paid me almost £6 a week to prove I was not cut out for that job. The company realised that making the inserts was more profitable than the tins and last I heard were developing that side of the business.  The do not exist today.


Today a modern housing development that greased somebody's hand stands there.  In the modern world 15 and 16 year old's seldom find employment, the government keeps them at school to avoid paying them dole money, but in the past companies throughout the land were employing feckless youth who took the money, chatted up the women unsuccessfully and offered little in return, at least that's what the company secretary told me with an uncompromising stare.
Shortly after this conversation I found work at the brewery.

Tenents Heriot Brewery

Here I remained almost four years, enjoyable years at that.  The work was not difficult, even I could do it, the women threw themselves at me, well if you used a can or two of 'Husky Export' that is, and when my life changed I departed for London and a new life.  The people, almost all of whom I actually got on with, gathered together sufficient funds to pay a one-way train ticket to London for me.  Wasn't that nice?  Now the one time brewery, not far from Tynecastle Park home of the world famous Heart of Midlothian, is a block of overpriced flats.  So that's three jobs where the company has found the premises demolished after I left.  This cannot go on can it...?

After a year of London life, where I found a church where Jesus would speak to me and a job with a charity rehousing folks, I came back to what appeared to be old fashioned Edinburgh, well it was 1972!  The shops shut at five in the evening whereas in London they stayed open longer and one worked 24 hours! After a few months away it seemed so boring to a 20 year old.  I was employed eventually at a Cash & Carry where I happily upset people daily.  Deciding to do something a bit more worthy I embarked on a healing career by joining the Royal Infirmary as an orderly.  Here I was so good the other wards attempted to head hunt me!  I wish they had!  While happy at the time I discovered just how difficult women could be to work with.  Until then I had found no trouble working however in this ward bitchiness from the sister towards her superiors and to her nursing staff did not enable a happy atmosphere.  The patients, even the female ones were better behaved, there again I suppose Sister had the needles!  I returned to the Cash & Carry for another year or two.  Both the Royal Infirmary and the Cash & Carry have been redeveloped!  That's five jobs and five redevelopments, so far.  Naturally I should add the building we resided in while working for the charity London no longer operates as we did.  Our 'Hippy' like approach did not go down to well and that place is now someones home.  The organisation has become another council and who knows what goes on with them today!  The old hospital now has many grand flats, for the rich.  

In 1975 it was important to return to that church in London.  This meant leaving the family that I missed, especially those lovely nieces, how hard that was, and found a few months work in a highways depot in Finchley.  That is now a small housing estate.  After a few months I moved to a slum in Swiss Cottage, since redeveloped, and worked at Maida Vale Hospital for several years. 

This was my best ever employment.  Whether the others agree I know not but this place still appears in my dreams at times.  Happy place to work, something new each day and the people on the whole good to me.  Working amongst the long term sick and others dying gives a differing view of the world.  On occasion this place appears in my dreams and I suspect appear in the ladies dreams also.....what..oh!  The hospital is now a block of flats.
Sadly my long years which followed at Selfridges, in the vans, warehouse and then dreadful office, did not result in the stores imminent collapse.  Maybe I was unnoticed there?  Running from that dead end to temp work and eventually I escaped to the wilderness of Essex.  Here those who employed me know about it.  One closed the warehouse and moved, actually two did that.  One almost collapsed but thanks to cost cutting, e.g dumping staff, survived and one was badly run then collapsed, one lost the account and died and Royal Mail has been sold off in a disgraceful manner and soon will become like the private energy companies, greedy, expensive and out of control. 
How strange I find that so many places that once saw me wandering about in a dream no longer exist.  Was it ever thus I wonder.....?  



Mike Smith said...

Was the bond in Great Junction St, Mr H? I live just round the corner from there now. You sound like you have a lot of fond memories.

Jenny Woolf said...

Interesting post this. I guess it is charting the demise of British industry. Now we are trying to get work from the Chinese and the result of running everything down is becoming obvious. At least you had a job and wasn't on zero hours contracts. And at least there were slums still in Swiss cottage, now it is full of the kind of people who make a fortune from running asset stripping private equity companies, or top lawyers and accountants who help them fiddle their books.
Hm,must be in a bad mood today, what do you think? I'd better stop here.

Jenny Woolf said...

If you were living in Swiss cottage then maybe we used to pass each other in the street, possibly queuing at MacFisheries, or the Chinese chip shop of old.

the fly in the web said...

Were those the years of the 'Tenents Lager Lovelies' I wonder...I remember the cans being very popuar - well, with the men of the family...

Kay G. said...

I happily upset people on a daily basis myself.

Adullamite said...

The bond was in Leith Walk. A small opening just before the old bridge, now removed, up from Manderson Street. According to Google Maps Dominos Pizza is at the entrance and the building itself has been demolished.

Jenny, In many ways this does follow the downturn. When at my second job I envied a chap with a new Royal Enfield motorbike, within a few years all British bike manufacturing had ceased! The Bonds in Leith all closed (Victorian), the railways lost steam, and Wilson's 'white heat of technology' had been pinched by Japan!
You don't sound techy, you just think!

Jenny i was in Swiss Cottage 75-76. Just up from the Finchley Road tube, who gave their announcements loudly to my window! In a red brick building half of which has been renovated. I think my bit has gone.It may be 235 but I canny mind now. I remember the place opposite sold second hand Rolls Royces!

Fly, Indeed! The lassies hung around for some time but we ourselves never met them for some reason. We also had 'Piper Expert,' to replace 'Husky,' but that was not a great seller either.

Kay, I refuse to believe this!

Lee said...

Perhaps you just dreamed it all...hmmmmm

Adullamite said...

Lee, Not sure if I would want to dream all that! Dearie me no.