When I arrived back from the Christmas holidays, I was delighted to have received this CD from a dear friend.
North Merchiston Church was at the top of the street where I live now – I attended from childhood until my late teens. During and beyond that time, I played in The Music Group mentioned on the sleeve. We would play at Christmas and other festival services in the church, at old peoples’ homes and hospitals – it was fun and yet another example of the Church of Scotland’s role as social adhesive in the latter part of the 20th century. Some of us had discovered pubs as well.
The musical performances herein are not as bad as I feared or remembered – they’re a lot better, in fact. The sound is pretty good given that they were all recorded on a 1960’s cassette recorder which would be planked on top of the church organ.
The church was demolished in 1988 – as happened with many Scottish churches, the size of the congregation had fallen so much that necessary repairs to the fabric of the building could no longer be afforded and North Merchiston church joined congregations with St Michael’s, about five minutes walk along the road. Here’s a recent picture of the frankly imposing St Mike’s…
Predictably, I have loads of great photos of the demolition, which I must scan and add to this blog – in fact, I bought my first 35mm camera precisely for the purpose of taking these pictures. It is impossible to find any good pictures of the church on the Internet – the aerial picture on the front of the CD is as good as it gets.
I had a pint the other night with my friend John in Leith Depot at the foot of Leith Walk. Nice place, with nice staff. Could have been warmer, but it was snowing outside.
The reason for the name is that the pub is opposite the site of the former Leith Depot of the Edinburgh Corporation Transport, where my dad used to work. He was a bus inspector and used to schedule the buses that left from and eventually arrived back at Leith Depot. He was nicknamed The Cruelty Man for the length of the shifts he used to assign to drivers and conductors on the buses.
The picture below is of the entrance to what used to be the office – I was surprised to see it was built as recently as 1938. That office used to be thick with smoke and contraband stuff from Leith docks.
It was the only building still intact the other night, all the buildings in subsequent pictures have now been demolished since I luckily took these pictures on 16 June last year…
…when I went to see the magnificent Kim Edgar play her only Edinburgh show of 2017 in the pub. It was the “rock Kim” version of her offer, augmented by Steffen Wutzke on bass and Christian Haas-Lachmann on drums, who played like mothers and had familiarised themselves so well with Kim’s songs.
I think these buildings were where the buses were garaged.
When it ceased to be a bus depot, the Social Work department used it.
I think this used to be the recreation area. Most Sundays, if I went to visit my dad at work, he was playing snooker in here. Don’t know who did the murals or why they chose these subjects.
They used to wash the buses in here as well.
More pictures of the continuing demolition of St James Centre…
Monday 31 July.
The latest edition of CAMRA’s Pints of View magazine reports that The Horseshoe is due for demolition.
This is very unfortunate. Not only is it a great pub with McEwan’s 70 shilling, it is cheap and has a vibrant beer garden. Worse, this is allegedly Gorgie’s oldest building (opposite the soon-to-be renovated Saughton rose gardens;) say what you like about the pub, as lots of people do, often, but I think it’s a handsome building which will be a loss.
Just a bit along the road is this building; it was the Roxy Cinema until 1963, then a bingo hall, you can see that the art deco frontage has been retained. John Lennon allegedly used to go there when he visited his uncle in Edinburgh. I guess it’s possible, but there must have been easier cinemas to get to from Murrayfield.
Here are some pictures of the demolition of the unloved St James Centre at the top of Leith Street. Built the end of the 1960s, it was always more Altamont than Woodstock, nobody seemed to have a good word for it.
Toward the left of this picture was where the HMV Shop was. It was so small it had no staffroom and so staff used to be given an allowance to go out and buy lunch. Even into the 1990s it had the highest takings per square foot of any store in the chain.
The King James hotel seems to be pleading…
I worked in “the Centre” for a couple of years and it was indeed a joyless bunker from the outside. But I once got an almost complete catalogue of Graham Central Station albums from one of the frequent sales of US cut-outs in the aforementioned HMV.
As seen below, there is no restraint in building the new hotel/retail complex which will replace the old centre. It doesn’t look too much like an improvement on the red-headed stepchild it replaces so far.
Here is an artist’s impression of what “Edinburgh St James” should eventually look like, with the new hotel complex on the left, the design of which is reminding people of either an unpeeling orange, an unspooling tape or what dog owners might find in tightly coiled piles on the lawn.
This was the front of The Palais at Fountainbridge on Saturday 8th October – the final demolition commenced on Wednesday.
I thought they may have been keeping the front as a feature of whatever is knocked up in that space next, but it would appear not.
Here’s the back view:
I only remember it as a bingo hall and that closed down many years ago, but in its day it was one of Edinburgh’s many dancehalls, where live orchestras would play for dancing. It was the thing for the kids to do.
I wonder how many of my generation of Edinburgh people are here today because of relationships which started in dancehalls like this.