The story of the Union Canal

The Union Canal opened in 1822, running from Edinburgh to Falkirk, linking the Capital To Glasgow. It was constructed to bring coal to the city and many industries thrived along its banks.

View of Port Hopetoun

However, the introduction of the railways led to its slow commercial decline in the 1930s until it was closed over in the 1960s. Revitalised by Millennium funding, the Canal reopened in 2001 and is now a bustling thoroughfare for cyclists, commuters and cruisers as well as an area of redevelopment.

Our latest story on Our Town Stories takes you along the stretch of the Union Canal from Ratho to Fountainbridge and tells its story from its beginnings in the early 19th century to present day. You’ll discover the hidden history of the Canal’s connection to body snatchers, slaughter houses and rubber boots!

The First Ladies of Football

There’s still time to catch Stuart Gibbs’ wonderful exhibition tracing the history of women’s football in Scotland.

first ladies of football

‘The First Ladies of Football’ is on display at Stockbridge Library until the end of October.

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Conjuring up sea monsters with Royal Mile Primary

Originally posted on Bright Futures:

pupil reading presentation classLast Tuesday P7 pupils from Royal Mile Primary spent an exciting afternoon at Central Library with local author Roy Gill, when they attended a workshop linked to the Green Pencil award; a creative writing award for P4-7. This year the theme is Scotland’s Seas.

Roy shared extracts from his new novel, Werewolf Parallel, then worked with the class on creating a sea monster, deciding on its special powers and discussing ways it could be defeated.

This is the last of six Green Pencil author workshops held in libraries around the city with the help of Live Literature funding. The workshops are intended to inspire pupils to take part in the competition.

Closing date for entries is 10 October 2014, and winners will be announced in November. Time is running out, so get those green pencils ready and start writing!

Find out more about the Green Pencil Award at

Read about other…

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Meet the Family History Day experts

On Saturday 15th November between 10.30am and 4pm, Central Library is hosting a Family History Day as part of Previously… Scotland’s History Festival programme. Whether you’ve already made a start on your family tree, or you’re a complete beginner, this is a fantastic opportunity to quiz the professionals all under one roof!

What's your story?

Giving help and advice on the day will be:
Edinburgh & Scottish Collection and Reference Library Collection
Get to grips with maps, Post Office directories, Parish Records, Burial Records, and electoral rolls. Or simply borrow a book to help you get started!

Edinburgh City Archives
Find out about the records held by Edinburgh City Archives, and speak to the archivists about how you can access them and what they might help you uncover.

Edinburgh Libraries’ online services
Talk to us and find out how our free online resources can help you trace your family tree.

Edinburgh Museums & Galleries Outreach Service
Come and delve into the past with Edinburgh Museums & Galleries Outreach Service. Relive (or discover) a time before The Beatles, The Simpsons and the internet!

Edinburgh’s War
Drop in for some expert, one to one help with your own World War One family story. Whether you’ve got memorabilia you’d like more information about, or just the name of someone who fought, we can help you find out more.

Lothian Health Services Archive
Lothian Health Services Archive collects and preserves the local records of NHS hospitals and other health-related material.  Speak to them if your research has led you into medical matters.

National Library of Scotland
The National Library of Scotland has many genealogical and historical resources to help you. Speak to Librarians to find out how to get started and what their collections can tell you about your family’s past.

From Scottish census records, Scottish wills, birth certificates and death certificates, ScotlandsPeople offer online access to millions of Scottish records to help you bring your Scottish ancestry to life. Experts will be on hand to offer you advice and even a couple of free searches!

SCRAN is an enormous database of images, audio and film clips from museums, galleries and archives. Speak to the experts and find out how to tap this resource to put the story into your family’s history.

Also, on the day, Scran will be hosting a free masterclass and Previously … Scotland’s History Festival will be hosting talks. It’ll also be the last chance to catch the Royal Blind’s WW1 exhibition, ‘Silhouettes the Fog and Guiding Lights: the foundation of Scottish War Blinded’.

Finally, there’ll be the opportunity to find out about Edinburgh Scrapbook, an exciting new online tool being developed by Edinburgh Libraries. The web application will enable sharing and collecting of historical and contemporary images and memories of Edinburgh, and we’ll be looking for volunteers to give us their feedback.

Hope to see you there!


Edinburgh’s War: Events and Exhibitions

Edinburgh's War logo

Here at Central Library we’re remembering the Great War with a series of events and exhibitions in October and November. The events can all be booked via Eventbrite.

Talks and Discussions
World War One Drop in Sessions – Next session 24th October.
Get expert, one to one help with your own World War One family story. Whether you’ve got memorabilia you’d like more information about, or if you just have a name of someone who fought, we can help you find out more. These sessions are held every second Friday at 11am on the mezzanine.

Songs of the Great War
Wednesday 29th October 2014, 14.30-15.30

People and propaganda with Wendy Carle Taylor. Back by popular demand, Wendy Carle Taylor will explore a selection of songs from the Great War. From calls to arms and militaristic propaganda to music hall parody, hymns and lullabies, Wendy will lead us on a musical journey illuminating the lives of those who experienced World War One in all its glory and shame.

Family History Day – part of Previously…Scotland’s History Festival
Saturday 15th November 10.30am-4pm

Lots of family history related events, including a special World War One drop in session.

World War I Reads
Monday 17 November 2014 from 18:30 to 20:00

Following on from last year’s successful Big Book Group read, we invite you to bring along your favourite book about this period in history & be part of ‘Previously’ History Festival November’s events.

In the Company of Nurses
Tuesday 18 November 14:30-15:30

Yvonne McEwen talks about her new book In the Company of Nurses -the authorised history of the British Army Nursing Service in the Great War. This important volume tells the much-neglected story of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) during the First World War.

Casualties and Concert Parties
Wednesday 19 November 14:30-15:30

Wendy Carle Taylor and Yvonne McEwen bring to life the famous concert parties organised by Lena Ashwell on the Western Front during the Great War. These concerts and performances were particularly poignant for the sick and injured in the various base and general hospitals in France and Flanders.

Scottish War Art and Artists in the Twentieth Century – Dr Patricia Andrew
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 from 14:30 to 15:30

Dr Patricia Andrew discusses her book A Chasm of Time: Scottish War Art and Artists in the Twentieth Century, looking at Scottish artists and their experience of war, and how they recorded and interpreted Scotland at war.

In the company of nurses book cover


Silhouettes in the Fog and Guiding Lights: the foundation of Scottish War Blinded.
Mezzanine Central Library, Monday 10th November – Saturday 15thNovember. 10am-8pm, Mon-Wed, 10am-5pm Thu-Sat.

In 1915, rumours began circulating on the Western Front about a deadly, pale yellow fog leaving a devastating scene of hysteria, suffering and death on the Allied trenches at Ypres. Chemical warfare contributed towards 188,706 Allied casualties inflicting permanent blindness, respiratory problems and psychological disorders on those who survived.

Scottish War Blinded will describe the seldom told story of surviving blinded soldiers returning to Scotland from the Western Front. The story will describe the development of chemical warfare during World War One, the reaction of Allied Military and medical officers, changing attitudes towards war disability in the UK and Scottish War Blinded’s foundation in 1915.

Shades of Grey, Scarlet and Tartan – Nursing in World War One
The story of nursing and caregiving during World War One.
Mezzanine. Monday 17th November-Saturday 22nd November . 10am-8pm, Mon-Wed, 10am-5pm Thu-Sat.

We will also have a display of World War One resources from our collection on the main library staircase.

Art from the first world war book cover

Anita Govan performing “D is for Dragon”

Take five minutes to enjoy performance poet Anita Govan in full flow.

Anita will be at Portobello Library on Thursday 6th November as part of Dyslexia Awareness Week in association with Dyslexia Scotland.

View our programme page to book a ticket and see what else we’ve got lined up.