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!

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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

The story of Corstorphine

We’re indebted to The Corstorphine Trust for collaborating on a history of Corstorphine with us for Our Town Stories. They’ve also shared many fantastic pictures from their archives with us to allow us to tell the story of Corstorphine from the 12th century to present day.

Corstorphine High Street

Corstorphine has a rich and vivid history. Read about the Old Parish Church, and its even older predecessor, the neighbouring fortress and loch, and the murder of one of the founding Forrester Clan. In the 18th century, people travelled to Corstorphine to take the waters at a well reputed for its healing powers. In 1920, Corstorphine became part of Edinburgh and farmlands stood where now there are shopping centres and housing estates.There’s recollections of Corstorphine train station and a line of trams waiting to pick up crowds of rugby fans from Murrayfield. And look out for the celebrity opening the 1960 Corstorphine Fair…

Get in touch with if you’d like to share the story of your neighbourhood on Our Town Stories.


Clermiston at 60

2014 marks the community of Clermiston’s 60th anniversary. Once grazing land and the farmlands of Buttercup Farm, the area became a thriving residential area in the 1950s.

At the celebrations to mark St Andrew’s Clermiston’s silver jubilee, Rev. Dr. Ross Mackenzie remembered the beginnings of the church and its community:

Rev. Dr. Ross Mackenzie on his rounds

Rev. Dr. Ross Mackenzie on his rounds

‘In the autumn of 1954 the first congregations walked through mud and dust by new or half-built houses to worship in the wooden hut of Clermiston Parish Church…’

He remarked on the enormous change that had occurred worldwide in the fifties, and how the five years between 1954 and 1959 were particularly remarkable and hectic for the early residents of Clermiston:

‘… a small community of dozens became scores and then hundreds, a wooden hut without water or electricity became in a true sense home to congregations, political parties, garden club, drama club, Saturday film club, health centre, whist centre, and anything else it needed to be to those who used it….

After World War II enormous new towns and communities spread rapidly over the countryside, when people, more than a million of them in the end were moved from the centre of the cities and large towns of Britain. But this was our town, our time, and our place.’

The residents of Clermiston and Drumbrae are marking their neighbourhood’s 60th anniversary with a celebratory event on 28th September at St Andrew’s Church which kicks off a series of local events throughout October. Pictures from our Capital Collections exhibition are on display in Drumbrae Library Hub and the Library are inviting community donations of photographs and memories to help their local history archive grow. Keep an eye on Drumbrae Library Hub’s facebook page for upcoming events.

Events and activities for over 50s in Edinburgh

We’re celebrating International Older Adults Day on 1st October. And we’d love you to join us.

Come along to Meadowbank Sports Centre between 1.00 and 4.00pm where you’ll be able to try out seated exercise, new age kurling and walking football!

You’ll also be able to pick up a copy of this year’s Get Up and Go programme of events and activities for over 50s in the city.

(You can also view these activities listed in the programme on Your Edinburgh).

One of the highlights of the afternoon will be the Get Up and Go Awards, where we’ll be recognizing the wonderful work done for Edinburgh’s older people by certain individuals and organisations.

We’ll round off the afternoon in style with a tea dance, coffee and cakes from 2.30 to 4.00pm.

See you there?

For more information call Edinburgh Leisure on 0131 458 2100 or Get Up & Go on 0131 529 7844

Beer, banking and biscuits…

… or, should that be pottery, papermaking and publishing?

Edinburgh is renowned for many things and our latest story on Our Town Stories gives a potted history of some the city’s well-known (and lesser-known) industries, some of which still survive today.

Portobello Paper Mill