Make Music Day!

Come to Central Library on Friday 21 June to celebrate the longest day of the year and be part of a global music festival.

Make Music Day is a free celebration of music around the world taking place every year on 21 June featuring musicians of all ages, genres and abilities. It’s the world’s biggest festival of free music events taking place in venues and public spaces both indoor and outdoor.

This year for the first time Central Library will host an exciting and diverse programme of community music events. Kicking off at 11.45am in Central Lending and 12 noon in the Music Library Mezzanine, library visitors will be entertained with a programme of music running throughout the afternoon until 4.30pm.

The Rolling Hills Chorus – Edinburgh’s premier male a capella chorus – open the programme on the Mezzanine at 12 noon. Described as one of the highest quality and most entertaining in Scotland and UK barbershop this act is sure to set the toes tapping.

Other highlights include the Kleyne Klezmer Trio performing in Central Lending at 2.00pm featuring Andrew Gardiner on clarinet, Simon Carlyle on tuba, and Jan Waterfield on accordion: there is sure to be a lot of noise to rowse the readers from their usually peaceful browsing.

We’re not forgetting Scotland’s fantastic musical traditions either with performers from Sangstream closing our programme on the Mezzanine at 3.45pm. Sangstream is a Scots folk choir singing traditional and modern Scots folk songs unaccompanied.

It’s not just Central! Other libraries around the city are joining in with the fun with Stockbridge Library starting the day at 11am with The Professors of Logic, who will be performing an acoustic set of original songs in a variety of genres, including Country, Blues, Cajun and Jazz, the songs tend to have a humorous bent. The band features guitar, fiddle, accordion and sax (maybe) and vocals.

The aim of our programme is to provide opportunities for all to enjoy a range a music and to bring various community musicians together for the day. All performers are providing their services at no charge and there is no fee to the public to attend.

Expect some surprises throughout the day. Draw up a chair. Relax and enjoy.

You can view both Central Library’s full programme  and Stockbridge Library’s full line-up online. Contact the Music Library for more information by phone (0131 242 8050) or email

Baby’s Own Aesop by Walter Crane

In Central Library’s Special Collections sit many special books, and one such book is Baby’s Own Aesop. It was created by the artist Walter Crane (1845 – 1915) and first seen by the eyes of little Victorian tots in 1887. It was made specifically for them, for the nursery – that was Walter Crane’s intention. And he cheats them not. Each page is a very beautiful picture, often an elaborate one, that is drawn together with a rhyme. And animals are everywhere of course, because it’s Aesop that the rhymes reference.

Porcupine, Snake & Company; The Bear & the Bees

These new publishing ventures for nursery children were all about visual literacy, and Walter Crane was an influential figure. His designs were highly decorative and architectural, colour and pattern abound; there is comedy, and visual puns – on cranes prominently. And behind it all was the belief that art and design could stimulate a child by being interesting, and therefore it could help them to learn.

The Ass and the Sick Lion

Baby’s Own Aesop is the third publication of three, the others being Baby’s Opera (1877) and Baby’s Bouquet (1878). Throughout, the line and the form show quite how good Walter Crane’s understanding of his subjects and settings was: their movement, poses and anatomy is so full of life inside the picture space. Old men have old sagging skin; foxes, deer, donkeys and lions are rendered in all their animal detail and plasticity. And his use of clear and definite lines was also helpful to the printing process which became increasingly sophisticated over the years.

Take a look at the exhibition of this beautiful book on the libraries’ image collection website, Capital Collections

Women seek peace after World War One – part of Harpies, Fechters and Quines Festival

Did the women who obtained the vote in 1918 expect their voices to be heard in international politics of 1919?

In the spring of 1919 the four political leaders of America, Britain, France and Italy, and their associated Allies met in Paris to draw up the peace terms that were to be imposed on Germany and the Central Powers.  The hundreds of men involved in the Paris Peace Conference were somewhat surprised to receive telegrams and then a delegation of women expressing concern and criticism of the draft treaty. The five women had been delegated to travel to Paris by the 140 women from 16 countries meeting in Zurich in the second International Women’s Congress.  Did the men listen to the women and did it affect the terms of the Versailles Peace Treaty?

Helen Kay has undertaken archival research on the lives of women involved in the suffrage movement in Scotland, exploring the links they made into the international political situation and the campaign for peace: in particular she has studied the career of the Edinburgh suffragist and barrister, Chrystal Macmillan (1872-1937) who helped to establish The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Come along and hear how Scots women have influenced the world – Wednesday 5 June, 2 – 3pm Central Library, George Washington Browne Room.

Book your free ticket for this brilliant talk via Eventbrite and browse the full programme for this year’s Harpies, Fechters and Quines Festival online.

Image © IWM (Q 28345)

Children’s Art Club in action

The June exhibition in the Art & Design Library is Young Artists At Work, showcasing the work produced by Central Library’s Children’s Art Club. The exhibition illustrates the work produced over the last year by the club’s hardworking members. The club was founded in September 2018 for children aged 8-12 and this exhibition will act as a celebration of their achievements as the final session for the year draws near.


Children’s Art Club has explored many different artistic disciplines, whilst trying to keep a real focus on using recycled or household materials; art can be made anywhere with anything and the children’s creativity and ingenuity has certainly proved this!


The exhibition runs from 4th-27th June in the Art & Design Library. For any information regarding the Children’s Art Club, please contact Central Children’s Library.

Reading Rainbows launch 2019

Around 1,200 four-year-olds across the capital will receive two brand new books each, specially chosen to inspire children to read and share stories.

Reading Rainbows, aims to spark a love of reading amongst under-fives, giving them the best start when they begin school.

Reading Rainbows launch 2019 at Muirhouse Library

The initiative is also designed to support parents and carers to share books and stories with their children, encouraging them to think about sharing books together and to visit libraries more often.

On Thursday 16 May, children from Forthview and Pirniehall nurseries visited Muirhouse Library to receive their Reading Rainbow packs from Councillor Alison Dickie – Vice Convener for education, Children and Famillies. The packs included two brand new books – ‘Everybunny Count!’ by Ellie Sandall and ‘This Zoo is Not for You’ by Ross Collins and enjoyed a visit from Cool Creatures, where they got a chance to meet some new friends up close.

Cool Creatures visit at Reading Rainbows launch

Reading Rainbows is a joint library and Early Years initiative focusing on areas of disadvantage across the city.  It addresses the fact that, in Scotland, children receive free book packs between birth and the age of three and once they turn five from the Scottish Book Trust, but nothing when they are four.

By supplying free literacy gift packs, including two books, a white board and marker and a literacy advice pack for parents and carers, as well as story and craft events, we aim to impact children’s literacy development.

Cool Creatures visit at Reading Rainbows launch

Friends Against Scams

Edinburgh Libraries are hosting a series of presentations over coming weeks promoting Friends Against Scams, a National Trading Standards initiative, which aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams and seeks to empower people to take a stand against fraud.

Scams come in many forms – by phone, emails and even text – and the cost to the UK economy is estimated to be between £5 and £10 billion a year!

Did you know?

  • 53% of people over the age of 65 have been targeted by a scam
  • 37% of people have been targeted by a scam five times or more
  • Only 5% of scam victims report the matter appropriately and 22% don’t tell anyone at all
  • 65% have taken no action to protect friends and family

Come along to one of the following sessions and find out about the types of increasingly sophisticated scams that are out there and get sound advice on making sure that you don’t fall for any of them and know how to go about reporting them too.

Community banker, Sam Mooney, will be offering these presentations and Q&A sessions at:

  • Fountainbridge Library – Thursday, June 13th, 3pm
  • Stockbridge Library – Friday, June 14th, 10.30am
  • Central Library – Monday, June 24th, 2.30pm
  • Morningside Library, June 27th, 10.30am


History of the house: the Stockbridge Colonies

During the 19th century the population of Edinburgh doubled from 103,000 in 1811 to 222,000 in 1881. During this time, the City developed industrially creating a major demand for labour which resulted in a population movement from rural areas.

The subsequent demand for housing created a major problem as the condition of the existing housing stock, particularly in the Old Town, was poor. Edinburgh suffered a mid 19th century recession and virtually no new houses were built between 1825 and 1860.

In the 1840s Edinburgh was reported as having the most unsanitary living conditions of any British city with the Edinburgh News describing Old Town houses as “chambers of death”.

So… what to do to solve the housing problem?

The Reverend Doctor James Begg, Leader of the Free Church of Scotland believed that workers should club together savings – money saved from not visiting the public house – to buy land around the outskirts of towns and build houses using their shared skills. Similar ideas were tried out around the city.

In 1861 many builders were locked out of work following a strike asking for working hours to be reduced from ten to nine.  Their request had been accepted but the men were only allowed back on site if they signed an agreement to work ten hours as before.

This led to the formation in 1861 of the Edinburgh Co-operative Building Company Ltd (ECBC) by seven stonemasons, David Rintoul, James Ogilvie, James Collins, James Colville, William Mill, James Earshman and Jake Syme.

The Company’s aim was to use their collective skills to build comfortable and respectable houses for rent or sale at reasonable prices for working people. Houses for those who “prefer privacy of self-contained dwellings with private gardens to homes in common stair tenements”. The finished houses were to be sold or rented providing a return to reinvest in future buildings and a dividend for shareholders.

The initial sale of £1 shares raised £10,000 and the shares could be bought in five instalments.

The first development was the Colonies of Stockbridge which was followed by similar developments at Dalry Road, Abbeyhill, North Fort Street, Restalrig Road, Slateford Road and Shaftesbury Park.

Water of Leith at the Colonies, 1963

Many of the 11 Stockbridge Terraces are named after people who helped to promote, found or run the ECBC. The first was Reid Terrace named after Hugh Gilzean Reid, a newspaper editor credited with giving help and encouragement to the initial group of stonemasons.

The foundation stone was laid in October 1861 by the Reverend James Begg and the second terrace was named after Hugh Miller, the renowned geologist. Like Begg and Reid, Miller was a member of the Free Church and shared the belief that living in decent housing could promote moral values and physical well-being. Although Miller had died before the ECBC was formed, his contribution had been recognised.

Houses cost between £100 and £130 to buy. An initial deposit was £5 with the balance repayable over 15-20 years secured on the Deeds lodged with a Property Investment Company. Many occupants were also shareholders in ECBC and could put their dividend payment towards paying off their loan.

Some houses were bought and then let to others but the majority of buyers or tenants worked in the building trade or manual occupations.

There are various carved stone plaques to be seen on the gable ends of houses in Collins, Kemp, Avondale, Teviotdale, Balmoral and Dunedin Places emphasising the connection with the various trades in the origins of the development.

Reid Terrace was the first to be completed in the Stockbridge Development. Of the 18 properties listed in the 1864-65 Voters Register 12 were occupied by the owner and 6 by tenants.

Occupations listed are saddler, stationer, van driver, architect, clerk of works, watchmaker, grazier, clerk, commercial traveller, residenter*, GPO sorter, porter, blacksmith, hosier, glass cutter, servant.

No women are listed as voters in this era before women’s suffrage.

In the 1914-15 Register, 34 properties are listed with only 9 occupied by owners, 5 of whom are women, and the remaining 29 have tenant occupiers.

Occupations listed are printer, joiner, butler, wood carver, carter, mason, agent, postman, cabinetmaker, cutter, insurance agent, hairdresser, bootmaker, tramway servant, baker, gardener, attendant, rubber worker, gasfitter, traveller, police constable, tinsmith, saw maker, watchmaker, glass painter, china dealer, clerk, plasterer, residenter*.

One photograph from our collections taken around 1885 shows the Fyfe Family standing at the doors of 23 and 24 Reid Terrace.

Fyfe Family, Reid Terrace, Stockbridge

The Valuation Rolls record that a Mrs Ann Fyfe lived at number 23 Reid Terrace in 1875 but by the 1881 Census it looks as though the family have moved to Montague Street in Newington. In 1885 number 23 was occupied by a James Cantley and then changed tenants regularly after this time.

Another image from Capital Collections, dated around 1914, is of the Valentine Family who lived at 17 Bell Place.

Valentine Family, Bell Place, Stockbridge

David Valentine was born in 1877 near St Andrews in Fife. In 1900, he married Rachel Mentiply at Monifieth in Fife.  The 1911 Census tells us that he is living at 17 Bell Place with his wife Rachel and his children Betsy (9), Margaret (7), William (5), James (4) Rachel (1) and Elizabeth (2 months). His father William (74) was also living with the family until his death in 1913. David was a Police Constable and he continued to live at Bell Place until around 1920. He retired from the Police with the rank of Sergeant and died in April 1951 at 8 Glenogle Place.

The register of voters also lists Police Officers living at numbers 16, 19, 23, and 25 around this time.

*Residenter: an inhabitant, often with a connection to the clergy.

This is only the story of the Stockbridge Colonies. In all, between 1850 and 1903 another nine developments were built. By 1875, land became more expensive and was a factor in the reduction of the amount of new building.

Overall, the Colonies vision far exceeded expectations by providing housing for more than 7000 people. Today, a Colonies home is much prized, offering at type of accommodation rarely found in central Edinburgh for those who “prefer privacy of self-contained dwellings with private gardens”.

Read more articles in this ‘History of the house’ series:
History of the house: King’s Wark
History of the house: Bowhead house
History of the house: Nicolson Square and Marshall Street
History of the house: White Horse Close
History of the house: 94 and 96 Grassmarket

Are you interested in discovering the history of your home? The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library has a vast collection of material which can help you.

No whistling on a Sunday: an oral history of the Stockbridge Colonies by the Colonies Oral History Group
Edinburgh’s colonies: housing the workers by Richard Rodger
A brief history of the Colonies by Rose Pipes