The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: Robert Butchart

Robert Butchart held the post of Edinburgh City Librarian from 1942 until 1953. Mr Butchart had a particular interest in topographical prints of Old Edinburgh, and collected drawings by the likes of Bruce J. Home and engravings by John Ewbank. After Mr Butchart retired, he published a book in 1955 entitled, ‘Prints and Drawings of Edinburgh’, giving ‘A descriptive account of the collection in the Edinburgh Room of the Central Public Library’. Mr Butchart wrote with pride of the collection of prints and drawings held by the then Edinburgh Room which had been accumulated over the previous 25 years, claiming it ‘undoubtedly ranks as the finest collection in existence of topographical and historical prints of the City’.

In October 1982, Mr Butchart’s personal collection was presented to the Central Library by his daughter, Miss Jean Butchart. In this short film, she explains why she felt it appropriate that the majority of the prints from her father’s collection should be housed in the library where he had first become inspired by the subject.

The prints collection of the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library has continued to grow since Mr Butchart’s tenure and you can now search many more hundreds of stunning images of Edinburgh from our collections on Capital Collections.

Read all the articles in this series of ‘The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries’:

George Washington Browne: architect

Andrew Carnegie: steelmaker and philanthropist

Henry Dyer, engineer, educationist and Japanophile

William McEwan: brewer and philanthropist

David Mather Masson: scholar and biographer

Thomas Ross: architect and antiquarian

Charles Boog Watson: local historian and antiquarian

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The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: Charles Boog Watson

On retiring from his duties as an ARP warden in 1943, aged 84 years old, Charles Boog Watson received a letter of thanks from the Civil Defence Warden’s Service. It stated,

“…and I feel that if everyone could show the same keenness that you have done everything would be easier and the world would be a better place…”

Edinburgh Libraries also owes a huge debt of thanks to Charles Boog Watson who donated many valuable items from his personal collections.

Charles Brodie Boog Watson was born on the 7 November, 1858 in Bombay, India and was educated at Edinburgh Academy. He later entered the engineering profession becoming a partner in the West End Engine Works, retiring in 1908.

For many years after his retirement, he was given a room in the City Chambers to continue his voluntary task of using the City Council records to research all aspects of the city’s history and topography. This extensive and meticulous research comprising 14 volumes he presented to Edinburgh Libraries.

He also donated his notebooks, memorabilia and correspondence from his time as a World War II ARP warden to the library giving us a unique record of the home front in Edinburgh. Browse our Capital Collections exhibition to get an impression of what life was like for Charles during the Second World War. He also donated a magnificent collection of 40 editions of Holbein’s Dance of Death, including David Deuchar editions. He had collected these over many years, adding annotations and auction record entries.

For over 30 years he was director, then chairman, of the Edinburgh City Mission. He was also a member of the Edinburgh Public Libraries Committee and a vice-president of the Old Edinburgh Club.

Charles Brodie Boog Watson died on the 16 November 1947 at his home at 24 Garscube Terrace, Edinburgh.

Read all the articles in this series of ‘The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries’:

George Washington Browne: architect

Robert Butchart: City Librarian

Andrew Carnegie: steelmaker and philanthropist

Henry Dyer, engineer, educationist and Japanophile

William McEwan: brewer and philanthropist

David Mather Masson: scholar and biographer

Thomas Ross: architect and antiquarian

City’s historic images get a psychedelic makeover in Grassmarket’s free open-air art exhibition

The Greater Grassmarket BID has teamed up with local graphic artist Johnny Dodds and Capital Collections to launch a free open-air Art Gallery this September. Explore Edinburgh’s extraordinary history through a series of artworks that combine rare old photos from the collections of Edinburgh Libraries.

Photographs of hokey pokey man

 

See the city’s past, its people, places and city life through a psychedelic prism of colour and vibrancy. A unique, contemporary glimpse into Edinburgh’s past in a way you’ve never seen it before.

Photogrpahs of Lamplighter Victoria Terrace

 

Visit the free open-air walking art exhibition in the Greater Grassmarket area from 4th – 30th September and view all the images on Capital Collections.

Royal Visit, May 1903

Our latest exhibition on Capital Collections is taken from 3 small ‘Kodak’ photograph albums. The pictures document the royal visit of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra to Edinburgh in May 1903 following Edward’s coronation in London the previous year.

One of the albums depicts images of colonial troops who had arrived in Edinburgh prior to the King’s coronation in August 1902. Spectators have gathered as the troops are photographed marching through Edinburgh’s streets.

Colonial troops marching in the Canongate, 1902

 

Many more people converged on Edinburgh for the royals’ visit. The momentous event was described by The Scotsman:

“The railways in the morning brought thousands of people into the city, and the streets were kept in a state of bustle and excitement by the arrival of the troops with their bands of music, by their disposition, and by the hurrying of people to get positions to see the King arriving”.

Crowd and soldiers waiting for coronation parade, Princes Street, 1903

The streets were lined with people trying to get a glimpse of the royal procession as it passed from Waverley Station to Holyrood.

King Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark in their carriage on Regent Road, 1903

There was a public holiday in Edinburgh for the visit and the city was festooned with bunting, decorations and large ceremonial arches were placed across main roads into the city centre.

Ceremonial arch on Lothian Road at the junction with Castle Terrace, 1903

Browse the full exhibition of the Royal Visit on Capital Collections.

Afterword
The photographer of these images is unknown, but the volumes were kindly donated to Central Library by the Misses D. Morison Inches of Colinton Road.

Part of the King’s visit took him to Colinton Mains where he formally opened the city’s new hospital for infectious diseases, built at a cost of £350,000. Among the welcoming committee of dignitaries were City Architect Robert Morham  and the city’s Medical Officer of Health, Sir Henry Littlejohn.

The King opened the doors to the new hospital with a ceremonial gold key which had been specially crafted by Edinburgh jewellers Hamilton and Inches. Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of the key today, but it does however suggest a connection to the Misses D. Morison Inches and the photograph albums. Robert Kirk Inches, founder of Hamilton and Inches jewellers, was the father of John Morison Inches, a senior figure in Edinburgh’s brewing industry and grandfather to Doris and Denys Morison Inches of Colinton Road. Perhaps the Morison Inches family were keen to acquire a record of the prestigious visit to Edinburgh, in connection with their contribution to the Colinton Mains Hospital opening ceremony.

Edinburgh Photographic Society survey 1912-1914

Edinburgh Photographic Society Section was established in 1899, and over the early years of the 20th century created a collection of photographs of streets and buildings of Edinburgh.

It was proposed that 2 copies of each photograph were created, one to be given to the City of Edinburgh and one to be retained by the Edinburgh Photographic Society.

The images in our latest Capital Collections exhibition feature Ward XIV (George Square) and most of the photos were taken between 1912 and 1914. There were some earlier images collected, but not taken by the EPS Survey Group members.

Many of the photographs feature places that are still very much recognisable today but there are also many that no longer exist.

Do you recognise this area? Taken in 1904 you might be able to spot the street sign that says Tarvit Street. These buildings were probably demolished very shortly after this photograph was taken as two years later the King’s Theatre opened its doors on the site.

Leven Street, east side

The picture below shows an area that has changed quite a bit, well, at least one side of the street! This is looking towards Earl Grey Street and on the corner on the left-hand side, is Central Hall.

Earl Grey Street looking north from Brougham Street

The cottages below were demolished and built on the site that was the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary College. Nowadays it is known simply as Summerhall, an arts hub for theatre, music, art and literary events throughout the year. It even has its own gin distillery and microbrewery.

Cottages, Summerhall

Many would think that somewhere like the Grassmarket with its original old buildings wouldn’t have changed very much. However as you can see, this impressive looking building, the Corn Exchange, is no longer there. It stood on the site that is now the Apex Hotel.

The Corn Exchange , Grassmarket

Visit Capital Collections to see the full set of amazing photographs from the George Square Survey by the members of the Edinburgh Photographic Society.

All the world’s a stage – 70 years of Edinburgh festivals

In 1947, Sir John Falconer, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, spoke of his ambition that the International Festival of Music and Drama should provide “a platform of the flowering of the human spirit”.

The first Edinburgh International Festival programme 1947

This year (2017) sees the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe. In 1947, eight uninvited theatre groups turned up at the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival. With the ‘official’ festival using the city’s major venues, these groups took advantage of the large assembled theatre crowds to showcase their own alternative theatre. Although at the time it was not recognised as such, this was the first Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Map of major venues 1947

The EIF has played host to many international stars over its 70 years. Maria Callas performed in the King’s Theatre in 1957 and Rudolf Nureyev first appeared at the festival in 1984 dancing in a production of ‘Swan Lake’ at the Playhouse Theatre. In 1965 Marlene Dietrich performed, singing a collection of late night cabaret songs at the Lyceum assisted by an orchestra conducted by Burt Bacharach.

Harmonium Project, opening the 2015 Edinburgh International Festival

Many of today’s well known faces have launched their careers at either the Festival or Fringe. Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller appeared in Beyond the Fringe in 1960. Billy Connolly appeared in The Great Northern Welly Boot Show in 1972. Rowan Atkinson took a break from his engineering degree in 1976 to perform alongside Richard Curtis for the Oxford Review. In 1981 Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were members of The Cambridge Footlights who won the first Perrier Award (now Edinburgh Comedy Award) and in 2001 Eddie Redmayne appeared as the MC in Cabaret.

Street performer at Parliament Square, 2015

If you want to get a real taste of what’s happening during the festivals, take a stroll – though it may take some time – down the High Street and to The Mound where you will be able to see Fringe groups, buskers and street performers. You might even be “persuaded” to join in!

Street performer on High Street, 2015

The Edinburgh Festivals continue to go from strength to strength. In 2016 the combined ticket sales of both the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival reached 2,915,143.

Find many more great pictures of our festival city on Capital Collections including our collection of Edinburgh International Festival programme covers.

Bill Hall’s family story

Bill Hall is a keen family historian. Born in 1946, Bill has lived most of his life in Edinburgh. Over the past couple of years, he has shared with us, many photographs and material regarding his family and we’ve now compiled a lovely exhibition depicting his family story on Capital Collections.

Bill’s mother Mary was the custodian of the family archive and shared her memories with Bill. Born 1911, she lived in Albion Road, attending Albion Road School. During the summer she visited relatives in Ratho, Tranent and Cockenzie.

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Mary Clark Welsh

In our exhibition we meet several of Bill’s family. There’s Alexander Clark, Bill’s great-great-grandfather, who was born c1813 in Linlithgow and worked as a carter carrying stone. He gave this up to become a canal banksman moving to Wilkie’s Basin, near Ratho. A banksman’s job was to maintain the canal ensuring it was kept in good order. They dredged the canal and kept it clear of weeds and debris for the traffic that travelled along the canal.

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Banksmen at Ratho

Bill’s great-uncle Alexander Henderson, born in 1890, was employed by St Cuthbert’s Co-operative as an assistant grocer and played in their football team. It’s possible he joined a “pals battalion”, a group of men from the same workplace or football team who enlisted together. He joined the Seaforth Highlanders and after training landed in Boulogne in May 1915. He died at the Battle of Loos on 12th October 1915 aged 25.

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St Cuthbert’s Athletic FC

Bill’s father Joseph was born in 1911. A postcard shows Joseph aged about 3, taken on Christmas Eve 1914. A gift for his father William, who was off to the front, the message on the back reads, “Love to Daddy from Joe“. William died of wounds on 8th April 1916.

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Joseph Hall, Bill’s father

Another of Bill’s great uncles, Archie Tait had been a ploughman at Wilkie’s Basin in Ratho before joining Edinburgh City Police in 1914. He served with The Lovat Scouts Mounted Division during WW1. They saw service on the Western Front, at Gallipoli and in Egypt and Macedonia. Archie returned to Edinburgh City Police in 1919 as a mounted policeman and on his retirement from the police in 1945, worked as a doorman at Register House.

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Archie Tait

View the full exhibition of Bill Hall’s family story on Capital Collections.