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.

Saughton Park Restoration Project

Rumours of the old house being haunted, romantic walks in the rose garden, dancing to music at the bandstand, catching fish in jam jars at the Water of Leith… these are just some of the colourful memories recorded so far as part of the Saughton Park Restoration Project.

Since summer 2016 Edinburgh charity the Living Memory Association has been working with volunteers to uncover the social history of the park and the surrounding area.
The material will help shape the park, for example in new artwork and information panels, and be archived for the benefit of future generations.

The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection are hosting an exhibition where you can enjoy a taste of the memories, images and documents collected so far, and read about the plans for the restoration project.

Saughton – the People’s Park is in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection until March 31st 2017.

bandstand-and-art-galleriesDiscover more about Saughton Park’s past by reading our previous blog post on Saughton’s Glorious Summer of 1908.

 

Roses are red, violets are blue, we’ve delved into the British Newspaper Archive…. just for you!

Today is Valentine’s Day and with that in mind we’ve been having a look at some historical newspapers to see what we could find.

If you think that the heavy burden on the postie was a relatively new thing, think again. Back in 1876, the Edinburgh Evening News reported that the pillar box at the GPO had to be emptied 5 or 6 times to cope with the demand.

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Edinburgh Evening News 14th Feb 1876

In the Dundee Evening Telegraph, you could win £2 2s for pouring your heart out….

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Dundee Evening Telegraph 10th Feb 1931

And a few years later this little drawing appeared, can you work out the message?

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Dundee Evening Telegraph 14th Feb 1936

And if you forgot to send off that card, there was even a belated Valentine’s message.

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There are over 14 million digitised pages from more than 700 UK and Irish newspapers available on the British Newspaper Archive. You can browse for FREE in Central Library’s Edinburgh & Scottish Collection and Reference Library.

So do come and have a look yourself and use the Libraries’ computers or wifi to explore thousands of newspapers from 1710-1954 for FREE.

There’s no business like snow business…

“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but look what they can do when they stick together” – unknown

Seventy years ago, in 1947 Britain suffered the severest winter for centuries. Between January and March that year, snow fell everyday somewhere in the country for 55 days in a row.

Digging out the Borders Railway in snow

Digging out the Borders Railway in snow

On 10 and 11 March, Scotland had its heaviest snowfall of the winter with snowdrifts up to seven metres deep reported. There were severe disruptions to energy supplies to homes, offices and factories and many businesses shut down temporarily.

Digging out the Waverley Line

With snow covering the track of the Waverley Line, this had to be dug out manually. Men were roped together for safety but in spite of the cold they were in everyday working clothes and some were even bare-headed and without gloves.

Job done!

The strangest thing about 1947 was that the first part of the winter was very mild, with temperatures in some places reaching 14c.

There was also other strange occurrences, lack of sun in some parts in the south and huge amounts of sun in Western Scotland. A completely dry month in western Scotland is unusual, it was unprecedented in February. In late March floods developed as the snow melted rapidly.

To view more photographs of the Borders Railway in Winter 1947 visit Capital Collections.

The news of Christmas past

We’re still in the Christmas mood and have been flicking through the pages of the British Newspaper Archive, delving into Christmases past.

1918’s panto at the King’s Theatre was Jack and The Beanstalk… Oh yes it was!

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5th January 1918

In 1900 there was a “Great Christmas and New Year Carnival” in the Waverley Market, which had been turned into “a veritable Fairyland” and not a big wheel or German Market in sight!

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25th December 1924

In 1920 the coolest Christmas gift was a gramophone…..fast forward 96 years, and once again it’s appearing on Santa’s list.

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24th December 1920

With Christmas Day only becoming a public holiday in Scotland in 1958, most workers were lucky to get a half days holiday to celebrate….

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22nd December 1924

All these ads were taken from the Edinburgh Evening News, but there are over 14 million digitised pages from more than 700 UK and Irish newspapers available on the British Newspaper Archive. You can browse for FREE in Central Library’s Edinburgh & Scottish Collection and Reference Library.

So do come and have a look yourself and use the Libraries computers to explore thousands of newspapers from 1710-1954 for FREE.

Edinburgh and the three bears

Tomorrow is World Animal Day, a day aimed at raising the status of animals and to improve welfare standards. World Animal Day is being commemorated in Edinburgh with a special ceremony at the statue of Wojtek in West Princes Street Gardens.

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Presscuttings and books from the Edinburgh & Scottish Collection

Wojtek, World War 2 hero

Adopted by a group of Polish soldiers in 1942, this Syrian brown bear cub was fed with condensed milk, fruit, marmalade, honey, syrup and beer. As member of the the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, Wojtek became a symbol of the Polish wartime struggle and travelled to Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. During the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek helped by carrying ammunition. At the end of the World War 2, the 1.8 metre tall bear was transported to Berwickshire in Scotland. Following demobilisation in 1947, Woytek was given to Edinburgh Zoo where he spent the rest of his life. Since 2015, Wojtek has his own bronze statue in Princes Street Gardens. Sculpted by Alan Beattie Herriot, the monument represents Wojtek and a Polish Army Soldier “walking in peace and unity”.

Oliwa and Ograd, the pride of Edinburgh zoo

Did you know that Edinburgh Zoo hosted two other bears from Poland? Oliwa and Ograd were given to the children of Scotland from the children of Poland in 1959. In January 1968, Oliwa gave birth to three cubs – making the pair Edinburgh’s first breeding brown bears.

Visit the Edinburgh & Scottish Collection to uncover find more hidden histories of Edinburgh.

For a bite-size history of Edinburgh Zoo explore Our Town Stories.

 

Every picture tells a story – Bill Hall’s Family Album

Many of us have photo albums at home; possibly passed on from other members of the family all packed with photographs of loved ones at various stages in their lives.

While researching the Union Canal for an Our Town Story, we contacted Bill Hall who had a fantastic photograph of a relative that we wanted to use. During our conversation, he happened to mentioned that he had many others spreading right across his family, also a photo album packed full of photographs, would we be interested in seeing them?

The images in the album, date from the early 1900s through to the 1970s covering various events along the way.

There are studio portraits, very popular in the days before most families had their own cameras, everyone posing in their ‘Sunday best’.  Informal photographs of days at the seaside and outings on steamboats down the Clyde.

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Margaret and Willie McCubben, relatives on Bill’s mother’s side

Several of the photos show one member of the family, Archie Tait, a former ploughman at Wilkie’s Basin near Ratho. Archie had joined Edinburgh City Police in 1914 before enlisting with the army in 1915. He and his two cousins became Lovat Scouts which in 1916 became the British Army’s first sniper unit, then known as sharpshooters.  All three survived the war and Archie returned to the police force as a mounted policeman.

Archie Tait with Peter and Andrew Clark his cousins

Archie Tait (Bill’s great-great-uncle) with his cousins, Peter and Andrew Clark

An historical moment was captured and put in the album – the Airship R101’s endurance trial voyage which flew over Edinburgh on 17th November 1929.  The R101 was one of a pair of British Airships that were built as part of a British government programme to develop civil airships capable of service on long-distance routes within the British Empire. The trial flight flew over the North of England to Edinburgh and Glasgow and then over the Irish Sea to Dublin.

R 101 Airship over Edinburgh rooftops

R 101 Airship over Edinburgh rooftops

Like many family albums, there are photographs of people that no one recognises. Most get thrown away for that reason, but more often than not, they are kept in the hope that someone will eventually say…”oh, that’s Aunty so and so”. Bill can’t help us with this one below, but it is a great example of the type of prop that many studio photographers used for family portraits in Edwardian times. Backdrops and objects were used to create illusions, days at the sea side, or in this case a family on a drive in the countryside.

Unidentified family

Unidentified family

In Bill’s album a few pages have the photos removed, maybe lost over the years or perhaps given to other members of the family; all that’s left are the photo corners showing where they once were.

Browse all the wonderful pictures from Bill Hall’s family album on Capital Collections.