An Edinburgh home guard mystery

When Marjory Langdon was sorting through her possessions in preparation for moving house she was not expecting to unearth a mystery hidden for over 70 years. In a spare bedroom cupboard she found a framed drawing of an exotic looking lady. She thought she’d check if there was any information about the sitter on the back of the drawing. What she found instead though, tucked behind the portrait, was an Edinburgh newspaper from 1940 which concealed a hand-drawn map of Edinburgh relating to the Second World War.
Local Defence Volunteers posts and road blocksThe map of the Mortonhall area was a detailed plan of Local Defence Volunteer (LDV) posts and road blocks. The LDV or Home Guard as they are better known had a strong presence throughout this city, but the map focussed on two platoons based at Mortonhall. It may have been felt that there was a greater need for the LDV to be based around this area as there was an army camp built here. The camp may have been a prisoner of war camp, but it is more likely that it was for displaced Europeans.

Home Guard 1940 Home Guards patrol a section of canal in Edinburgh in a motor boat armed with rifles and a mounted Lewis gun, 19 October 1940.

Home Guard 1940, patrolling the Union Canal. Image courtesy of Imperial War Museums –

Mrs Langdon was kind enough to donate her discoveries to Edinburgh Libraries along with some family photographs of Home Guard battalions. This sparked our imagination to find out more about Edinburgh’s own Dad’s Army. By 1940 4000 men had volunteered in Edinburgh and although often the butt of jokes i.e. that LDV stood for the Look, Duck and Vanish Brigade, they did serious work in Edinburgh such as creating the first Home Guard Anti-Aircraft rocket batteries and bringing down a German plane.

Edinburgh's 1st Battalion Home Guard, 1944

Edinburgh’s 1st Battalion Home Guard, 1944

See our Capital Collection’s Edinburgh’s Home Guard exhibition to read about what it was like to be a member of the LDV in Edinburgh and and to see the full suite of images including the mystery lady in the drawing.

Wester Hailes Library’s community archive

When the West Edinburgh Times folded in 2008 due to loss of funding, its holdings of press cuttings and photographs were divided between Prospect Community Housing and Wester Hailes Library.

Children playing in front of housing, Wester Hailes

We’ve digitised some highlights from the Library’s fantastic picture archive and made them available via Capital Collections. The images show the neighbourhood during the eighties and nineties and depict all sides of life in the housing estate from dilapidated living conditions, sports teams and new infrastructure and technology to joyous Fun Runners and Gala Day goers in fancy dress. The production and distribution of The Sentinel (the West Edinburgh Times’ predecessor) is also documented.

Young boy crossing finish line, Wester Hailes fun run

Wester Hailes Library plans to hold an event where they’ll be inviting the community to come in and see if they can help put names to faces. In the meantime, if you spot someone you know in the photos online, let us know! Contact Wester Hailes Library if you’d like to find out more about the community archive or access the collection.

You can see more pictures from the Wester Hailes community newspaper archives shared by Prospect Community Housing on Edinburgh Collected. Browse these fantastic photos and memories of living, working and playing in Wester Hailes, or add your own!

Stop the press! And stop the pigeon! Memories of an Edinburgh Evening News reporter

The late Bill Rae began work as a copy boy on the Evening News at the age of 17. His career as a reporter began after he returned from National Service at the age of 20.

His family have been kind enough to share with us some of his memories from early days at the paper, which we are proud to publish here.

Bill’s recollections are illustrated by pictures of the 1940s case room which was overseen at the time by his grandfather, John Henderson.

In his reminiscences he referred to the newspaper as the ‘old’ Edinburgh Evening News:

‘I use the word “old” because in 1945 the dear old News was a world away from the slick colour tabloid it is today….

In those days, working on an evening newspaper was probably the most stressful form of journalism one could choose. Talk about working against the clock!

….There were four editions each day Monday to Friday… Between each edition there was barely one hour, so no sooner had one edition gone to press than everyone was working for the next, sweating at a typewriter and glancing at that newsroom clock again. …

Edinburgh Evening News case room

Edinburgh Evening News case room

The offices on the corner of Market Street and Cockburn Street were a clear architectural graft of the old and the new. Stand at that end of Waverley Bridge and look skywards… On the top floor, at the very corner of the Victorian building, is the Turret Window… If your eyesight is good, you will see a tiny door. This was where the News carrier pigeons entered the building. My grandfather, who for many years was caseroom overseer, told me that as the pigeons alighted an electric bell rang downstairs in the caseroom, and a boy was dispatched to retrieve the brief message from the bird’s leg.

When a reporter had been sent to, let’s say, a press conference, the normal form of communications was to find a telephone (no mobile phones in those days) and read a selection of quotes from one’s uncertain shorthand notes to a copytaker in the newsroom. Mission accomplished, subside and light a cigarette.

Staff in the Edinburgh Evening News case room

Staff in the Edinburgh Evening News case room

…On an evening paper, who had time to re-write anything? Correct the grammar, and punctuate: that was about it. Add a heading. Get it to the caseroom, quick! This was accomplished either by pneumatic tube, or by a gently clattering overhead railway which moved across the newsroom unendingly before disappearing in the wall…

The machine room, with its great presses, was to me the most awesome in the building. It was rather frightening. When the presses were in full throttle, speech was impossible… It was always a relief to step outside the machine room, into the much less noisy Despatch Department, with men bundling up the orders with great rolls of hairy string. In Market Street stood the line of distinctive silver and copper delivery vans….”

View the exhibition of pictures from Bill and his grandfather’s bygone days of news production in Edinburgh on Capital Collections.

Your Library top ten of 2015

As the year draws to a close let’s take a look at which of our online services you used the most during 2015. Here’s the top ten:

1. Zinio

No surprise that this is our most popular resource. Free online subscriptions to over 100 magazines including New Scientist, Hello and Amateur Photographer. What’s not to like?

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2. OverDrive

eBook and audiobook downloads continue to increase at a phenomenal rate (up a whopping 56% from 2014!) helped in part by the addition of some blockbuster titles for you to download – need we say it – free.

3. Capital Collections

Showcasing the image collections of Edinburgh Libraries, museums and galleries, the fantastic online gallery draws visitors from all over the globe.

4. Your Edinburgh

The best place to find out what’s on in your area.

5. Edinburgh Collected  NEW!

A brand new space for you to share, explore and discuss your memories of Edinburgh. Don’t miss out – get involved!

6. Our Town Stories

The history of Edinburgh in words, pictures and maps featuring the ever popular then and now photographs.

7. OneClickDigital

Reflecting the increasing popularity of audiobooks, downloads from OneClickDigital have almost doubled in the last 12 months!

8. Edinburgh 4 Community

If you’re looking for funding, as many of you are, this is the best place to start.

9. Theory Test Pro

Essential for learner drivers, this theory test simulator also gives more experienced motorists an opportunity to put their knowledge of the rules of the road to the test.

10. Library Press Display NEW!

Another new entry, Library Press Display is a window onto the world’s press, offering library members the chance to catch up on the daily papers without leaving the house.

That’s our top ten, but your library card gives you access to many, many other online resources besides. Visit Your Library to see the complete list.

(Top ten based on average monthly use during 2015.)



Once upon a time…

Two classic fairy tales and pantomine favourites are captured in beautiful silhouette drawings by Arthur Rackham in our latest Capital Collections exhibitions.

Rediscover Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty as you’ve not seen them before!


Field Marshal Earl Douglas Haig – before the War

15th December 2015 will mark the 100th anniversary of Field Marshal Douglas Haig taking command on the Western Front. Earl Haig’s role as Commander-in-Chief of the British forces during the Great War has been a topic of enormous discussion, analysis and interpretation.

Earl Haig

His life before the war however, has received less attention. Yet it was these years that moulded Douglas Haig into the man he was to become in the First World War.

The latest exhibition on Capital Collections showcases never-before-seen personal photographs from the Museum of Edinburgh’s collections. They show Field Marshal Earl Douglas Haig’s formative years from child, to Oxford University student and through his rise up the ranks of the British Army.

Young Haig dressed in kilt

The images bear witness to the life and career of a man who rose through the ranks of both the military and the public systems of the Victorian/ Edwardian establishment.

Browse these unique photographs made public for the first time on Capital Collections.

You can also visit the Museum of Edinburgh to see a fascinating permanent exhibition on the life and career of Field Marshal Earl Haig.

In the night garden

Locked and secret, Night in the Garden is where the natural world forgets all about human interlopers and revels in starlit glory.

Malcolm Innes and Euan Winton, October 2014

These ethereal glimpses into the Botanics’ night garden were taken last year during their first sound and light show.

You can browse more on Capital Collections.

Botanic Lights are returning to the Royal Botanic Garden this autumn, so why not share your pictures with us on Edinburgh Collected?