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.

In training with the Auld Reekie Roller Girls

“Hit harder and skate faster”

Last winter, we were honoured to attend one of Auld Reekie Roller Girls’ training sessions at Meadowbank Sports Centre. Our photographer got close to the action to capture this exciting new movement in Edinburgh’s sporting world and the pictures are now available to view on Capital Collections.

Flat track roller derby is a high-octane contact team sport that requires speed, strategy, and athleticism. If we’re honest, the rules were a bit bamboozling to us, the uninitiated, but the energy and commitment from the players was palpable and totally enthralling.

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Visit the ARRG website to find out more about the team and the passionate individuals known collectively as Auld Reekie Roller Girls and view more pictures of the Girls in training online.

 

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 Furuyama Moromasa Scroll is now available to view online!

Regular readers of this blog will have kept up with the story of our beautiful 18th century Japanese scroll. We’re now very pleased to report that you can view the full 44ft long scroll in its entirety on Capital Collections!

The scroll dates from the early 1700s and depicts the bustling theatre district of Edo, modern-day Tokyo. The artwork, entitled ‘Theatres of the East’ represents a major discovery in the ‘ukiyo-e’ school of art, and is a detailed illustration of all manner of 18th century Japanese street life.

In the Capital Collections exhibition, you can click on each image to zoom in and browse the incredible detail within each section. See if you can spot the bathhouse, the man in his tower keeping a watchful eye out for fires, a puppet theatre, tightrobe walking acrobats, a dog chasing rats away and even a pantomime horse….

Section from Central Library's Furuyama Moromasa scroll

Section from Central Library’s Furuyama Moromasa scroll

Detail showing pantomime horse on stage.

Detail showing pantomime horse on stage.

You can catch up on the Scroll story so far with these earlier blog posts:

 

Pioneering Mary – nurse and health visitor

Mary Cunningham, nurse, holding two babies at Edinburgh Royal Maternity Hospital

Mary Cunningham with babies at REMH (1914)

Edinburgh Libraries have a tradition of receiving donations of images from the public. It is a fantastic way of sharing a piece of the city’s history with a wider audience than just your family. One such donation was a photograph album of over 100 images belonging to the wonderfully named Miss Mary Morag Bird Cunningham. This was gifted to us after her death in 1978 and has recently been digitised to make the fantastic images available online. The album is a fascinating pictorial account of Mary’s career as a nurse and pioneer health visitor in Edinburgh from 1911 to the late 1930s.

Nurses from Ward 14 Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (women's surgical)

Nurses from Ward 14, RIE (1911)

Mary began her four years of  training at the Royal Infirmary in 1911 before moving to the Royal Edinburgh Maternity Hospital to become a midwife. The album has a wonderful collection of frequently informal photos of the staff and buildings of these hospitals.

In July 1917 however Edinburgh introduced an extensive Child Welfare Scheme and created the post of health visitor to implement the care of the city’s children. Mary was one of the ten women chosen to become an Edinburgh pioneering health visitor. In her album we follow her from her first day on the job through 20 years of running child health clinics throughout the city.

Mothers and children at Rosefield Avenue Lane Health Clinic

Mothers and children at Rosefield Avenue Lane Health Clinic (1930)

Find out more about Mary’s life and see many of her album’s photographs in our Capital Collections exhibition.

Edinburgh’s Modern Architecture

Yesterday we blogged about Edinburgh’s historic architecture – the world-renowned architecture of its Medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town. But what of the city’s buildings and developments over the past 70 years – its so-called Post-war Architecture?

Our next Capital Collections exhibition examines Modern Architecture in Edinburgh. During the latter part of the 20th century, construction took place across Scotland on new homes, schools, tower blocks, roads, churches and in some cases, even whole new towns. There was a commitment to improve public health and tackle poor housing. After the austerity of the 1940s and 50s, new technologies and materials combined in a period of reconstruction.

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The pictures within the exhibition highlight buildings in Edinburgh constructed since 1945 that have been recognised as architecturally significant and in many instances, are statutory listed as having special architectural or historic interest. Modern architecture can be a contentious topic, loved and loathed by both critics and the public. However, the buildings here show structures representative of their time and architectural styles; buildings that perhaps haven’t been around long enough yet for their value to be appreciated by all…?

Edinburgh’s Historic Architecture

To mark the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, we’ve dug into the Library’s archive and pulled out some fantastic examples of Edinburgh’s historic architecture dating from the early twentieth century all the way back to the sixteenth century.

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Register House by Robert Adam

The exhibition on Capital Collections highlights many significant buildings across Edinburgh’s World Heritage site by world-renowned architects. Amongst those represented are Robert Adam and his design for Edinburgh University’s Old College and Register House, William Henry Playfair’s Greek Doric design for the Royal Scottish Academy, and Sir Robert Rowand Anderson’s McEwan Hall and Catholic Apostolic Church in Broughton Street.

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Catholic Apostolic Church by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson

Browse online and see Edinburgh anew!