This is the first of two blogs featuring memories from the Dean Village shared on Edinburgh Collected.
Today’s blog is written by Patrick McCole, a founder member of Dean Village Memories, a group of former villagers, who lived in the Dean Village from the late 1920s to the mid-1970s.
“I was delighted to receive an invitation to the inaugural launch of the Edinburgh Collected website in April 2015 at Central Library, to which I attended.
The Edinburgh Collected website has given our group of former Dean Villagers, a platform to record the social history of our community which includes memories, stories and photos of our past, to a worldwide audience.
Our community was 99.9% working class. Times were very hard for families struggling to bring their children up in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s with poor social and economic conditions prevalent, with Village families having very little money and home comforts. It was apparently just the same, as with other Edinburgh working class communities. Some of the Dean Village housing could best be described as Dickensian, in that they housed large families, in small rented rooms, with many families having outside toilets, as experienced by my mum and dad, when they first moved to their basement Well Court house, number 52, in the mid-1930s.
The history of the Village goes back a long way. The Dean Village comes from the word dene, meaning a deep valley. It was known previously as the “Water of Leith Village”. The name appears to have been transferred around 1885 by J. R. Findlay, the developer of the Well Court. For more than 800 years the village was a Grain Milling Area with 11 working Mills driven by the strong currents of the Water of Leith producing flour (for the making of bread for the Citizens of Edinburgh.) The Mills of Dene were first mentioned in King David 1st Founding Charter of Holyrood Abbey dated around 1145 in which he granted one of his Mills of Dene to the Abbey.
Our Village was an industrial working Village housing a Tannery Factory on our doorstep which dated back to 1836-1969 and with other local businesses located in the Village.
We owe it to our children, grandchildren as our memories are part of their roots and to the community and public at large, to record this unique heritage of ours, which was tucked away on the boundary line of Central Edinburgh, an 8 minute walk from the West End.
It’s quite clear that if these memories, stories and photos (including family) of our past community, are not recorded now, they will definitely be lost forever.
A photo taken from the High Green with the Dean School to the left, 1955
I am always amazed when I meet the former Villagers, as they all share with what I would describe as a magnetism and a deep bond of where we grew up, in our cherished Dean Village. We have not forgotten our childhood and when we meet, we enjoy speaking and reminiscing about our memories and the various stories which are all unique.
It has given our group a great deal of satisfaction of re living our childhood and family memories, experiences and the characters that were about in the Village at that time, that we want to share with others.
Undoubtable, the enthusiasm of sharing stories with fellow villagers has brought us closer together. As a group it has given us a new dimension to where we were brought up and to see the stories highlighted professionally on the Edinburgh Collected website.
I have found that the Edinburgh Collected website is very easy to use. If I have any questions staff are always available to help and offer support.
As the co-ordinator for this research, it has been a great privilege for me and an honour to be able to co-ordinate these stories, and to see the pride that my former Villagers have, in wanting to share their memories to others. I am working on a few stories at the moment and in the pipeline I have a further 32 to be exact, thus creating a library within a library.
You too, can be part of a group creating Scrapbooks, or individually you can create a Scrapbook, tell your story, share your memories about the house or area that you grew up in, it’s as simple as that.
Please rest assured your story will be professionally presented when it is published on the Edinburgh Collected website, something that you will be proud off.”
Read the second blog post from the Dean Village Memories group – Gail’s story of her happy childhood memories living in the Dean Village.