Book review - Edinburgh in the 1950s: Ten Years That Changed a City
Edinburgh in the 1950s was a very different place to the city we know today. This was an era when slum housing was still a blight on the city, trams were in everyday use for work or pleasure trips, and nights spent at the pictures or a dance were a weekly treat.
'Edinburgh in the 1950s' explores what it was like to live in the city during this decade, and the book is richly illustrated with archive photographs, many of which are published for the first time. We see locals enjoying the delights of Portobello Pool, where the young Sean Connery did shifts as a lifeguard. And this decade saw the beginnings of Edinburgh's reputation as a festival venue, with delightful images of Princes Street decorated for an early festival, and early memorabilia from the Edinburgh Tattoo.
Whether you grew up in Edinburgh, or enjoyed visits over the years, there's sure to be something to interest you here. The themed chapters cover topics including childhood, transport, days out, shopping and markets. Although Edinburgh is now a huge and thriving city, it's not really so long ago that its fishing heritage was very apparent; the sight of Newhaven fishwives walking to sell their fish at market was a common one; and Edinburgh's last 'fish wife' finally gave up her creel as late as 1976, at the age of eighty.
Perhaps the most appealing chapter is that devoted to childhood - an enjoyable jaunt through days gone by, when it was normal to play out in the street for hours on end, with little risk from traffic. There were even specially designated playstreets, where children could enjoy their games uninterrupted by traffic, which was banned from 4pm until sunset. Also recalled is the old tradition of building bonfires in the streets of the Old Town on 25 May and 5 November. Any unwanted chairs, tables or waste wood was piled high in anticipation of the big day, until such revels were banned by the Corporation in 1961.
This is an enjoyable and evocative read, sure to appeal to anyone with an interest in Edinburgh's fascinating past within living memory.
Edinburgh in the 1950s: Ten Years That Changed a City by Jack Gillon, David McLean and Fraser Parkinson is published by Amberley at £14.99.
Read Jack Gillon's feature on Portobello seaside resort in the 1950s.
Enjoy more nostalgia and memories of bygone Scotland in each issue of Scottish Memories magazine, available from our website.