My Playground White Horse Close

A Memory of Edinburgh.

At the age of 11 we moved here & a group of us could always be found (gambling our pocket money at cards) on the steps in the photo. It always amazed us the number of tourists who would enter the close asking if they could take our picture, we must have looked like street urchins!, we often got money from them to show them round.
I had a Milk Round before school, & met the Roundsman on Castle Terrace at approx 6.30, it was Edinburgh & Dumfrieshire Milk Cart, drawn by a horse (Benny), I delivered the milk from Castle Terrace to approx St Marys Street by 8.15 and left him at that point to go to school. (Incidentall the Castle only took 1pint!). I then went down Bulls Close, up Holyrood Rd & along Dumbiedykes Road to go to James Clarks School, going up that hill in winter was murder. In the winter there was no end of cars & Lorries that had slid down Arthur Street and broke through the wall at the bottom!, right next door to what was then Dumdiedykes Nursery! no Health & safety in them days!

James Clarks must be the most pictuesque place in the city overlooking Arthur Seat.

On a Saturday I did the full Milk Round, which came down the Lawnmarket, High Street, Canongate, along Horse Wynd & up Holyrood Road, finishing at the bottom end of St Marys Street. We took the cart full of empties back to the Tollcross Depot where we unhitched the horse & it was my job to wash him, he loved it! some of the stairs were a killer! I must have been fit! a crate of milk in each hand (12 bottles in each) was quite some weight but I soon got used to it.

Saturday was payday 15 shillings for the weeks work, a lot of the old ladies and some of the shops would give me yesterdays Bread, Cake & buns for the horse, he got some, I ate more than my fare share and my mother got a huge bag of them, together with 12 pints of milk when I passed the house! Most people left plastic Milk Tokens out for their milk which they bought from the co-op during the week, those who didnt manage to get any would leave the money in the empty milk bottles outside the door, the Roundsman kept good account of the money but wasnt worried about the tokens, when it suited me I would exchange money for tokens, that was my perk!

Once school finished, if it was midweek and we had no money, football was the order of the days, for small games 3 or 4 a side White Horse Close was fine, any more and we moved over to Abbey Strand & used the palace gates as the goal posts! we frequently had our names taken and told to Buzz off by the local bobby, at the weekends we would often start a game in the park in the morning & it would go on all day! if anyone else turned up you would just join one of the sides & continue playing, if it came dinnertime some would go for dinner and return afterwards, some of these games went on till after dark, not many games you see these days have a score of 113 to 101 etc. If you got hungry you could climb over the Palace Walls into the Queens garden and pinch the apples & pears, I actually thought pears were an exotic fruit till I saw them in the palace grounds. We were never caught in there but were caught a few timmes climbing back over the wall to get out.

I see Thompsoms Store in one of the photos, thats where we all got our sweets, and opposite was a little Newsagents (where the Parliament Building is now, (incidentally that is a monstrosity) where we got our comics, the whole place always smelled of beer as that whole area was taken up with Wm Youngers Brewery, I often used to stop at the Coopers Workshop (Barrel Makers) which was down Bulls Close and talk to the Coopers when I was going or returning from school.

I feel the structures of the Royal Mile are still there, Im not sure as I like them being all cleaned up, the blackened buildings showed that it was a working class area, and the children around playing outside in the streets and closes made it homely.

I always remember once I reached my teens there was a little Cafe we all used to meet in for a coke & listen to the Juke Box, it was near the Tolbooth, you could go in there at 7 and still be there at 10, listening to the Juke Box & still be on the same coke you bought when you went in!

Coming from a poor family I went to school with Cornflake Packets in the bottom of my shoes to cover the holes, and margarine in my hair, (everyone else had brylcream). when I went to school in the morning I was followed by a swarm of flies & Bees around my head, and yes we also had to share coats on our beds as blankets were not affordable! eat your heart out Billy Connoly you werent the only one!

Its not until later on in life you realised you were poor, but at the time it didnt seem like it as everyone was in the same boat, Perhaps thats why I joined the Royal Navy at 15, (some thing you cant do today either.) HAPPY DAYS!

Edinburgh has changed in some cases its got worse and in many others its better. Hope this rings a few bells and brings back a few memories.

Added 25 July 2010


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