With modern technology as it is, there are inordinate numbers of people making links with current and old friends and finding new people with whom they share interests or even who might turn out to be the boy or girl of their dreams. Fraught as this is with questions such as “should I meet up again with Catherine who was horrible to me every time she passed me”; “do I know this person is really who he says he is”; “am I prepared to travel right across the world to meet someone new”, it has been a boon to me in my early work towards this blog and ultimately a book about “The Yaird”.
My first contact was with John Stewart who runs the excellent site www.oldleither.com which has also led to his publishing this enthralling book entitled “Water of Leith – Flowing in the Veins” details of which are on his website.
John’s website threw up some interesting information and reminiscences, and after I left a comment there it was not long before we were corresponding by email and arranging to meet so I could hear about his experiences when working at Henry Robb’s from 1951-55. When we met at the Gyle for a coffee, his long time friend Frank Guthrie who had worked at Robb’s from 1953-60 joined us. This is one of the pictures of the three of us that day, John kindly loaned me his Old Leithers hat to pose in!
John and Frank were fantastic company and regaled me with stories of how pennies were used to fuse the temporary lighting to instigate a break; what to feed seagulls to make them explode; how the men would ensure that anyone who stepped out of line got their comeuppance and by contrast how they were understanding towards those with special needs; the sadistic gate keeper who would shut it bang on time and cost anyone who hadn’t quite made it on time a docking from their wages; the time limit on visits to the toilet; initiations where newbies were covered in plumber’s smudge; the joy of being one of those allowed to go on the sea trials with Captain Nicholson on which two members of each trade were taken along in case they were needed; dodging off early by getting someone else to drop in your check – John and Frank could still remember their numbers!
There were links with my own memories too. I recalled meeting Willie Merilees who was friends with my Grandpa, Henry Robb junior, and his giving me photos of himself and Roy Rogers. Lo and behold it turned out that Frank’s dad was Willie’s best man!
What a fantastic start this was to my journey, there is not room for a great deal of detail in a blog, but there is a good chapter or two in these memories alone for my book.
At the end of some of my blog entries, I intend to include leads I have found but cannot trace, so here is the first one – can anyone help?
David Swan of Leith Walk Primary School was reported in the Evening News on 12.5.84 as having written a piece called “Gone but not Forgotten” about Robb’s. Does anyone know his whereabouts and how I might contact him please, as I am sure that readers would be as interested as myself to know more!
Copyright: Ruth Patterson 2010