It’s ten years ago today that my auld Irish mammy died. She may never have liked me but, regardless, I’ve had a daunder roond the places she called home.
My Mum (Grace Hamilton nee Robinson) was born in Leith in 1929. At this point the Robinson family were living in 122 Bonnington Road, just off Great Junction Street, which is here. The tenements are long gone, replaced with sheltered housing but there is an original block on the other side of the road which is similar to hers.
At some point they moved to a flat near the bottom of Leith Walk, but I haven’t been able to find out exactly where yet. My Mum used to say it was at the back of where the Dolphin pub is.
However, as she had been evacuated to Pittenweem (below), along with the twins Alice
and Bill, she was understandably a bit
vague. However, Pittenweem must have been a pleasant change from thirties Leith!
When she came back from the evacuation, the family had been relocated to a brand, spanking new council house in Pennywell Road. Map here. At the time, they were the last houses in Edinburgh, overlooking a farmers field, which was handy for the border collie they had as a pet at the time. Until some gypsies stole him, something that aroused lifelong antipathy in my mother. Amazingly, considering it’s a cooncil hoose, it’s still there. If you browse through the photos of the Robinsons elsewhere, you’ll find lots of them were taken here.
When my Mum was 17, she begged and pleaded with her parents to join the Womens Auxiliary Air Force. She’d already tried when she was 16, but got caught lying about her age. So they relented, and let her join up, to become a WAAF. She was stationed at RAF Wilmslow, and would get misty eyed when she talked about her time there. The base was in Cheshire, (Map here.) so weekend passes would be spent in Blackpool, dancing at the Empire. That’s when she wasn’t getting flown to Germany as a member of the WAAF tennis team. She worked in the main building, processing all the new recruits who were coming in to do their National Service.
After the WAAFs, it was back to Pennywell, where she happily lived the life of a party girl, until the sudden death of her mother in 1959. It was the move from being Mums pampered wee girl into looking after her one legged Dad, her bachelor brother and her wee black nephew that propelled her into marrying my Dad (Alexander Walker Hamilton).
As mentioned elsewhere, there is a degree of mystery about the wedding. None of my Mums family attended, and none of her relatives outside Edinburgh knew it about it till after the event. Certainly, my Auntie Terry in America and Uncle George in Yorkshire wrote later expressing their surprise. My own opinion, based on late night ramblings by my Mum after my Dad died is that she was probably pregnant (not with me), and that her family had expected her not to leave home. It would have been viewed as abandonment, given the one legged / bastard bit above. Anyway, marry she did, and moved into the first marital home in Leith Walk. Strangely, I passed the front door most days on my way to work every day for 20 years, as its 2 minutes away from where I stayed.
After that, they flitted to Dalry Road, (map here). which was handier for my Mum getting to work at Ferrantis at Crewe Toll. This was back in the days of the suburban railway, so it took her about 10 minutes. Try doing that now!
Then it was off to the other side of the Telfer Subway. Which was moving up (literally and socially) to Temple Park Crescent, after a brief shared toilet stop in Murdoch Terrace, doon fae the washhouse. The flat I remember most fondly from my childhood. My Auntie Famie was 2 doors down, my pals Alan and Jammy lived in the same stair, and it was before my Dad fell ill. Virtually everything happy in my childhood happened when we lived here (here’s the map).
The final move for me was round the corner to Polwarth Crescent. Literally. If you look at the Temple Park Crescent map, it meets Polwarth Crescent at the corner. I could see the windows of my old home from the back green of the new one. To be fair, they’d moved to get me a room of my own, as I’d slept in the kitchen in Temple Park. However, this was the house where my Dad died, the house I left home from, and the house where my Mum was left by herself, especially after we fell out.
My Mum lived there for another 16 years before moving to a wee maindoor in Balcarres Street, Morningside (map here) for the last ten years of her life. At least by then, we’d reached a truce, and I was a regular visitor.
She died at the Hoel Burstin in Folkestone in 2008. It’s marked A on the map here.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton