Scottish Women Writers

Literary Corstorphine will contain a specific entry on women’s writing.  Details of female writers are often much harder to come by than their male counterparts, and require a lot more research.

My initial delight on finding the Scottish Women Poets blog today proved to be short-lived. What could have been a potentially rich source of material turned out to be slim pickings. There are several long entries, e.g. the one on Lady Nairne (Carolina Oliphant) but umpteen omissions for example where’s Corstorphine’s  very own Helen Cruickshank. Going elsewhere in Edinburgh, the late Sandie Craigie doesn’t merit a mention either. The website doesn’t seem to have been updated for three years.

Thankfully it’s not all doom and gloom. The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women (2006) contains several relevant entries on various literary and non-literary local figures such as Cruickshank (of course!), Chrystal Jessie MacMillan and Annie Katharine Wells. It mentions that Wells was a frequent visitor to Cruickshank’s home on Hillview Terrace, Dinnieduff, and used to engage in lively arguments with Hugh MacDiarmid there. Cruickshank’s mother was unimpressed and said, “Ye baith speak far owre muckle”.

Close but no cigar


From Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Terror of Blue John Gap:

I remember that when there was a ghost-hunt at Coltbridge it was I who sat up in the haunted house. Is it advancing years (after all, I am only thirty-five), or is it this physical malady which has caused degeneration? Certainly my heart quails …

The Terror of Blue John Gap was first published in The Strand magazine in 1910. Unfortunately, this Coltbridge appears to be in Derbyshire, not Edinburgh. However, did Conan Doyle (1859-1930) take the name from the area around Murrayfield/Roseburn? It’s tempting to think so. As you may, or may not know, Doyle was very interested in Spiritualism – and the main Spiritualist church in Edinburgh has a centre named after him. (Coincidentally having an open day at the time of writing). So is this passage inspired by an experience he had himself in the real Coltbridge? That’s more of a stretch.

Any further information would be gratefully received.

Placename stuff

As far as anyone can tell, the name “Coltbridge” originally refers to Cotts or Cottages that were built in this area. The “l” has crept in. It may well be related to the name Coatbridge as well in Lanarkshire.

Wester Coates (West Coates in its anglified form) appears to take its name from the same root.

Picture Credits

  • Photograph by Herbert Rose Barraud, in 1893. Out of copyright.

External links


A Capital View

Here’s my second new find of recent times, courtesy of Belle Robertson, author of the Book of Beasties.

Alyssa Jean Popiel’s A Capital View: The Art of Edinburgh, One Hundred Artworks from the City Collection. This is a beautiful book, full of pictures (mostly paintings) of old Edinburgh, going back hundreds of years. While you won’t see much of Corstorphine in here (well, Corstorphine Hill in one painting), the author mentions her Corstorphine connections in her biography at the back. In the foreword, she also uses the phrase “rest and be thankful”, which as a lot of people in these parts know, is a beautiful spot up on Corstorphine Hill.

I’d call this a coffee table book, except that the idea of spilling coffee on such a beautiful book is sacrilege. This is well worth a look, if you can get hold of it. It is a good reminder that we live in one of the finest cities in the world – despite some architects attempts to destroy it.

Picture Credits

The cover picture falls under copyright, but hopefully is considered fair use, as it promotes said item. No infringement is intended, and it will be removed on request.

External Links

Alette Willis


I’m constantly finding new material for my Literary Corstorphine book. It always seems to pop up just when I think I’ve exhausted most of the possibilities. Still, such info is not unwelcome, and shows that I’ve at least chosen a fertile field!

One such new find is Alette Willis a children’s writer, currently storyteller in residence at Edinburgh Zoo. I’ve been a member of Friends of Corstorphine Hill on and off for a while now, and I was aware that she’d given talks/guided walks for them.

I approached Edinburgh Zoo last year as to whether they had any writers in residence, and got told that, no, they didn’t.* However, storyteller in residence is pretty close, and Ms Willis is a bona fide writer. I’ve not read How to Make a Golem and Terrify People, but it looks great fun, and moreover, there’s a whole chapter set in the zoo!


* Some of the local secondary schools have writers in residence – Craigmount and Forrester, to name but two.

Picture Credits

The cover picture falls under copyright, but hopefully is considered fair use, as it promotes said item. No infringement is intended, and it will be removed on request.

External Links