Sinful Davey Haggart

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John Hurt in his pre-chest burster phase.

Back in my post Phrens like these“, I discussed the phrenologist George Combe who had Corstorphine and South Gyle connections.

“George Combe was no stranger to [controversy]. In fact, on one occasion he examined the head of one David Haggart, a nineteen year old pickpocket and murderer from Dumfries. Combe claimed Haggart had developed “secretiveness” written on his skull. Haggart was later to be executed, but would write a moving autobiographical account, explaining how the murder had not been premeditated and that he was deeply sorry for it. News of Haggart’s account reached Blackwood’s Magazine and others, who used it to attack Combe.”

Sinful Davey

A friend of mine specialises in digging up obscure films, and recently, he found one from 1969 called Sinful Davey, also known as the The Sinful Adventures of Davy Haggart. Having more than one title is never a good thing for a film, and I doubt it did much good for Sinful Davey before it sank into oblivion…

It took me a while to make the connection between Sinful Davey and the David Haggart I mentioned above. There is a very Barry Lyndon-esque flavour to the story-line. This film doesn’t really deliver on the “sinful adventures” that it promises, apart from a few robberies, there is less smuttiness than a Carry On film, and it looks quite tame in this day and age.

The penny only really dropped when a phrenologist came in to measure the character’s head in Stirling Gaol. Unlike much of the film’s narrative, this appears to have happened.

Sinful Davey boasts a well known cast, and some awful attempts at Scottish accents. The main character Davey Haggart is portrayed by a baby-faced John Hurt. His love interest is played by the under-rated Pamela Franklin (who you may remember as Sandy in the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie). Supporting roles are played by Ronald Fraser (who does the most convincing of the Scottish accents), Robert Morley (hamming it up as he always did), Nigel Davenport, and Fionnuala Flanagan. It seems to have been entirely filmed in Ireland, and while Ireland looks reasonably like Scotland, the Irish extras seem to make little attempt to put on Scottish accents.

The film was also Anjelica Huston’s first role, although I was unable to spot her. Her father John Huston directed the film. (Huston’s films recently featured on the Pointless recently, and Sinful Davey wasn’t even mentioned among the “pointless” answers!)

David Haggart

According to his Wikipedia article (!), the real Davey Haggart seems to have originated in Goldenacre in Edinburgh, of all places…

“Twelve days before the trial he was visited in prison by George Combe, the phrenologist, and between the trial and his execution he partly wrote, partly dictated, an autobiography, which was published by his agent, with Combe’s phrenological notes as an appendix, and Haggart’s own comments. It is a curious picture of criminal life, the best, and seemingly the most faithful, of its kind, and possesses also some linguistic value, as being mainly written in the Scottish thieves’ cant, which contains a good many genuine Romany words. Lord Cockburn, writing from recollection in 1848, declares the whole book to be “a tissue of absolute lies, not of mistakes, or of exaggerations, or of fancies, but of sheer and intended lies. And they all had one object, to make him appear a greater villain than he really was”. On the other hand, the contemporaneous account of the trial, so far as it goes, bears out Haggart’s narrative ; Cockburn is certainly wrong in describing Haggart as “about twenty-five”, and in stating that the portrait prefixed professed to be “by his own hand”. This autobiography later served as the inspiration for the 1969 movie Sinful Davey. It is available in several reprint formats, but no new edition has ever been issued.

Corstorphine Witch Trials

Today is All Hallows, rather than Halloween, but I have decided to take a belated look at one of Corstorphine’s witch hunts. And some waffling. Witch hunts are an ugly stain on our history, and although it is clear a lot of pagan traditions survived in Scotland, even past the Reformation and Industrial Revolution, most of the accounts of witch trials seem to have little to do with that. (We have at least two holy wells locally – the Physic and the Lady Well – but neither of these seem to have figured in the trials.)

Please excuse any extra strangeness in my post. WordPress not spooks are responsible.

Corstorphine After Dark

Some people are openly occultist (if that is not a contradiction in terms), and some are not. I strongly suspect it is mostly the latter, although there are no reliable statistics. This phenomenon has as much to do with Charmed & Bewitched (the show not the girlband), and we can thank  these  for a spate of Samanthas and Darrens born in the sixties.

Some say that Corstorphine Hill is used on certain nights of the year for such purposes. Who knows? My only strange encounter up there was one night when an assertive English jogger decided to rshine his light in my face and then asked me why I was covering my eyes. I was up there to take a picture of the Moon, which appears in my book. It is about the only time I’ve been up there in the dark… If light-polluted Edinburgh ever truly gets dark.

At least one fellow blogger seems to think the hill is used for witchcraft, although I detect a tongue firmly in their cheek. (Also I must repeat Wicca has little or nothing to do with our Celtic traditions!) See here –

#0105 Bears In The Woods

Real Witch Trials

Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe wrote on local witchcraft in Memorialls; or the considerable Things that fell out within the Island of Great Britain from 1638 to 1684 (1820). In A Historical Account of the Belief in Witchcraft in Scotland, Sharpe states:

“On the 31st of July, 1603, James Reid in Corstorphin, [sic] was convicted of sorcery, and afterwards burnt. He several times at Bannie Craigs, and on Corstorphine Muir, met the devil.”

Most people tried as witches seem to have been female, but they were not exclusively so as this incident proves. In many cases, the victims were also acquitted by other courts and authorities, which is not something we tend to hear about. Mr Reid was not so lucky.

Corstorphine Muir presumably would be the slope of Corstorphine Hill. If you know where “Bannie Craigs” is, I’d be interested to hear.

Witch Remembrance

Modern Halloween has been mixed up with the American version which has added a few elements from the Mexican Day of the Dead to the mix, as well as good old commercialism. Maybe I should bemoan how tumshies have been replaced by pumpkins or guising by trick or treat. You can do that instead, and please tell our kids, I mean bairns.

Recently, there has been campaign to have a national memorial to Scotland’s witches. There already is one, on the Castle Esplanade, which has of course escaped the notice of the Guardianistas who are not noted for their knowledge of Scottish history. Or anything north of Watford.

Corstorphine = Leith mk II?

thumbnailNow we are in the golden grip of Autumn, I’m back to posting a bit more.

So today’s question – is Corstorphine turning into another Leith? No, no, I hear you say! It has never been a port – a few boats on Corstorphine Loch notwithstanding. But there are a few features they have in common – both of them were swallowed up by Edinburgh, both of them lost their railway stations (see here) and both had Irish enclaves in the nineteenth century (although Corstorphine’s was smaller). Corstorphine even features in the novel of Trainspotting.

There are a few signs that Corrie is getting more Leith-y. You could trace it back to the druidic-looking sycamore leaves which started appearing all over local railings. Or to the signs welcoming visitors to the area, although unlike Leith, they make no claims to be twinned with anywhere as exotic as Rio de Janeiro.

How about some of the other developments? On St John’s Road, one of the chemists is veering into Californian territory, with adverts for Viagra and cannabidiol oils in the window… along with shopping bags with “I’m dead posh, I’m fae Corstorphine” written on them. Alison ?, has also produced some postcards of some of our local buildings (see note below). Then of course, there are the hipster books on local literary connections, but enough said about them.

So are we going to see a local version of Billy Gould’s magazine, The Leither? Well, we have Let’s Talk about Corstorphine, which in my view varies a lot, and whose main sin is in publishing politicians’ puff pieces. It does have some good historical pieces occasionally, in its defence. What about T-shirts with “I ♡ Corrie”? Better still “I ♡ Corstorphine”, to avoid being confused with a popular soap opera. Are they enough? Do we need a whole wheen of Corstorphine themed gear to compete with Leith?

How about a few celebrity endorsements for local sports clubs? Will the likes of Iggy Pop turn up at Union Park to see the Cougars play? I doubt it, although the trendification of Leith’s Hibees continues unabated.

Picture Credits and notes
I have photographed the postcard – see picture – but this is not intended to be an infringement of copyright, but to promote it. I have also tried to make it low res. If you are the copyright holder, I will remove this on request.

I myself have bought several of these, and am even sending one all the way to Tahiti, where a friend is working. One of the buildings on the postcards is Corstorphine Hill Tower, which is, of course, a monument to Walter Scott.

These postcards are available in several local outlets including the newly opened cafe on Station Road, and Corstorphine Chiropractic next to the Drumbrae Scotmid).

Corstorphine Trust also does its own notelets and cards (click on link to be taken to their shop).

Tam Dean Burn attack

Earlier this month, a friend texted me, that the actor Tam Dean Burn had been knifed outside the Scottish Poetry Library. I looked online, and found all the major news outlets were carrying the story. The details were very hazy – he had been attending a memorial event for Tom Leonard at the Scottish Poetry Library by the Canongate, when a man attacked him in the street and stabbed him in the neck.

Nasty stuff, but Tam says he’s recovering well, and the man responsible has been arrested and charged. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Various rumours did the rounds. Was it politically motivated? Tam is pretty vocal about his views. Or was it as the papers tried to say, because the attacker had recognised him from River City? Well I don’t buy that. I think it was simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Edinburgh has a fair share of “radges” and that’s probably the simplest answer.

Clermiston Roots

Tam’s family is originally from Leith, and moved to Clermiston when he was very small. His brother is Russell Burn, who played in bands such as Win and the Fire Engines, and Tam himself was in a few.  He featured in the Big Gold Dream documentary.

Acting Career

Tam went to Craigmount High School iu the seventies, and would have been a near contemporary of the photographer Colin Jarvie and the novelist Louise Welsh. More importantly, Craigmount had a well respected drama department at the time, which was led by Ken Morley.

Tam is best known for his stage work, but he has appeared on both the big screen and the small one many times. Sometimes you’ll catch him reciting the works of Burns around that time of January, and other times you’ll see him playing historical characters in the likes of last year’s Outlaw King about Robert the Bruce, or Outlander, which is highly popular internationally. His first film appearance seems to have been Local Hero back in 1983. He has also appeared on a wide range of TV series including Fortitude and Taggart.

He has also appeared in a number of book adaptations, which include the 1990s Acid House based on Irvine Welsh and Young Adam based on Alexander Trocchi.

External Links

* Actor Tam Dean Burn stabbed after poetry event (BBC)

* Tam Dean Burn stabbed in Edinburgh street

* Tam Dean Burn page on IMDB

 

Into the Mountain

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Nan Shepherd has achieved some posthumous celebrity in Scotland in the last few years thanks to her appearance on a five pound note. Into the Mountain probably exists partly because of this new found fame and indeed bears the self-same striking image on the cover. Whatever the reason, Charlotte Peacock’s new biography is welcome, and gives a detailed account of her life and writings.

I am not very familiar with her fiction or poetry to be honest and am not even aware if it is currently in print. Like many people I mainly know her for the Living Mountain, a beautiful work which ranks alongside John Muir’s as a classic of Scottish nature writing.

Shepherd, like Helen Cruickshank was a product of the north east and indeed the two knew each other. Shepherd often visited Cruickshank at her home at Dinnieduff in Corstorphine. Into the Mountain contains copious references to Cruickshank, and thus has a lot of local interest as well.

If I may make one criticism of the book, it is that Peacock often conflates Shepherd’s fiction with autobiography. While it is true that Shepherd left little in the way of memoirs, and there appears to be a flavour of roman à clef about The Quarrie Wood (which I’ve not read) it is dangerous to rely on such works. As a would be fiction writer myself, I occasionally draw on my own life but often change many significant details – someone else would be hard pressed to guess which parts I had changed. I suspect Nan Shepherd did the same.

 

 

Clerwood’s Free Library and Others

20181124_131451 I’m delighted to see Clerwood now has its own free library. If you want to find it, follow the 26 bus to the Clerwood View bus stop. There is a path leading west from the bus stop between the houses and the library is there.If you can find it, it’s worth a visit. It’s not far from the walled garden on Corstorphine Hill.

I’ve gone up a couple of times. It’s a bit out of the way for me, but I’m glad there is at least one on this side of town.

The content on my last visit included several football books (ghost-written “autobiographies”), chicklit and a range of children’s books as well as some classic novels, and a copy of the “Holy Blood and Holy Grail” (I wonder if they know about Templeland Road at the bottom of Drumbrae?). This one has an unusual shelving pattern, but I don’t want to go full anorak mode in discussing it!

Other free libraries

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A less happy example in Clovenstone

Since I wrote the “Free libraries for Corstorphine?” I have found two new free libraries.

The first was in a sorry state and book-free. It can be found next to the allotments on one of the greens in Clovenstone in Wester Hailes. The last time I visited, the doors were left wide open, and there was not a book in sight. Sadly, there is a lot of vandalism in Clovenstone in general. One or two of the buildings have been done up and there are now allotments, but the area could be improved a lot for the people who live there. Free libraries are a sign of people taking back an area. Vandalism is usually a sign of the opposite (although I’ll make an exception for certain graffiti – none of which I’ve seen in Clovenstone)

The second is a more positive story. The Shandon one is in a better state and has a lot of books in it every time I pass. There’s an obvious class issue here in comparison to the one in Clovenstone. Shandon is a “sought after” area as you can pick up from the accents of some of the residents. Clerwood too is a middle class area, but is not so well known to people originating south of the border.

Last but not least, the free library at Haymarket has reappeared. It used to be in a piece of furniture, but now there’s one hidden in the hedge. It can be quite hard to spot until you’re right on top of it, but that’s probably protected it against vandalism. That doesn’t stop vans parking in front of it, but you can’t have everything.

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Gaskell!

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Happy birthday Elizabeth Gaskell, born on this day in 1810. Here are some of our blog posts on Gaskell.

But if you want to read more please consider buying our book. Available at Gee’s on Station Road, Corstorphine, or if you don’t live in the Edinburgh area, at Lulu.com

Hidden History: Station Road & the east of Corstorphine

In this piece, I write about the eastern part of Corstorphine – Olympic athletes, artists, some lost local buildings and the Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz.

Colin Jarvie (1962-2012)

Colin Jarvie was an acclaimed photographer, who grew up on Traquair Park West, and later went to Craigmount High School. I only got to meet Colin a couple of times, though I knew his parents a bit. Colin was extremely disillusioned, and had just returned to Edinburgh from London, so I think it is fair enough to say that I didn’t catch him at a good time.

Colin was mixed race and adopted by a white couple. He talked about his experience of interracial adoption on the radio and elsewhere. While at university, someone once referred to Colin as a “black bastard”. He replied, “You’re right, I am black and I am a bastard.”

Some of his earliest work was photographing some of the bands on the Fast Product label. These would have included some of the bands that he was at school with at Craigmount (and I discuss some of them in my review of the Big Gold Dream documentary: he was also a near contemporary of the novelist Louise Welsh)

He moved to London in 1982, where he became involved with the London College of Printing. He later taught at the LCP. In 1986, he “discovered” a very young Rachel Weisz and photographed her for Rimmel. Weisz has always acknowledged his role in launching her career, and would attend his funeral in 2012.*

Grant Jarvie (1955-)

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Just a couple of Grant Jarvie’s books

Professor Grant Jarvie is Colin’s older brother. He is notable for books on sport.

It is interesting to note that two of Grant Jarvie’s early books were about the role of race in sport. They were written in the apartheid era, but one wonders whether Colin’s own experiences of racism were any influence in this matter.

On a more personal note, Prof. Jarvie has written about the sporting careers of his parents David and Margaret, who were both top level swimmers at the Olympic level; David later became a member of the GB Olympic water polo team.

The Paddockholm

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Chris Hoy

The Paddockholm is the actual site of the old Corstorphine Station, which Station Road takes its name from. The station was built in 1902, nationalised in the 1940s, and shut in 1968. The Paddockholm estate itself was built in 1983 by MacTaggart & Mickel who seem to have built half this area. (South Gyle Mains, some of East Craigs, Broomhall & Wester Broom in a very differ.)

There is very little now to suggest that the Paddockholm was once a station. At the far end, there is a footpath leading down the old line, through the former Pinkhill Station* and down to Balgreen. Otherwise, the Paddockholm’s railway past is best reflected in the big wall along its north side, and its narrow shape. There are plenty of bossy signs in the Paddockholm – mainly about how evil cold callers are. And cold they may be, since the Paddockholm rarely ever seems to be gritted or cleared of snow during the depths of winter…

“Paddockholm” as a field name long predates the railway, and originally refers to the frogs or “puddocks” that used to live there. “Holm” merely referred to a piece of dry land in the marsh surrounding Corstorphine and its loch.

In his autobiography, Chris Hoy speaks about how he used to used to play on this abandoned line as a boy. Hoy grew up on the boundary between Corstorphine and Murrayfield – I gather his relatives used to run one of the local garages.

Traquair Park

This street is where the aforementioned Jarvies lived. It has some terraced housing at its west end, but mostly consists of bungalows. I have it on good authority that the terrace is built on a bitumen mat to protect its foundations from damp. It seems you can take the loch out of Corstorphine, but you can’t take Corstorphine out of the loch.

Traquair Park was built around 1890, and was originally a cul-de-sac. It takes its name from Maud Traquair, who was the mother of John & W. Traquair Dickson who were proprieters of Corstorphine House at the time. In 1925, the street was divided up into east and west sections.

We won’t keep the Red Flag flying here!

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The Auld Kirk seen through Corstorphine House Avenue

Station Road was built around the turn of the twentieth century. Like Castle Avenue, it takes its name from a long demolished feature, in this case Corstorphine Railway Station. But there are several others:

  • The former Chinese Consulate was near the corner of Station Road with Traquair Park West (number 43 I believe). When the People’s Republic of China decided to move their consulate out of Corstorphine, you might have thought that they would choose somewhere more proletarian instead… but far from it! The red flag now flies over Corstorphine Road in Murrayfield, next to the local tennis club. Arguably this reflects the somewhat confused politico-economic identity of the latter-day PRC. After the Chinese moved out of the consulate on Station Road, it was demolished, and a new block of flats built. Whether this was an economic decision, or something more cloak and dagger, I’ve no idea. The PRC has demolished vast swathes of historic buildings in the name of progress, particularly in cities such as Beijing, so this action is consistent with their more general policies.
  • Corstorphine House. This lends its name to several streets in the area including Corstorphine House Avenue and Corstorphine House Terrace.
  • The old archives, which were beside the Paddockholm. Truth be told, these were ugly warehouses, and won’t be missed by me. These have been replaced by flats in the last couple of years.

Notes

  • It is worth mentioning that Rachel Weisz’s sister Minnie is also a professional photographer. I couldn’t go to Colin’s funeral, because ironically I was at someone else’s.
  • Pinkhill Station still retains its old platforms and the former ticket office can be seen on the bridge above – this used to serve the zoo.

Picture Credits

From Wikimedia Commons CC by SA:

  • Rachel Weisz – Credit: Neil Grabowsky/Montclair Film.
  • Chris Hoy – Credit: Mark Harkin

The pictures of the Auld Kirk and Grant Jarvie’s book covers were taken by me.

External links

Literary Britain & Open Plaques

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I have plenty of pictures of Corstorphine Hill Tower, but here is one by  Mrabbits from Wikipedia.

Literary Corstorphine began because I felt that the heritage of this part of Edinburgh was being ignored. I hope that both the blog and the book will go some way to rectifying this.

Most of us city dwellers now live in suburbs, for better or worse. The city centre may be more accessible, and its history may be better documented and often more obvious, but every part of Edinburgh has some kind of history. Often unexpected.

Open Plaques

Open Plaques is a project to try and document various commemorative plaques around the world. It appears to be American, and at times can be irritating – for example it assumes most plaques in Scotland have been erected by English Heritage, even though that body doesn’t operate here (or indeed NI, Wales, the IOM, Channel Islands etc).

Again, while most plaques are in the centre of Edinburgh, many can be found scattered around elsewhere, and I have managed to get several west Edinburgh plaques included on the site:

  • Wilfred Owen’s on Tynecastle High School. (Not photographed yet. I intend to do this, but it is a school, so I will have to probably phone them first.) I have written about Owen’s time there in “Wilfred Owen & Tynecastle High”.
  • Helen Cruickshank’s plaque on Dinnieduff (Hillview Terrace, Corstorphine). See “Dinnieduff: The Promised Land”.
  • Corstorphine Hill Tower, which is dedicated to Walter Scott.
  • I have also photographed the plaque on the White Lady on St John’s Road. While I’m not so sure about including a Wetherspoon’s pub plaque, it does include detail about local history which I have dealt with in my articles “Western Gothic” and “Ghosts, UFOs and other such things”.

I’ve also added a few elsewhere in Edinburgh.

Literary Britain

While my blog attempts to be (shamelessly) ultra-localised, readers may be interested in “Literary Britain” as well. Despite its name, it covers Ireland and other parts of the world too. They have compiled an excellent map of the UK, which can be seen here. Hopefully this map will continue to become more detailed. And of course, I had to do my bit, and suggested Clermiston Tower/Corstorphine Hill Tower (see above), which is probably one of Edinburgh’s most underrated literary monuments.

Well worth a look. The latest entry is a discussion of E.M. Forster:

“I am lucky enough to work in Stevenage. Admittedly, this is not a phrase that you will hear very often but, nevertheless, I consider myself quite lucky. I have previously written about the astounding variety of literary heritage to be found near this Hertfordshire new town and, from time to time, I get to explore.”

As I am always keen to point out, literary heritage often pops up in the most unexpected of places. This is applies to Stevenage as much as somewhere like South Gyle or Livingston. Just because a town is “new”, doesn’t mean it lacks history.

Links to Open Plaques pages

 

For a Multilingual Edinburgh

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A “shelfie” of part of my library including Gaelic novels, alongside Mencius, Cervantes, Goethe, Patrick Süskind (the painting is Das Parfum), Turgenev etc in the original languages… an interest in Gaelic does not somehow block other languages…

I have tried hard to steer clear of party politics on this blog, but it greatly saddens me to see our MSP Alex Cole Hamilton try and use Scottish Gaelic as a soft target for campaigning. He seems to think if you are interested in Gaelic, you can’t be interested in other languages, despite all the research saying otherwise. Children in Gaelic Medium Education consistently outperform the other schools when it comes to learning French, German, Spanish etc. Frankly, ACH’s tweet reeks of  the “many of my best friends are […], but” mentality.

I am glad to say this attitude has not been shared by all of his party. Christine Jardine MP has said that she is supportive of Gaelic, and both Donald Gorrie and Margaret Smith have been positive about it too. The late Iain Farquhar Munro (Iain Fearchar Rothach) was a native speaker and a champion of Gaelic in the Lib Dems, and will probably be turning in his grave at these comments.

Well, I happen to be one of Alex Cole Hamilton’s constituents. I vote in pretty much every election. I think I have only missed one in twenty plus years. I have my own views, but I am not currently a member of any political party. I have voted for several different parties in the past, and yes, one of them happened to be the Lib Dems. Comments like this don’t endear me to them.

Literary Corstorphine will always back the Gaelic language. Many languages can be seen and heard in this constituency of course, and it is wrong to pitch them against each other, to say Polish is better than Cantonese or Urdu is superior to Broad Scots. Yet that is precisely what has happened here, and it seems to be becoming more and more common in British politics.

Our local Gaelic heritage

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Lennie and Cammo on the western edge of the city. Both of these names derive from Gaelic – Lèanaidh means a meadow or land in a river bend, while Camach refers to the meanders themselves.

Does Corstorphine have a Gaelic heritage? Yes, more than you might think. Names like Drumbrae (Druim Bràighe), Cammo (Camach), Lennie (Lèanaidh), Carrick Knowe (Carraig) and Balgreen (Baile Grèine) all originate from it. Go up to Edinburgh Park and you can find busts of poets such as Iain Crichton Smith and Sorley MacLean, while more recently Gaelic writers such as William Neill and Màrtainn Mac an t-Saoir have lived locally.

I write about Corstorphine’s Gaelic links in my book.