Now 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).
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-)
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
In a previous article I discussed the local links of Elizabeth Gaskell, née Stevenson (1810-1865). Gaskell is best known as the author of such works as North and South, and Mary Barton.
Since I wrote the article, it has struck me how few people are aware of her link to Saughton & Corstorphine, or indeed Edinburgh in general.
The origins of place names have always fascinated me, and I have discussed quite a few on this blog already.
One that I haven’t looked at before is “Tyler’s Acre”. It gives its name to several streets between old Corstorphine and Carrick Knowe. It is to be found between Saughton Road North and Lampacre Road, and lies to the north of Union Park.
It turns out that the “tyler” (tailor) in question was a member of the Stevenson family, who farmed at Saughton Mains. He was a close relative of William Stevenson, Elizabeth Gaskell’s father.