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The mysterious coffins of Arthur’s Seat

I’d forgotten all about these. If you like the weird and are ever in Edinburgh, do pop along to the National Museum to spot the Arthur’s Seat coffins.

The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

The mysterious coffins of Arthurs SeatThe mysterious coffins of Arthurs Seat detail

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Sad and incommodious things | Early Modern Medicine

If I ever did another PhD (no danger of that, mind), it would be in the history of medicine – women’s medicine, probably.

Googling Jane Sharp’s Midwives Book tonight, I came across this blog post about miscarriage (an experience I wish I wasn’t familiar with…) by academic Jennifer Evans:

What struck me was that several hundred years ago, as now, pregnant women were making every possible effort to control an outcome that was, in all likelihood, already decided – whether they gave birth to a healthy baby.

Should I ever get a third stab at pregnancy, I’ll not judge myself so harshly for seeking out my own Dragon’s Blood; I’ll not be the first or the last woman to do so.

Taking the tram

Before Christmas, I started stripping the paint off the cast iron fireplace in our bedroom. Using a heat gun worked well, but I got spooked when I realised that I was almost certainly vaporising old lead paint, so we decided to get the fireplace dipped ‘n’ stripped instead. (The whole fireplace is put in a big vat of paintstripper by specialists.)

Dipping ‘n’ stripping is surprisingly cost-effective – £40 for a bedroom fireplace versus £20 and a lot of time doing the same job with a heat gun – but the downside is that you have to remove the whole fireplace. As we speak, I’m waiting for someone to come and refit it – another £60 as the plaster on the surrounding wall needs fixing after a messy removal executed by moi.


In spite of the expense and insidious rubble dust from the crumbling wall, the process started to feel worth it when I found an old tram ticket behind the fireplace.


The tram stops listed are for east Edinburgh, in and around Leith, and its edges are blackened from the fire. A little calendar card I found with it dates from 1919, so I’d like to think the ticket dates from then, but in truth I have no idea.


Which one’s R. Melrose?

I hope you had lovely – or at least survivable – Christmases and that you’ve come out the other side refreshed.

I went to uni with someone who said that Tuesday was always the worst day of the week, and today has definitely been a Tuesday-ish Tuesday. I seemed to spend a lot of time doing a lot to achieve not very much at all, which was probably because I was doing something website-related. Websites are great until they don’t work. To try to pep up my motivation, I’m doing something fun – this post – before getting my head clear about what should be on my work to-do list and what needs done when.

Before Christmas, I attended the latest Spoonful of Vintage fair and, for the first time, bought something. Surprise, surprise, it was two postcards. I still can’t decide whether I paid over the odds. I think I possibly did, but the cards so clearly have good stories behind them that it’s hard to feel aggrieved. You’ll see what I mean – here’s the first:


First postcard from Spoonful of Vintage

Postcard message

Message on first postcard

Almost a novel here! Here’s my attempt at a transcription:

Dear Jeannie Thank for your PC [postcard] sorry I have been so long in answering it but never mind Jeannie I will forget you not (come over here) I had a PC from bridget she was asking for wooden logs very considerate of her well Jeannie I am leaving Peebles in a fort-night but I have not got a job yet I will try and get one in Edin. [Edinburgh] beside you wouldn’t it be ripping Peebles is horrible in fact worse than terrible just now cant get a girl at all hard times I call it, now ganny [?] see if you know everybody here look well for me. I think you might send me a Photo of yourself Jeannie I am dying to see your sweet little face again tell Miss Stuart I was asking for her give her my second best love and keep my best yourself, now Jeannie I hope this finds you still enjoying life Tweed-side misses you now good night and write soon love from R Melrose

R. Melrose certainly had a crush on Jeannie but, to be honest, it sounds like he would take anything offered to him – or he was trying to make Jeannie jealous. From the tone of his writing, he’s certainly young, but I wish there was a clue as to which of the young men on the postcard he was. Peebles is a small town in the Scottish Borders which is actually quite pleasant, although maybe not what a young man looking for adventure had in mind.

The dress of everyone pictured on the card dates it to early in the twentieth century, so in the hope we could learn a bit more about our writer, I’ve done a quick search of the 1911 Scottish census. Melrose is seemingly a common surname in Peebles, and four entries for ‘R Melrose’ have come up, two of which seem to fit the likely age and marital status of the writer:

  • Robert Melrose, aged 17 and born in Yarrow, Selkirkshire, a boarder at Hay Lodge Stables and apprentice butcher
  • Robert A.G. Melrose, aged 15 and born in Broughton, Peeblesshire, son of Andrew and Margaret Melrose living with them at 17 Elcho Street, law apprentice and part-time student

From the stream-of-consciousness writing style, my hunch is that the apprentice butcher is our author, but that is making a pretty sweeping generalisation about butchers (and law apprentices).

Here’s my second purchase:

Picture of young children in the very early twentieth century

It’s not really a postcard, now I look at it – just a regular, mounted photo – and the image is faint, but I couldn’t leave all of those glum faces behind at the bottom of the box. I have no information about it whatsoever, but I think it’s interesting enough to look at in its own right. (Spotted the smiler, yet?)

In my next post or two, I’ll get onto the 1960s of my main postcard collection.

My favourite things in 2012

My favourite things in 2012

A quick post on my favourite things so far in 2012:

Omni car boot sale

Not new, but new to me. I went because some friends had a one-off stall selling a load of unwanted clothes (they made nearly £400!), but I came back with a stack of 1960s postcards that I can’t wait to write about. Being in the city centre, I expected it to be to the traditional, shambolic car boot sale what farmers’ markets are to markets. I was pleasantly surprised: some professional sellers, but a lot of people clearly just getting rid of their junk, and a suitably dingy atmosphere complete with elbowing and jostling.

University of Edinburgh Anatomy Museum

Recently, the regulations that govern access to the Museum have been softened a little, and there is now a regular opening once a month. Situated in the south of Edinburgh’s Old Town in the University’s Old Medical School, you can see the skeleton of a Victorian grave robber (now tweeting from the afterlife @BurkesBones) and fascinating death masks of famous figures. More interesting than gory, but probably still not one for the particularly weak-stomached.

Curiouser and Curiouser

Almost a cheat – more retro than vintage – but I’m saved by the fact that this shop’s window displays use the lovely old suitcases sourced by my almost-neighbour, Cupboard Vintage. Captivating prints at relatively affordable prices. I love pretty much everything they have by illustrator Sandra Dieckmann – imagination-piquing, pigment-rich and for children and adults alike – and hope bigger sizes start coming in soon.

Bunny Beloved

A shameless plug for a good friend of mine, but she’s very good at what she does so my integrity is still intact. A talented up-cycler of old stuff (see her shop on Etsy), she’s now moved into the world of illustration too. Also, don’t forget the pinnacle of her achievements – winning second place in the 1989 South Glamorgan girls’ bean bag competition.

Continued: From John O’Groats – July 1930

Continued: From John O’Groats – July 1930

Well, The Scottish Aeneas has done it again.

On New Year’s Eve, I wrote about a postcard that I had bought for a quid that was sent from a father to a son in July 1930. The father was holidaying in John O’Groats, in the north of Scotland, and the son – whose name I could not make out – was living in the affluent New Town district of Edinburgh.

Fathers seem to have been just as economical as communicators in 1930 as they are today, as the postcard sweetly but simply says:

This is a very lovely place[;] the view to Orkney is very clear – Dad

The Scottish Aeneas has done his detective work and has made out the son’s name as Eric Crosbee. According to the Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Eric became an architect, was born on 21st June 1912, and his father was Walter Gould Crosbee, a mechanical engineer. Eric started his architectural apprenticeship in Edinburgh in March 1930, a few months before Walter sent him this postcard. Eric married Kathleen Howson Drummond and died, aged 92, on 28th June 2004. Here’s one of Eric’s sketches:

The Outlook Tower, Castlehill, Edinburgh from a sketch by Mr Eric Crosbee (from

The Scottish Aeneas has also managed to obtain a picture of Walter Crosbee’s gravestone, which can be found in Edinburgh’s Dean Cemetery. The headstone reveals that Eric’s mother, Sarah Ann Hutton Crosbee, was an artist – not surprising given Eric’s talent. It also looks like Eric had an older brother, Ronald, who seems to have followed in his father’s engineering footsteps.

Gravestone of Walter Crosbee and family. Generously provided by Charles Sale and (c) Gravestone Photographic Resource,

I had a bumper find of 1960s postcards at Edinburgh’s Omni Car Boot in January 2012, and I hope to get to bringing you these soon. Meanwhile, thank you, as always, to the Scottish Aeneas for his hard work – please do visit his blog if you’re interested in the history of Edinburgh.

From John O’Groats – July 1930

From John O’Groats – July 1930

Steptoes in the Newington area of Edinburgh is well-placed for student business, but I’m not the only person to still shop there long after their studies have finished. It sells affordable second-hand furniture – anything from early twentieth-century wardrobes to unwanted IKEA – and a good scattering of bric-a-brac. On my latest trip, I got a nest of three tables (for £9!), and couldn’t resist getting this postcard too.

For the princely sum of £1, I acquired this eighty-one year-old holiday memento. Sent from a father to a son when the former was holidaying at John O’Groats in July 1930, it carries a brief message:

This is a very lovely place[;] the view to Orkney is very clear – Dad

The son’s address is 21 Claremont Crescent, Edinburgh, which is on the edge of Edinburgh’s New Town. The New Town is probably the most prestigious area of the city, so it seems fair to assume that this family was reasonably comfortably-off. Here’s what 21 Claremont Crescent looks like today (links to Google Maps).

The one thing I cannot make out is the name of the son – the addressee. Suggestions welcome! (The Scottish Aeneas, that means you!)

Oh, and the very best for 2012!

Old medicine

Like most people, I like spending time in chemists only marginally more than I do hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. However, in Edinburgh, they do soften the blow by sometimes giving you great window displays of merchandise they have left over from many decades ago – a mini museum exhibition. The staff at Paton & Finlay in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh, have been kind enough to let me take some pictures of their collection (click pictures to enlarge):

Mustard leaf, if I have it right, is something that used to be applied as a warming dressing for aches and pains. Possibly the atomiser was used to spray medicine in a patient’s throat. And the meths register, well: given its use by the more desperate as source of drinking alcohol, I wonder if the register was a way of monitoring for possible abusers. As always, I might have the wrong end of the stick on all of this, and would love to be corrected.

Paton & Finlay isn’t the only chemist in Edinburgh with a good window display – try also MacKenzie & Co. on Forrest Road.

Two past-focussed Edinburgh blogs

Two past-focussed Edinburgh blogs

I really should be heading off for bed but, before I do, I thought I’d let you know about a couple of blogs on the subjects of Edinburgh vintage and old Edinburgh itself:

Fashions from the Past

Edinburgh’s answer to Casey’s Elegant Musings, American-in-Scotland Debi sews at what appears to be a breathtaking rate to produce gorgeous clothes from original vintage patterns. If you love the forties, then you won’t be able to tear your eyes away from the screen. There’s also some interesting stuff on here about the international vintage sewing blog community!

The Scottish Aeneas 

Colin Macaulay’s blog (which I discovered only today after Colin commented on an earlier post of mine) is all about Edinburgh in the Georgian period. I’ve yet to read through all that’s on offer, but I have already spotted the profiles of key Edinburgh-dwellers of the time that I’m keen to read. Some good links to online resources (including older texts in the National Library of Scotland – one of my favourite places in my early twenties) on here, too.

That’s all for now folks. I let you know about any other goodies I find. Meanwhile, sweet dreams…

Auld from Reekie update

Auld from Reekie update

Recent vintage good-news stories from Auld Reekie…

Dry cleaner goes vintage

Kleen Cleaners on St Mary’s Street has the prestige of being the Queen’s dry cleaner when she’s in town. Now they’ve further upped their game by opening their very own vintage boutique selling clothes and accessories.

Having browsed around a couple of times, there are are definitely some pieces in here I’m lusting after (including a Vivienne Westwood leopard print top), but prices mean I will continue to have to lust for a while yet. However, if you want something special and possibly a designer label, this is the place to go. Oh, and being from a dry cleaner’s, all items are fresh-smelling – no rotten armpits here!

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fashion Fair

The Affordable Vintage Fashion Fair is visiting Edinburgh on 1st October 2011. The Fair tours the UK’s major cities selling vintage fashion and homewares. I’ve never been, so am really looking forward to giving this a go. It’s £2 entry (£1 concessions), 11am-4pm at the Drill Hall (Out of the Blue), Dalmeny Street, Leith.

Pictures from Lost Edinburgh

The Facebook group Lost Edinburgh hosts photographs of Edinburgh in its earlier days. As well as feasting your eyes on the cars of the citizens of the day, locals can also spot the architecture (including some terrifyingly high tenements) which has since made way for modern developments. Great to have such a repository available so freely.

I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein (http://CMP.LY/0/jXFZkQ).

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