Comments

'And finally, not everyone’s being doing topical. In fact, here’s the rather lovely 6 Oxgangs Avenue devoted to the history of the development of the area, this week highlighting how the block of flats came into being. Could have been prompted by Who do you think you are? Or just a timely reminder that not everything worth blogging about is in the here and now.'

Kate Higgins, Scottish Roundup 26/08/2012



Thursday, 23 August 2012

Never Had It So Good?

(Daily Mirror cartoon)
In the 1950s the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, told the electorate  that they had never had it so good. His comments will have been partly based on the progress made in implementing the Beveridge report and tackling the five evils of want; ignorance; disease; squalor; and idleness. Clearly the young families who moved into the newly built 6 Oxgangs Avenue from 1958 were direct beneficiaries of what men had gone to war for and the new vision of a country fit for them to live in afterwards.

Generally the families at number 6 (always referred to by us as The Stair)  lived in harmony. Yes, there was occasional friction, but it was very mild and occasional-all the families were good neighbours. The culture was a happy one which probably reflected the optimism of the 1960s. Compared to the housing which had existed a decade before the new housing schemes were great places to live and bring up young families-modern flats; indoor loos; open coal fires. Children played safely. There were formal playgrounds, sports pitches and tennis courts; adventures were on the near doorstep to Redford Burn, the army polo field and Braidburn Valley. 



(Braid-Burn Valley looking NW toward open air theatre) MJ Richards Licenced for reuse Creative Commons Licence

There was Dr Motley's surgery and Mr Russell the dentist. There was a new school with the beautiful title of Hunters Tryst set in lovely spacious grounds that had large playgrounds, its own small wood and large sports pitches.


It was a period of stability. Families were generally happy with mums and dads, despite the daily grind, enjoying the novelty of parenthood. Women were the home-makers-men were the breadwinners-access to employment was relatively easy. No one was well off as each household would be described as working class e.g. no-one owned a car, however people weren't desperately poor even if Child Benefit made the difference between eating or not. 


The Stair has reflected the changing decades. If the 1970s were about strife, then some of the new inhabitants were not as neighbourly. The 1980s of Thatcher led to families buying their own houses. The 1990s were a period of growth and better wages and no doubt those now at number 6 will have enjoyed foreign holidays and car ownership. The Noughties and the impact of the recession could be seen when I paid a visit last month to Oxgangs, where The Stair was looking a little neglected.


As mentioned Dougal worked as a shop assistant at Coopers Grocery shop and then as a stock-keeper at Brown Brothers Engineering Company. As for my father Ken-my mother Anne gave up counting at thirty the number of jobs that he had been in-assistant cinema manager; stock clerk; lorry driver for Bains delivering meat to butchers shops in Edinburgh and the Borders; long distance driver for John Bryce; he had however also been a Chief Officer in the merchant navy, training at the renowned Edinburgh company Ben Line-his qualification was probably the equivalent of a degree in physics or maths, but those were before the days of NVQs, so he found he could not use transferable management skills to gain better employment. The other issue was that being an alcoholic made it difficult for him to hold down a job for any length of time. 



Ben Cruachan 1946

Mr Stewart was a policeman and like many others in this line of work he kept a complete distance from any other neighbour in The Stair. George Hogg was a joiner. I think he was part of a cooperative of skilled tradesmen who built their own houses toward Oxgangs Green. In later years Eric Smith worked as a general helper at Marks and Spencer which was a secure job. Charles Blades worked for many years at Ferranti's where he was a Personal Assistant to Basil de Ferranti. He regularly accompanied him to meetings in London. Charles had initially trained as a doctor, but late on in the course dropped out. Like my father Ken he was an alcoholic which prevented him reaching his full potential and also blighting others' lives too. Dougal, Ken and Charles were clearly bright individuals-Charles father was Lord Blades, the respected judge and Solicitor General for Scotland. 


Charlie Hanlon worked for many years at the Uniroyal Rubber Mill which superseded the North British Company -a secure job for many years. He worked shifts-sometimes Hilda would hang out the top floor sitting room window and chastise the kids for being too loud and 'keeping my Charlie awake when he's on the night-shift'. I liked the way he brought home a 'Friday Treat' of chocolate bars for Michael, Boo-Boo, Colin and Alan-if you'll forgive the pun, it was a very sweet thing to do.



Workers leaving rubber mill at Fountainbridge after a shift (Edinburgh Evening News)

Mr Duffy was a general labourer and scaffy in later years; previously he may have worked elsewhere but that change may have been brought on when he perhaps lost his driving licence?


Comment From Will Hoffmann: Interesting as usual but it would perhaps be better served as the very first blog entry as it sort of sets the scene and introduces the 'characters'? 

Response: 'Thanks for dipping your toe in the water Will. I'll have to come up with a small reward as you're the first person to comment.Did you recognise old Fountainbridge-007's old haunt and close to your beloved Zizi's? It's a useful comment because it's forced me to articulate what was only in my 'mind's eye'! I think you're right-it could have been used as an initial blog, but equally, given the motivation and impetus for the blog is a valid approach too. Early posts do need to set the context and the characters. However, I don't want to follow an academic or chronological approach, although some of it will be the latter. Instead I want to go for something which is more free flowing, whilst having a certain shape in mind. I thought Shell-Shocked for example is a very powerful piece which allowed me to present two main characters, Fiona and Peter (me) in a situation interfacing with an old man who was an interesting character. Rather than describing us, it gave me the opportunity to show our behaviour allowing you to form an opinion of us and our personalities and also an important aspect of day to day life at the time. Some posts will occur to me by accident, others will flow from one post to another e.g. meals, crockery and Buchan's Pottery! There are endless little diversions that could be followed. I've devoted a post to 6/1, The Swansons-clearly I intend to work my way through each family all the way to 6/8, The Duffy's, but I want to intersperse these posts with stories and events that will hopefully be of interest and over a period of time allow readers to see the characters evolve, grow and develop in 1960s Edinburgh-a bit like a tv soap opera!' 

2 comments:

Will said...

Interesting as usual but it would perhaps be better served as the very first blog entry as it sort of sets the scene and introduces the 'characters'?

Peter Hoffmann said...

Thanks for dipping your toe in the water Will. I'll have to come up with a small reward as you're the first person to comment.Did you recognise old Fountainbridge-007's old haunt and close to your beloved Zizi's? It's a useful comment because it's forced me to articulate what was only in my 'mind's eye'! I think you're right-it could have been used as an initial blog, but equally, giving the motivation and impetus for the blog is a valid approach too. Early posts do need to set the context and the characters. However, I don't want to follow an academic or chronological approach, although some of it will be the latter. Instead I want to go for something which is more free flowing, whilst having a certain shape in mind. I thought Shell-Shocked for example is a very powerful piece which allowed me to present two main characters, Fiona and Peter (me) in a situation interfacing with an old man who was an interesting character. Rather than describing us, it gave me the opportunity to show our behaviour allowing you to form an opinion of us and our personalities and also an important aspect of day to day life at the time. Some posts will occur to me by accident, others will flow from one post to another e.g. meals, crockery and Buchan's Pottery! There are endless little diversions that could be followed. I've devoted a post to 6/1, The Swansons-clearly I intend to work my way through each family all the way to 6/8, The Duffy's, but I want to intersperse these posts with stories and events that will hopefully be of interest and over a period of time allow readers to see the characters evolve, grow and develop in 1960s Edinburgh-a bit like a tv soap opera!