'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, 20 September 2012

Today's Menu? Fishy Tales!

A regular flow of pedlars, vendors and salesmen visited The Stair each week. One of the greatest of these characters was Jock the Fishman. Do any of the followers of the blog know anything about him-it would be interesting to hear from you if you do? I notice that someone who lived at Colinton fifty years ago mentions a fish van run by someone called Hunnan.

Jock used to announce his presence with a loud two second blast of his whistle and the cry of 'fish!'. 

To the children of The Stair Jock seemed quite old; he looked like a character straight out of Stevenson-an old sea-dog, but perhaps he had never left dry land? He was always dressed in a big roll neck jersey and a leather waistcoat. Underneath his cap was a weather beaten and lined face-he had a kindly look and a kindly nature-he was friendly and good with his customers and very fond of the children who tagged along with their mums-I suppose it also helped make him the good salesman that he was.

One very clever approach which he deployed was to hand out old comics free to his customers' children. I'm not sure where he got his stock from-I think he encouraged his customers to hand in any old comics which they were finished with-almost an exchange re-distribution system.

Although a short visitation, it was always an interesting interlude to go to the back of his old red Austin van and see the fish and scales and of course the comics inside; there would be a bit of repartee and he might twist your ear.

Looking back he must have made a reasonable living; I've never thought about it until now, but the one omission from the three shopping precincts at Oxgangs Broadway; the Crescent; and Colinton Mains-and indeed also The Store (St Cuthbert's Cooperative) was a fish shop. Indeed the only rival business, which in reality wasn't, because it was just too far away, was the Newhaven Fishwife, who sold her wares at the corner of Riselaw Crescent to her customers at Buckstone, Greenbank, Comiston, Morningside and the Braids.

Mrs Betty Millar, the Buckstane Fish-Wife (Photograph by Mr W R Smith)

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