'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

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter and The Half Hearted

Between the years 1958 to 1972 on Easter Sunday I loved to hear the St John's Church bell ring out to the parish of Oxgangs to celebrate Easter Sunday. Easter was always a very special time at 6/2 Oxgangs Avenue in the Hoffmann household.

Back in the late 1960s/early 70s Anne, Iain and I would have joined the Blades (6/6) on some Easter Sundays at the former Oxgangs Evangelical Church. Paul Forbes and I also attended Charlotte Chapel too, probably through the influence of Fifi and Liz Blades. And when we were very young children we were taken along by 'the old boy' to Belford Church too.

And yet despite all this we weren't religious at all; certainly not in the true sense. It was something which we did; I guess we were just stumbling along on life's journey. In a half-hearted way, without any formal analysis; like any other young people, we were finding our path in life.

However, I enjoyed going along to the churches. I liked the occasion. I liked seeing people dressed in their 'Sunday best'. I liked seeing families together. I liked the sense of fellowship. I liked seeing the minister interact and embrace members of the congregation. I liked seeing older spinsters or widows feel part of a larger family. I liked being part of a group or extended family. I enjoyed the service-the biblical stories; the sermons; many of the values promulgated. I liked too the sense of occasion and the mix of formality; history; tradition; and warmth too. I found myself, even as a young and occasionally rebellious teenager,finding and enjoying these moments of quiet reflection during the service.

And yet I was never religious-I was never a believer. When the charismatic Rev Derek Prime invited the equally charismatic Arthur Blessit to preach at Charlotte Chapel and 'hypnotise' half the congregation, I was most concerned about Paul Forbes joining many others 'to come on down if you've felt the spirit!'

Despite never being well off as a family, Anne, Iain and I were very well looked after at Easter by our mother Mrs Anne Hoffmann and our grandparents. Each year, on Good Friday we received an attractive little mug with a cartoon figure on it; sitting on top was a simple milk chocolate egg. These were inexpensive items yet we set great store by them. Yes we quickly broke up the egg into pieces and enjoyed eating it; but the mug was special, because that was our cup for the rest of the year, from which we enjoyed our morning and evening 'cuppa' of tea, with milk and two sugars.

On the Saturday we were very lucky, because every year, our grandfather (Ga-Ga) brought each of us a large brand name egg e.g. Cadbury's Milk Tray chocolate egg with individual chocolates arrayed along the bottom. We knew how lucky we were with this, because outwith Norman Stewart who always 'outclassed' us all, we did relatively well, compared to our pals at The Stair.

On Easter Sunday itself we would be collected by our grandfather and driven down to Durham Road, Portobello; I loved the route and in particular seeing the women and gentlemen dressed up in their lovely coats and hats walking happily to church services at Greenbank; Morningside; the Grange; and Duddingston Village. Usually we would hear the lovely sound of the peal of the church bells ringing out and calling the followers to worship.

Easter Sunday, perhaps appropriately, was a simpler affair. Our artist, grandmother had made three hard-boiled eggs for each of us which she had painted very attractively. We would go out into the warm sunshine in the back garden and roll the eggs until the shells eventually broke. I'm unsure whether we realised the significance of this-I'm sure we will have been told.

In the decades after I left childhood at Oxgangs I've always found Easter a special time of the year. I've occasionally written poems about it or had the oddest dream-once combining the two involving Arthurs Seat. For many years we enjoyed Easter with the extended family up at the farm. Over the past eighteen years or so the fun and competition of the 'famous' Easter Egg Hunt with 'Atticus' and 'd'Artagnan' and cousins and friends. This year, 'd'Artagnan' is competing at the Birmingham International Open, but Uncle Iain Hoffmann and I have been in strict training to outfox Diane and 'Atticus' in today's egg-hunt-'Unc' has his walking stick at the ready, so watch out Will for dastardly tactics!

And although we can't enjoy the peal of the St John's Church bell ring out today, have a lovely and 'Happy Easter' wherever you are; and if you get a moment to pause for a moment of reflection, enjoy that too.

ps 'The Half Hearted' is a very early, but enjoyable novel by John Buchan-worth a read.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Comment From Richard Cropper, 2B Oxgangs Green

Sent: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 20:36
Subject: [Edinburgh Scotland 6 Oxgangs Avenue 1958-1972 'The Stair'] New comment on Dr Motley-An Update.

RICHARD CROPPER has left a new comment on your post "Dr Motley-An Update":

Hello, my name is Richard Cropper and I`m so glad to have found your page via Lost Edinburgh. I was brought into the world by this lovely man on 29/10/62 at 2B Oxgangs Green. My younger brother was also delivered by Dr Motley on 29/1/65. My late Dad remembers rushing along Oxgangs Avenue when my arrival was imminent,knocking on the door of Macalester Cottage. Always unhurried, "Calm down Mr Cropper, I`ll be there in a few minutes!" I continued as his patient up until about 1978 I seem to recall (We relocated to Murrayburn Park,Wester Hailes in July 1970 but still continued with AP as our Doctor). Always referred to us boys as "Professor", as perhaps to all young male children in his practice? I remember him fondly as the archetypal kindly family Doctor "How are your Parents? And your Brothers and Sister?" but I recall his diagnoses could be somewhat hit-or-miss. On other subjects on your site my first P1 teacher was Mrs Berwick, my second was Miss Gibson. My elder brother Jack was taught by Miss J M Meharry, my elder sister Lesley was taught by the same Mrs Berwick and then Mrs Rosie, and I remember the Headmaster was indeed Mr Mackenzie. I can recollect the flamboyant Miss Sulley vaguely. The Rev Jack Orr from Caiystane I remember (his son Calum was in my class. Happy Childhood days, ours was the house with the rose garden at the front. masterminded and maintained by my Grandad Joe Cropper. Anyone out there remember us? Neighbours I remember were the Colquhouns, Mrs Kersel, the Donlevys,the Bells and the Hunters.Brilliant site Peter, well done!!


I enjoyed reading your comments; it's always a pleasant surprise when someone stumbles across the site a while after it was first put up. 

Mrs Berwick was my first teacher too-she had a kindly nature, but I believe I was the first pupil she ever had to belt after decades in the profession! I suspect you were probably in the year before my sister Anne? I tried to do justice in the two long pieces on the two key teachers for me i.e. Sulley and Hoddinot-both somewhat different experiences. Mr Mackenzie, I only mention briefly; unfortunately my occasional visitations to his office were to receive the belt-and boy could he deliver! Reflecting now forty six years on I wonder how much the approach back then was the stick rather than the carrot? I certainly didn't receive any recognition from him/the school when I won the 1968 Edinburgh Primary Schools Inter-Scholastic 100 yards championship!

I assume you saw the earlier, longer blog on Dr Motley (16 December, 2012)? He was a real character and as you say an atypical family doctor. Your wee epigrams give an added insight about him. Like you I kept him as my doctor when I moved to Portobello in 1972-changed days!

One theme which comes through is my interest in the difference between 'relationships and transactions' which have evolved over the past forty years; Dr Motley is a good example. It's a pity 'AP' never penned a small memoir. (By the way, there's a lovely, small book called 'Leaves From The Life of a Country Doctor' by Clement Bryce Gunn which is worth a read-buy the charming 1947 version with the charming green dust jacket with the doctor on the cover wading through the snow.) 

I'll post your comment so that it appears as a recent post rather than being buried away back in October, 2013.

All the best.