'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

Monday, 17 November 2014

The Birth of The Stair and A Christmas Carol

Birth: 'the coming into existence of something'.

In the bleak mid-winter, Dickens' Christmas stories give the reader images of hope and light; warmth and joy; as well as transformation and resurrection. However, the light is tempered by the darkness and cold too which makes it even more life enhancing. 

The hope comes from spring, surely following winter and the renewal of life as Scrooge is restored to the good values of his boyhood and youth. 

Six decades ago in the deep mid-winter of 1958, the Hanlon family moved into the newly built Edinburgh Corporation flats at 6 Oxgangs Avenue to take up residence at ‘The Stair’; Charlie and Hilda were full of hope at the beginning of the exciting adventure ahead and novelty of bringing up their family in a new home.

Like the other young families at ‘The Stair’ they had their dreams and aspirations of the good life and raising their children as well as they could, with all the fun, joys and worries inherent.

At this time, only Michael, the eldest brother had been born; he would only have been around one year old; Brian, Colin and Alan would come along in the following years.

When the family took up their tenancy at 6/7, like the other seven families in residence at ‘The Stair’, they were issued with a rent book. It records their rent as being eighteen shillings a week.

Most remarkably, Hilda, the last remaining original member at ‘The Stair’, still has the family's first rent book. It records their date of entry as 15th December, 1958.

In a way the document records the birth of ‘The Stair’, when one of the original inhabitants first took up residence there and is perhaps a unique document of its type. 


Brian speaks humorously about the family's first experience. Hilda recalled the Hoffmann family had already moved in downstairs to 6/2 slightly earlier. The coal-man was delivering coal to our family - Ken and Anne Hoffmann, the author (Peter aged two) and my brother, Iain (aged only a month).

Hilda wanted to buy some coal in too, to heat their new home. However, the coal merchant turned down her request as she lived on the top floor and he mustn't have fancied walking up another three flights of stairs. Given it was mid-winter and Michael, the eldest brother was still only a baby, the stone-hearted coal-man clearly wasn't full of the Christmas spirit.

He reminds me of Ebenezer Scrooge to Bob Cratchit, that '...there will be no coal burned in this office today...'  

Hilda must have found a way forward, not only to heat their new top flat home with its fantastic views to the hills and the sea, as well as the prominent Edinburgh Castle, as she and Charlie went on to successfully raise their four boys in a happy household, throughout the decades of the 1960s and 1970s. 

'Edinburgh in Snow' William Crozier

Spring and indeed summer followed winter. 

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