'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, 31 December 2015

Life in Oxgangs in the 1950s and 1960s by Jim Blyth, now a resident of Ontario, Canada

I was originally alerted to this interesting post by Jim Blyth on the 'Like Warriors' Facebook page; I contacted Jim asking if I could re-post it on this blog for those who may have missed it. It's a super post, pre-dating most of the other blogs on this site, as it goes back to the very early days of Oxgangs.

' I grew up in the prefabs; we moved in around 1951 and lived in Oxgangs Place. The prefab was very cold in the winter the only heating was by a coal fire in the living room; the bedrooms and bathroom were freezing especially in the winter. Rain pouring down on the tin roof was a great sound as were birds hopping across the roof; when it thundered the whole house shook.Opposite our prefab was George Liddle's the joiner who was moved up to Oxgangs Bank just east of the shops in the early 1960's. 

To get down-town we took the number 4 bus; later came the number 27 and years later the number 16. We had to walk to the Braid Hills Hotel to the tram terminus to get to Brunstfield, Tolcross etc. 
Tram terminus at Braid Hills Hotel (Photographer unknown)

We used to play football in the park on Sunday afternoon with guys coming from all over, usually Hearts supporters against Hibs supporters. Gordon Marshall (Hearts) John Grant, Johnny McLeod (Hibs) all lived within 100 yards of each other on Colinton Mains Drive.

Photograph courtesy David McLean, Lost Edinburgh
There used to be farm behind Dr. Motley's and I would crawl through the hedge and steal turnips from the field. 
George Liddle the joiner installed the bell in Colinton Mains Church and I was the first person to ring the bell in the church. Beside the church on Oxgangs Road North the brick building used to be the local store with wooden floors; there was also a butcher at one end; it was later used as changing rooms for the footballers in the park.
Colinton Mains Parish Church
I worked in the dental building at the corner of Oxgangs Road North. and Oxgangs Farm Drive making false teeth; there was lots of business in Oxgangs at the time. I think the prefabs were knocked down in 1964 and we were moved to Oxgangs Crescent. I later moved to Canada in the late 1960's. I found this picture of a prefab online; its not our house.'

Photograph of 'the prefabs' at Oxgangs Avenue, courtesy Douglas Blades

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Dr Motley-Comment From Caroline McKenna


I lived at 52 Oxgangs Farm Drive, my mother still lives there today and has since my dad built the house in 1957. I have just returned from a visit there over Christmas. Dr. Motley made a big impression on my early life: he was statuesque, kind and dapper. His name for me was 'small fry' and he always said 'You are the bonniest of all the Mckennas'. His surgery, McAllister Cottage, was a pleasure to visit. It had skittles in red leather in the surgery and I never understood why they were there. We had little knowledge of race relations in Edinburgh at that time and Dr.Motley was the only black person I knew as a child and that felt like a gift. I think he had a bike in the early days. I have many happy memories of my Oxgangs childhood and would be good to hear from others. 

Caroline McKenna

Monday, 14 September 2015

Oxgangs Memories by Pat Rafferty

Hi Peter,

I saw your blog and read your book-I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I grew up in 22 Oxgangs Farm Drive and Anne Duffy (6/8) of ‘The Stair’ was my best friend at secondary school. Her mum helped me out when my father went a bit berserk with me-she had a kind heart. Like you my brother also had a crush on Laura Duffy (6/8) as did a lot of other boys at school. Joyce Colbron, who you mention, lived below me and I have an old photograph of us on the old waste ground-we were the Raffertys and the others, the Colbrons. It was taken at Oxgangs Farm Drive where the self-build houses go round Oxgangs Farm Grove. If my memory is correct the house which was built where we were playing belonged to a lad called Ewen McLeod’s family, but the photograph was taken before they moved in. Going there today it looks as if these new houses have been there as long as ours-it’s hard to imagine it all formerly being wasteland.
My brother Mike trying to look invisible; my sister Cath behind him; also Sheila; Margaret; and Joyce Colbron. Ann my other sister is behind.

We were the Raffertys and there were seven of us in total.The photograph was taken where Ewen McLeod's house was going to be built on the waste ground at the end of where several bungalows were to be built all the way along to the woods entrance near the Naffi slope possibly as self build houses. 
Oxgangs Farm Grove
We were friendly with the Colbrons for a short time and then who knows what happened, but for years the two families didn't speak and later we moved away from Oxgangs. I think our family was the first to move in to our Stair and the Colbrons the last; and I don't have many good memories of that time.
Oxgangs Farm Drive
You also mention the Andrettis; what a sweet lady Mrs Andretti was. Freddie, one of her sons, was in my brother’s class at St Marks and he was a nice kid. I used to have to go to their shop (at Colinton Mains) in the morning before school for groceries and if Mr Andretti wasn't there Mrs Andretti would sometimes give me a Milky Bar. We didn't get sweets often and this was a real treat for me; so much so, I used to save it, but had to hide it in my jumper where it always melted-I can't stand white chocolate now! It was a kindness I’ll never forget.
Colinton Mains Shops from slightly earlier (Photograph courtesy of David McLean, Lost Edinburgh)
I must have been very shy because I used to hate walking past the bus stop at the dentist’s on Oxgangs Road North, as there was always a big queue; so instead, when going for the groceries, I used to walk by the self-build houses at Oxgangs Farm Grove to the path at the side of the woods and go the back way through to the lane next to the Colinton Mains shops; it was actually very scary, but I was able to go back home along the main road and past the bus stop because it was maybe a bit quieter going back if the busses had been.

I was best friends with Anne Duffy (6/8) at secondary school; they were a very nice family and once when my dad was really berserk (I now know that he had a bad fall from a high height and damaged his back and my aunts have said his personality could transform from being pleasant to being the father from hell in one breath)-anyway one day I couldn't take anymore; I must have been about thirteen or fourteen and ran out of the house, however one of my slippers got caught in the door and I was too scared to go back for it. I shouted ‘I’m going to the police’ and I remember running past the dentist bus stop with only one slipper on and tears running down my face; however as I got to Dr.Motley’s surgery (situated next door to Mr Russell the dentist) I thought, They will just take me right back home-so I decided my next stop was to the Duffys (6/8). When Annie (Mrs Duffy) saw me she was so kind. She went up to my parents and when she came back said it is all sorted and you’ll stay here tonight and no school tomorrow; and when you go back nothing will be said. I don’t know what she said to my dad but when I did go back nothing was said. Annie could be very strict and give a good tongue lashing-did my dad finally get a bit of that? And did it make him think? Who knows, but that was a very good thing which she did for me.
Mrs Annie Duffy and Mr Duffy
When I was older and we went dancing, I usually went back to the Duffys to stay the night and Mr Duffy was also a good man. I would hear him pop himself around the door just to check we were all home safely and then leave; I loved that, as we never grew up with caring from our parents and I always felt wanted when I stayed with the Duffys. The only downside was that I was expected to go to church with them on the Sunday-a small price to pay for feeling so secure. 
St Mark's Church, Oxgangs Avenue
I just thought I would give you a little insight into the folk I knew (The Duffys, 6/8) that you didn't know much about. I hope it was of interest.

Oops, I’ve just recalled that Laura wasn't a sister; she was in fact a cousin. Her mum died and I think her dad was in the forces or overseas and Annie and John brought her up with their own family-that was the kind of people they were, with big hearts.

Sadly, Anne and I only keep in touch with a Xmas card now. When we had our families because of school etc and at the time neither of us could drive and Anne had moved to Gilmerton and I was at Duddingston, so we never had any time; then we moved abroad and came back and just never really got back together. Yet I know if I bumped into her now it would be just like yesterday again, but I guess we all move on. I did speak to her sister Mary not too long ago and she said Anne still isn't on Facebook-such a shame. She married about a year or so after me and had three boys and a girl. I didn't go to the local school, St.Marks; the only one of us who did was my younger brother so I didn't meet the Duffys until secondary school.

Anne and I used to go ice skating as well as to the dancing together and were very close until our own families went on to school. We also went to Germany together-we must have been only sixteen, so it was a big adventure for us. She was also a bridesmaid at my wedding in 1975. 

I can't really remember much about John or James. I seem to think John got married and lived in Colinton Mains but I’m not 100% sure.I think James was the more mischievous one! Mary went on to become a nurse. Laura was different and always seemed aloof, but she really wasn’t and could be really funny. I remember listening to a Gary Glitter record and Laura belting it out at the top of her voice-I wonder if she remembers that! I do think all the boys fancied her; she too got married, I think to a postman and had children.
John Duffy
I noticed you became Friends on Facebook with John McDonaugh; he also lived in our Stair and I think he had a sister Marion. I remember my brother once playing in their front garden but no other memories of them. 

John McDonaugh (back row middle); Joyce Colbron (third left in row three) with the Author to her right; Ewen McLeod (second from the end of row three).

Unfortunately, Hunters Tryst Primary School brings back some horrid memories to me. Like you we had blue dinner tickets (free school dinners) and for some reason during the summer holidays we had to go to Hunters Tryst for our lunches; although there were quite a few folk in a similar position there, but at the time you felt you were the only individuals receiving free meals. Well, we didn't know anyone and kids being kids, we were made fun of, so of course we didn't go back again but had to pretend to our parents we did. The stigma of standing in a queue for a free meal ticket would never happen now so at least some things have changed for the better.

A boy who you mention who you had some run-ins with must have got around as he used to also wait on my brother coming out of St.Marks where the church is and threaten him for money. He never got any as we never ever had money-you would think he would have picked on someone who could have given him something. My brother would dread coming out of school in case he was waiting.

Funny we moved around 1970 to Marchmont, as our parents never liked Oxgangs as they grew up in the town so it was probably too much of a change for them. However I love going back there now. At the time I loved the openness of the area-the hills, the walks and the hours spent on the Pentland Hills or Hillend and the Braid Hills too. As a family we used to go to Spylaw Park, Colinton with a picnic--soggy tomato sandwiches and a bottle of water which we all shared but I loved it and as there was seven of us we could play rounders too- great fun!

I hope I haven't droned on too much!

Pat Rafferty

Saturday, 1 August 2015

'A Moment in Time': A Small Montage of Photographs of Kids from The Stairs circa 1971

Yesterday, I came across these photographs of some of the kids from Stairs 2, 4 and 6 Oxgangs Avenue, circa 1971. :-)

Paul Forbes; Iain Hoffmann (6/2); Brian Hanlon (6/7); and Peter Hoffmann (6/2) at Woolworths, Princes Street

Stephen Westbrook (2/6) and 'Sparky'

The Scott sisters (4/8)-I clearly think their dog is a sheep invited in to save me cutting 'the lawn'!

Anne Hoffmann (6/2); Lynn Steer (2/5); and Gillian Westbrook (2/6)

Keith Robertson (4/2) on a fancier bike than we were accustomed to see (outwith Ali Douglas/Les and Derek Ramage; and Iain Hoffmann Raleigh Choppers)

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Hunters Tryst Primary School (Edinburgh Evening News article)

The site of a former school that has lain derelict for eight years is back up for sale amid hopes that developers will snap it up for housing.

Hunter’s Tryst Primary School was closed in 2007 and previous attempts to sell the site were thwarted by the recession. The school was torched by fireraisers in 2008 and was demolished, leaving a brownfield site that has been an eyesore ever since.Now it has been put back up for sale by the council, with the 1.4 acre site marketed as being “well placed for easy access to both the city centre and Edinburgh bypass”.
City finance convener Alasdair Rankin said conditions were right to push for a new sale. Councillor Rankin said: “We always seek to gain best value for the council when selling any of our assets and as market conditions have improved, we have taken the decision that now is a good time to put this site back up for sale.”
The former school building became a magnet for vandalism and antisocial behaviour before finally being pulled down following the fire. Locals had branded the school a “death trap” and firefighters called for its demolition following the blaze. £20,000 was spent on reinforcing security around the site before council officials gave up on the building and the bulldozers were called in.
Pupils were moved from Oxgangs to Pentland Primary in Comiston, and developers Dundas Estates had lined up a planning application for new homes before the global downturn torpedoed the scheme.
Separate plans to build 104 affordable homes put forward by the Dunedin Canmore Housing Association, or to build a care home creating badly-needed local jobs, both also fell by the wayside.
Heather Levy, chairwoman of Firrhill Community Council said: “The community would be very pleased if the site is finally redeveloped. Our preference would be for social housing, because there is a strong need for social housing in the area.” Oxgangs councillor Jason Rust also welcomed the news that redevelopment of the site was back on the agenda. Cllr Rust said: “I welcome the fact that at last there is some action and the economy is such that it is now being marketed. While it is important for the public purse that the council ensures it obtains best value for the site, I hope that the views of residents are properly taken into account come any planning application. “The grounds having lain redundant for so long, we want to ensure what comes is appropriate to the amenity of the area. I will be monitoring this closely.”
One interesting comment: 'Given the amount of land that has been turned over to housing around there in the past why not make it a park?'

Monday, 20 April 2015

Vignette On Dr Motley By Artist Vicky Mount

When I was 12 to 17 I lived next door to Dr Motley in the Oxgangs area of Edinburgh. He was the first black American to study in the late 1920's in Scotland and then set up a GP practice in the late 1940's. I remember him as a lovely, kind and jovial man. I regularly took his wee Jack Russell a walk up the Pentlands. A vicious little devil. On returning Dr Motley would give me a handful of sweets. My Mum, a district nurse, whom he called 'Angel' occasionally helped bath his frail and elderly wife. 

When I was 15 I did this drawing from a photograph of him. Also, on my wedding day we went to visit him in hospital.  We turned up in full wedding gear and flowers for him. He couldn't come to the wedding so we took the wedding to him. He was very generous. He gave us £100 in an envelope before the wedding. I was so surprised. He died two months later aged 84.

I'd like to thank my Mum for setting a great example and for never saying, 'he's black but he's very nice' in the way I've often heard down the years.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Dr Motley-A Further Update From 10 February, 2015

Hello Peter Hoffmann

I was happy to find and read about my grandfather Dr Arthur Motley here on your blog! Amazing to read and see pictures of him. He was a wonderful grandpa. He taught me 'grandpa stick it up yo jumpa' 'I dene kene but canna whackum' He would test us again & again if we remembered who invented the telephone and the raincoat. He was very generous. His daughter Annette married a Norwegian man and they moved to Sweden and adopted me, my sister and brother. Annette died 2000, 69 years old in London. She inherited all from her father but lost it all to men cheating it of her. After Annette and my father divorced she got involved with men of the lowest rank possible unfortunately for me & my sister. She had had a very unhappy upbringing though (in spite of such a wonderful grandpa in my eyes) and never found lasting love in her life due to having severe personal problems much caused by her own mother Annette, Probably why you saw so little of them. His daughter Annette was a very artistic person, she worked back stage on some theater when she met my dad. In my youth she designed clothes and painted on glass. 

All the best
Yvonne Hjertholm 

Monday, 9 February 2015

St John's Church, Oxgangs-Ring Out Wild Bells

Ring out the old; ring in the new.
Ring, happy bells, across the snow.
The year is going; let him go.
Ring out the false; ring in the true.
The year is going; let him go.
Ring out the false; ring in the true.

I assume, that at the end of 2014 was the first occasion in fifty-six years that the former St John's Parish Church, Oxgangs did not ring out over Christmas and New Year.

I haven't been out to Oxgangs for a wee while, so I'm unsure what the latest state of play is with regard to the former church and bell-tower buildings; however, I stumbled across a small item of interest at the weekend regarding the bell. The church bell came from the Trinity College Church in Jeffrey Street and previously was one of Edinburgh's town bells, rung out each morn and at evening-tide. It was cast in Holland in 1632.

Where and when will it ring out again?

Comment from Anonymous:  'This bell is now at Bonaly Scout Centre and rings out frequently...' Sunday, 13 September, 2015
smile emotic

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Dr Motley-A Fascinating Update!

Dr Motley

Hello Peter Hoffmann,

Dr. Arthur P Motley is my Grandfather. I am jumping up and down with joy. I have been searching for my grandfather for quite awhile. I have done google searches before but all I would get would be old dudes from the 1600 and 1700s. I did it today and up pops your blog. I found a lot of unknown information about my grandfather. Thank you. 

As you might be able to tell I'm from the states. My father Lewie Motley pass on in 2006. He was born in McAlester Ok. in 1925, I think that was Dr Motley senior year of High School. My Grandmother and Dr Motley were never married. My father never talk about his father. So I did not start searching for my grandfather until after my father passed. As a teenager I got a chance to go to high school in McAlester Ok. in 1965 at L'Overture. the schools were segregated white only and Black schools until 1968. Some of the teachers I had at L'Overture tough Dr Motley to, they were always talking about how smart he was. While I was living in McAlester I got a chance to meet Dr Motley's mother my great grandmother and his adopted father Rev. Frank Motley. 

Harold Motley

I would like to find Dr Motley's descendants. It would be greatly appreciated for any information about his daughter you can give me. Peter thank you for the treasure of information about my grandfather. I attached a picture of myself to this email.

Harold Motley     


Many thanks for your fascinating e mail-one throws a stone in a pond never knowing where the ripples go! 

I've attached a link to a further update I did on Dr Motley, in case you didn't pick up on that one.

I've also published a book based on the blog and I've attached that link too;

The book includes the blogs and comments on Dr Motley. If you are interested in obtaining a copy I would hold fire, because your e mail is so interesting that I intend to update the book with your comments and additional information. 

It raises many further interesting questions-Did Dr Motley know that he had a son (Lewie) and indeed a grandson (yourself, Harold)? Why did he not marry your 'grandmother'? Did it have any influence on him moving so far away to study in Edinburgh? It's interesting too that both your father and yourself were given the Motley name. Also, that as you visited Dr Motley's parents (your great-grandparents) it begs the question as to whether Dr Motley was actually aware he had a son and grandson. You mention that the Reverend Motley wasn't Dr Motley's real father-I wonder who was? Do you have any memories of his parents-what they were like and what they said about Dr Motley? 

Like you I found it difficult to track down any information on him. If his daughter, Annette, is still alive she must be around 85 years old now. As I wrote, my mother thinks she married a Swedish gentleman. It may be possible to track down information about her through Register House, Edinburgh. My mother was very friendly with Dr Motley and has a lot of information and knowledge about him-they used to meet up for many years each week after he retired until he died. She would be happy to speak to you-her telephone number is 0131 444 0398-bear in mind the time difference in Edinburgh! Her e mail address is 

I would be happy to speak to you too-my number is 07799 673290.

If I can be of any assistance don't hesitate to get in touch. As I wrote, your grandfather was a lovely, remarkable man and a legend in Oxgangs!

All the best.