Lost Edinburgh: the Pilrig Muddle

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The dividing line between Edinburgh and Leith provided many a headache prior the merging of the two burghs in 1920.

One well-documented issue is that of the different licensing laws which pertained to Leith and Edinburgh. The aptly-named Boundary bar located at 379 Leith Walk had to entrance doors, one on either side of the divide. Edinburgh served alcohol until 9:30pm at which point that side of the bar would empty and the customers would spill over to the Leith side to enjoy an extra hour’s worth of boozing.

From 1871 to 1899 the entire stretch of Leith Walk between both burghs could be covered using the horse-drawn tram service. This convenience came to an end in October 1899 when Edinburgh’s transport authorities decided to extend the city’s cable system. Leith Town Council weren’t keen on the idea and pursued electrification of their tramways instead. The argument resulted in a loophole at the Pilrig boundary whereby passengers would be forced to disembark their tramcar and effectively switch systems. On a busy day the sight of this in action would have been quite comical. The oddity known as the Pilrig Muddle was born and it continued until Edinburgh advanced to the electric system in 1922.