Nostalgia: What a way to make a living. .

n the third in our series looking back at life in the 1950s, we delve into the world of work.

FROM the Pencaitland and Penkaet mines to the breweries dotted around the Capital belching out noxious smells. From the array of factories hand-producing everything from confectionery to haggis, and the basic offices devoid of computers, fax machines and mobile telephones. It's safe to say that over the past 50 years the world of work has evolved beyond imagination.

Fast-forward to today and much of the Lothians' heavy industry has evaporated. Digging underground ceased decades ago, while machines transformed the working lives of both men and women, resulting in repetitive tasks such as packaging foodstuffs becoming a thing of the past. There are some things, however, which time and technology will never change.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This fascinating era has been brought back to life in a new book, titled Edinburgh and the Lothians in the 1950s. It explores many of the photographs held in the archives of the Evening News and The Scotsman, and offers an insight into another age.

Today, in the third in our series of excerpts from the book, we see that the 1950s at work in the Lothians was, all too often, hard and tiring labour.

Back in the 1950s Edinburgh was an altogether different place. There was the Walls Ice Cream factory in Craigmillar, and Adolph Teurer's wig factory in Canonmills. In 1959, Leith wine and spirits merchants JG Thomson and Co Ltd – whose wines were stored in The Vaults – celebrated their 250th anniversary, while Edinburgh's largest factory, the North British Rubber Company at Castle Mills, employed 3700 people making everything from golf balls to tyres and hot water bottles.

Our picture shows the hands-on approach from the all-female workforce, laboriously making Wellington boots.

Meanwhile, Market Street traders unloaded their fruit and veg to sell.

When it came to construction, workmen held on with ropes and braved the elements – and heights, as our picture shows. Here, a construction worker goes about his duties for the building of the Edinburgh University Medical School in 1959, on nothing more than some planks of wood high above the ground.

However, changes were afoot. In October 1956, the council launched electrically operated dust carts instead of the hand-pushed ones, and three years later an "electric blanket" was laid under the Tarmac on The Mound. The stretch of road there was deemed too hazardous for drivers, so engineers came up with a scheme that used heated mesh to warm up the road and thaw the ice. Their idea proved less than satisfactory though, and was unplugged a few years later.

Through time, of course, advancements came. Machines increasingly replaced people, and the nature of work itself evolved. The 1950s saw the dawn of some of these new ideas, and in a era of great change, Edinburgh was right at the heart of things.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Edinburgh and the Lothians in the 1950s is available to readers at a special offer price of 9.99 (12.99) by calling 0808-180 2008 or visiting