Nostalgia: ‘Canonmills was much less genteel than today’

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ALLAN Dodds is the author of Laughin’ on the ither side o’ ma face, an autobiographical account of Edinburgh written through a child’s eyes.

Here, he shares a section of the book.

“According to my birth certificate I was born in a private clinic in Palmerston Place on May 23rd, 1943. When the consultant obstetrician learned that my father was a low earning insurance clerk currently fighting in Germany for our freedom he waived his fee.

“Much later I was to find out that on the day before, 2000 tons of British bombs had been dropped on Dortmund.

“On the following day, my first full day on earth, a further 2000 tons of bombs and incendiaries were dropped on Dusseldorf. Later in that week, Essen was bombed, followed by Hamburg. In Europe, more newborn babies such as myself would have perished than survived.

“But of course, as an infant, I was blissfully unaware of such a backdrop to my new existence, although I was gradually to become aware of the deprivations and dangers faced daily by those around us in our tenement block in Howard Street, Canonmills, where I grew up to become an Edinburgh lad.

“In those days the Canonmills area was a much less genteel place than it is today as there was still a fair amount of industrial activity around there.

“All through the night I would listen to the sound of the huge beam saw rasping back and forth over a block of granite on which the following morning stonemasons would carve the name of some Edinburgh dignitary, before transporting it by horse and cart along the road by the Water of Leith to Warriston Cemetery where it may still stand.”