Brian Monteith: Portobello’s soul still lingers but will it survive?

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Travelling around Porty the other day brought back all sorts of memories about how much it has changed in my lifetime.

Gone is the Open Air Pool, with only great memories left of “It’s a Knock Out” being staged there, skipping school in the June afternoons to bask in the fleeting sun and the brilliant wave machine where you could act out “Moby Dick” or “Captains Courageous” by trying to stay on the raft.

Gone too, my favourite Porty building of all, the giant red brick Portobello Power Station – a wonderful tribute to Scottish design and engineering. It could have been put to good use rather than bulldozed for flats (as usual) but there was no lottery money in the 80s for such creative ideas.

Now Porty High School, my alma mater where three generations of Monteiths trod, has relocated next to the golf course and in the last month its former towering edifice on Duddingston Road has been erased. That was a gulp moment.

While the beach remains a draw and the High Street still has some great shops there’s only the lovely Porty Baths left that give me a tangible link to my past. Porty’s a great part of Edinburgh to live and raise a family, but to retain a soul we need more than just houses, and yet more houses.

Give park its dew

Another relic of Edinburgh’s past that still survives but would benefit from some encouragement is washing your face in the dew on the first day of May.

Holyrood Park was my backyard as a youth; a hop skip and a jump and I was poaching perch from St Margaret’s Loch, clambering up St Anthony’s Chapel rocks and careering down Haggis Knowe on cardboard boxes – all while avoiding the “Parkies” who would discourage anything remotely like fun. Rods, golf clubs and cardboard could be confiscated with a good talking to!

Every year I would see brave folks drawing upon a long forgotten pagan ritual by traipsing up Arthur’s Seat and smothering their faces in the morning dew. What a great laugh it could be. Not so many do it now, the Beltane Fire Festival the evening before has garnered all the publicity and so it is less well known, but it still makes for great fun – if Edinburgh’s cold wind isn’t howling and the rain lashing down.