Six years ago this Spring I embarked on a project which would alter the course of my life forever.
Back in 2011, I was busy creating a DVD slideshow filled with old images so that my grandad Andrew Boyd could relive the Edinburgh of his childhood.
At 81 years of age, he was beginning to show the tell-tale signs of late-onset dementia. Memories of meeting my granny at the Palais de Danse in Fountainbridge, or working as a wheeltapper at the long-since defunct Princes Street Railway Station (see gentleman staring at camera in main pic) were still as strong as ever, but remembering what you’d said to him 10 minutes ago was hit and miss. And it was getting worse - hence the idea to create the DVD.
Thing is, though, I got a bit carried away with the whole thing...What started out as a one-off afternoon spent in front of the telly, morphed into an obsession for exploring Auld Reekie’s past. A few months later, with thousands of old pictures at my disposal and an ever-increasing amount of knowledge to go with them, I decided to create the Lost Edinburgh Facebook page, an interactive online forum revealing how the city had changed and evolved since the dawn of photography.
I must admit, I did suspect that there might be a few folk out there interested in such a thing, but what was to unfold over the next two weeks was nothing short of extraordinary.
Four days in, the one and only Grant Stott helped kick it all off by raving about the page live on his Forth One breakfast show.
Then, a lovely journalist by the name of Dawn Morrison – from the Edinburgh Evening News no less – phoned me up for my first interview. This was quickly followed by double-page spreads in The Scotsman and Daily Mail.
After just one week we had attracted 20,000 followers.
My abiding memory is of a jubilant grandad phoning me up to say how “bloody brilliant” it all was. He was right.
Now, five and half years on we have over 280,000 loyal followers shared between Lost Edinburgh and its equally-successful sister page Lost Glasgow.
The collective memories which that number of people help to generate for the two sites is every bit as valuable as the photographs which form the main focus of discussion. It’s a bit like adding colour to monochrome.
The page has taken me to some amazing places; appearances on the TV, the radio... interviews in magazines - you name it. I’ve even penned a book with my equally-geeky history chums Fraser Parkinson and Jack Gillon.
And the pièce de résistance: a history/nostalgia column in Edinburgh’s favourite local paper - the text you are reading at this very moment is episode one.
In 2011 I was a fed-up 25-year-old hotel worker; overworked and underpaid. Today, aged 31, through large doses of patience, perseverance and dogged determination, I am now writing full-time for The Scotsman Publications. It’s genuinely something I had never envisaged.
So, thank you Grant, Dawn, all the LE/LG admins (you know who you are!), and the countless others who have all helped to make the two sites what they are. But most of all I’d like to thank my grandad. I miss him every day.