Portobello piano man ordered to leave the beach

Ben Treuhaft, 66, at his tent on Portobello Beach. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Ben Treuhaft, 66, at his tent on Portobello Beach. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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MADCAP pensioner Ben Treuhaft spent almost five months living on the beach with his upright piano after his fed-up wife kicked him out of their home.

Now, the 66-year-old and his trusted instrument have been kicked off the sandy spot by Edinburgh City Council chiefs.

Mr Treuhaft, who works as a professional piano tuner, lived on Portobello beach throughout the summer, where he tinkled the ivories for curious visitors.

But after 20 weeks, he has been forced to pack up his belongings, including the piano, because he has lost an appeal against his long-standing eviction.

It comes days after Mr Treuhaft’s piano was found dumped on Morrison Street after – fearing eviction – he swapped the instrument with a cafe owner for a sausage roll and cup of coffee.

The action was brought against him by the city council, which said his musical project was in breach of the authority’s park and management rules.

The father-of-two appealed the move for weeks, but has now given into a final ruling which required him to move within 24 hours.

Mr Treuhaft, who has no clear idea where he will take the piano tent, said: “I had the best time at the beach, but now I’ve been evicted.

“I didn’t expect this outcome, but I lost the case and I’m going to move.”

The American-born musician is the son of a Mitford sister who rebelled against her fascist upbringing, ran away to Spain and married a communist nephew of Winston Churchill.

He honed his piano skills in New York and spent some time in Japan before moving to the Capital where he opened a shop last year.

Mr Treuhaft left his family home in Morningside and moved to the seaside after an argument with his wife.

“I was going to fight the council on the beaches, but it turns out I don’t have a leg to stand on,” he said.

“At least I gave it a good fight. The council said they would like me to move within 24 hours or they would charge me full cost for the action.

“They have the legal right to remove me at their pleasure and I think it was fair how they went about it.

“The council has been lovely but their lawyers have been vicious. I asked if I could work it off with piano tuning but they told me ‘absolutely not’.”

Council chiefs said the musical tent breached the city’s management rules which

prohibit camping within one mile of a public road.

The local authority finally triumphed over the piano tuner after he lost his appeal against the eviction.

Mr Treuhaft said: “I was going to stay there forever, but at this point I’ll have to sleep on it. I will just move out and think of a new place where we can put the public piano.

“The only thing I can think of is to retreat to my piano shop, but I might move it down London. We’ll see what happens. ‘Stay tuned’ is all I have to say to the people. “

A council spokeswoman said: “The Sheriff Court today granted the council an immediate extract to evict, and Mr Treuhaft has agreed to have his belongings removed from Portobello beach.

“We are pleased that this matter has now been concluded.”

Mr Treuhaft survived by washing at the nearby Portobello Swim Centre and dining at the Old Portobello Parish Church cafe.