Waverley Bar faces uncertain future after owner’s death

The Waverley in St Mary's Street. Picture: Dan Phillips
The Waverley in St Mary's Street. Picture: Dan Phillips
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A RENOWNED Old Town pub which has hosted performances from the likes of Ronnie Browne and Billy Connolly faces an uncertain future after its owner died.

Ian Walker, whose family have run the Waverley Bar in St Mary’s Street for almost 100 years, passed away at the end of last year – and the bar has been closed ever since.

I have spent many a night in the Waverley having a drink with friends and we revelled in the unique atmosphere. I had nothing but respect for Ian who ran his pub his own way and stayed true to that through the years.

Claire Morrison

Mr Walker oversaw the bar’s heyday as it became famous across the Capital for its live folk sessions.

Boasting dozens of festival posters, an old-fashioned interior that’s never changed since the day it opened and just three choices of beer, the Waverley Bar offered a different experience for pub-goers.

Friends and staff paid tribute to Mr Walker, who was said to have barred customers from swearing and using mobile phones.

Donald Smith, director of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, said: “I’ve known Ian Walker since we started working in the bar in 1989.

“When we first started the storytelling there it had a great tradition as a folk music venue.

“The general atmosphere was always ideal and Mr Walker was a complete gentleman.

“This pub was a jewel in Edinburgh’s Old Town.”

Frank McGrail, a volunteer with Edinburgh World Heritage, told how he interviewed Mr Walker shortly before he died. He said the pub had been one of the liveliest venues in the Capital and attracted many well-known Irish folk bands.

It hosted the Clancy Brothers and the Dubliners, as well as welcoming French actress Juliette Greco, and Scottish singer-songwriter Barbara Dickson, who both sang there.

However, in its most recent years, the Waverley’s upstairs room became the venue for the “Guid Crack Club”, a storytelling club involving song and music run by the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Tributes to Mr Walker were posted on social media.

Claire Morrison wrote: “So sad to hear this, I have spent many a night in the Waverley having a drink with friends and we revelled in the unique atmosphere. I had nothing but respect for Ian who ran his pub his own way and stayed true to that through the years. These independent pubs are such a dying breed, I hope it is taken into good hands.”

But while they mourn their boss, staff at the pub have told of their fears for its future.

The venue has been closed since Mr Walker’s death and workers said they had no information about when or if it would be reopened.

It’s understood that Mr Walker has no immediate family to take over the running of the bar.

Staff manager Christie Woods said: “I would love to have the bar reopened just as it was when it closed. At this stage we don’t know what will happen. It was an iconic place during the late 60s and 70s, and historically it has never changed.

“It’s been owned by the same family for almost 100 years.”

courtney.cameron@edinburghnews.com