IT was a Canongate institution, with sawdust on the floor and boxing posters on its walls. The Snug Bar, better known as the skeechan shop, was only open on a Sunday and closed in 1956 – but is remembered by many.
Here, Willie Struthers, 75, of Saughton, recalls the Sunday drinking den started by his grandfather and continued by his father, both also called Willie.
“It was started between the wars by my grandfather. It was opposite Murray’s House. It had a boxing ring in the back – the prize fighters from the El Dorado stadium in Leith used to come when there was nothing doing there for private bouts.” Later the shop opened at smaller premises, without the boxing ring, at Wilson’s Court, opposite Canongate Kirk.
“There were no clubs or pubs allowed to sell drink on Sundays then, but the men wanted somewhere to go to talk about the football and sort the world out. Skeechan was an actual brew, a very raw brew, but it wasn’t alcoholic enough to be termed an alcoholic drink. We made it and bottled it on a Tuesday and sold it on a Sunday.”
The shop only opened on a Sunday – Mr Struthers’ father was a window cleaner the rest of the week – from 9am to 6pm. The skeechan, which cost 6d a pint, was brewed using sugar, yeast and soap bark, which was bought from Napiers. “That’s what gave it its head,” explains Mr Struthers. Liquid yeast came from the brewery next door. “You got quite a nice brew. We bottled around 200 dozen bottles and it was hard work.”
The shop closed in 1956 when Mr Struthers’ father died at the age of 53 from cancer, although by then trade was declining as Sunday licensing laws had changed.