Your memories: ‘I worried I’d never see my flat again’

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Morrice Skilling from the website Edinburgh Past And Present recalls the Caltongate fire, ten years ago yesterday.

“I lived opposite the Leisureland building on South Bridge at the time of the big fire. Around 8.30pm I noticed fire engines outside, but this was a regular occurrence. Half an hour later, I noticed they had stopped the traffic, and watched as they cleared the street, but I still couldn’t see much except some smoke at the side windows.

“Suddenly the front windows of Leisureland blew out and flames licked up the building. By now I realised this must be serious, but continued to watch as flames leapt out of all the windows. By 10.30pm I was in a total panic as thick black smoke was blowing down the street, so black I couldn’t see anything at all out my windows. All the lights in Niddry Street behind me had gone out,. At 11pm, I saw the roof explode and rain fire over the area.

“As I was in an attic flat, I thought my building would catch fire too, so I ran out, opening the stair door cautiously in case the black smoke was flowing down the street. Luckily it had changed direction, so I ran outside and found myself in the middle of a police cordon. They asked where I’d come from and let me out, so I went to a pub and stayed with a friend that night.

“Walking to his house along George IV bridge at 1am we were choking with the smoke and I was worried I’d never see my flat again.

“I kept looking at some clothes I’d bought on the morning of the fire in a shop that was burned to the ground. For days after, I had to get a police escort every time I wanted to get back to my flat, but slowly things got back to normal.”