Looking west towards Fountainbridge.
Looking west towards Fountainbridge.

'Forgotten' cache of photographs reveals 1970s Tollcross and Fountainbridge

Photographs taken in 1975 find a new lease of life online

Thursday, 2nd April 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd April 2020, 12:09 pm

A former Edinburgh art student has uncovered a rare set of photographs giving an extraordinary glimpse into mid-Seventies Tollcross and Fountainbridge.

Spanning multiple rolls of film, the negatives which Morningside-born Pete White produced had been squirreled away in boxes for more than 40 years when he took the decision to digitise them.

The results were uploaded on to the Lost Edinburgh Facebook group, evoking a strong range of emotions among the popular nostalgia site's almost 40,000 followers.

The photos all date from November 1975, when the likes of the Bay City Rollers and Billy Connolly were flying high towards the top end of the hit parade.

Pete at that time was studying architecture at the Edinburgh College of Art and had become engaged in an assignment to record nearby street scenes.

Equipped with his trusty Pentax Spotmatic SP1000, a 21st birthday gift from Pete's parents, the now 66-year-old ventured around two districts that were once both the gateway and epicentre of Edinburgh's industrial prowess but were changing at a rapid rate.

Speaking to the Evening News, Pete, a retired charity executive, agreed the photographs were now historically valuable as they showed examples of architecture and slices of seventies culture that are now long gone, including the Scottish & Newcastle brewery lands at Fountainbridge and the legendary Goldbergs department store that once stood near the main junction at Tollcross.

Recalling the sights around the two areas at the time, Pete commented: "Goldbergs was standing out like a sore thumb and a number of buildings had been demolished.

"The place wasn't exactly thriving, I don't think, and it was caught between the industrial side of Fountainbridge area and the Meadows. An interesting combination, where a number of roads meet and things happen."

Pete's forgotten cache of photos show the many lost businesses and buildings that once typified the streets they belonged to.

Demolished dance halls such as the Americana discotheque, the former Palais de Danse - by then a bingo hall - and the many long since vanished tenements and brewery and factory buildings are among some of the most notable cameos.

People, too, were changing. While many older generations could still be seen wearing suits, vests, trench coats and head scarves, fashion-conscious youths make an appearance in many of Pete's photographs with their long hair, patterned skirts, open-collar shirts and flared trousers.

One element that Pete's series can merely allude to, however, are the smells that accompanied the sights of industrial Fountainbridge, where a canal, a brewery and a rubber factory were once in close proximity.

Pete added: "I now live at Shandon. When I go down the canal I can see a massive difference there in particular where the Fountainbridge basin is for the canal - the differences there are huge.

"The one thing I don't catch in the photographs is the smell. The brewery and rubber works were something else."

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