22 photos showing the pre-Scotmid days of Edinburgh’s co-op stores

WHILE co-operative societies continue to exist and thrive in 2019, there’s no denying their glory days belong to the previous century.

Thursday, 21st March 2019, 9:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st March 2019, 9:43 pm
St Cuthbert's Supermarket in Leven Street Tollcross Edinburgh - Exterior - Nearing completion

In Edinburgh, St Cuthbert’s Co-operative Association was the king of the co-ops and the company boasted numerous branches across the city. Leith too, for a time, had its own Leith Provident based at Great Junction Street. Similar to a department store, the co-op offered consumer goods such as household wares, Formica-topped furniture, and the latest fashion trends. But as the 20th century progressed, St Cuthbert’s widened its scope, launching its own dairy, bakery, butchers, funeral services and a whole host of other offerings. Each customer was also a stakeholder of sorts and was assigned their own unique multi-digit ‘divi’ or dividend number, which would see them receive a remuneration at the end of the financial year, based on how much they had purchased and how much profit the co-op had accrued in total. Even to this day, if you speak to a former St Cuthbert’s shopper, they’ll more than likely remember their mum’s divi number. Some things you just never forget. The name of St Cuthbert’s - or “the store” as it was universally known in Edinburgh - vanished in 1981 when the company merged with Dalziel’s of Motherwell to become the Scottish Midland Co-operative Society; a firm we know today as Scotmid.

A line-up of St Cuthbert's Co-op horses, drivers and carts at the dairy depot in Fountainbridge.
The Juniper Green branch had self-service. Customers were happy to leave their shopping bags on the shelves in the foreground.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mr Anderson with Jackie the milk horse from the St Cuthbert's Co-operative horses' stables in Grove Street Fountainbridge in November 1975.
The frontage of the new Leith store. Leith Provident merged with St Cuthbert's in 1975.
Formica-topped kitchen units and other wares at the Leith Co-op.
The furniture department.
A woman checks out the Christmas window display at St Cuthberts Co-Operative Association on Nicolson Street.
Kitchen equipment at the Great Junction Street store.
The cabin became separated and its fall broken by a wall at Bristo Street.
St Cuthberts Co-op provided the coach used in Edinburgh by King Olav of Norway during his state visit to Scotland in October 1962.
The semi-derelict property on the corner of Nicolson Street and West Richmond Street had previously been the St Cuthbert's store but was earmarked for demolition in 1979.
St Cuthberts Co-op Association bakery - Pan loaf production line.
Horses Teddy and Falcon were getting spruced up for a visit to Newcastle to take part in the Blaydon Races Centenary Celebrations.
Horses and carriages at the Royal Highland Show in Ingliston.
The 'new' self-service store in Drum Street Gilmerton showing shelves of tinned goods and cold meats.
The new paint and wallpaper shop in Bread Street.
Sandy the runaway St Cuthberts milk horse bolted in Corstorphine Road Edinburgh in July 1974. Scaffies clear up the smashed milk bottles outside the newsagents.
The former Leith Provident and clock tower on Great Junction Street in 1981.
The new St Cuthbert's supermarket on Leven Street - which remains a Scotmid to this day - was nearing completion in 1959.
A covered wagon outside the Sighthill branch of St Cuthberts' Co-operative Association Ltd.
Fire engines attended a blaze at the St St Cuthberts Co-op in Bread Street.
Exterior of St Cuthbert's Co-operative department store at the junction of Bread Street and Fountainbridge, January 1979.