‘Last supper’ at Edinburgh’s St Giles as kirk cafe closes after 30 years

ACCORDING to the gospels, Jesus said Man shall not live on bread alone...but it appears visitors to St Giles Cathedral may have to bring their own after the church’s 32-year-old cafe shut down yesterday.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd October 2019, 2:46 am
Linda and David at St Giles Cafe which has closed down.
Linda and David at St Giles Cafe which has closed down.

Long-serving staff accustomed to serving visitors’ temporal needs are said to have been left devastated by an order sending them out of the famous kirk.

The space will from now on, be used for offices.

Linda Auld had been working as a chef in the Saint Giles Cathedral Cafe for more than 30 years.

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She said the news has been a shock and left many upset.

“A lot of the customers have had tears in their eyes when they talked to me about it closing,” she said.

“I am 58 and I was hoping to stay working there until I retired.

“It’s just so sad. All the major events in my life have happened since I worked in that cafe, from having a baby to losing my parents. It was a special place.”

She said cafe manager David McNeill, who had been working there for 20 years, was equally devastated by the news.

When the Edinburgh Evening News spoke with former cafe staff, Mr McNeill was off sick.

“We have both been really affected by it,” she continued, “we spent most of our livelihoods here.”

Roy Campbell, founder of Glenfinlas, the company running the cafe since 2008, said he is devastated for staff and customers.

“It’s a grand old lady of Edinburgh that has vanished,” he said.

“They have clearly decided they don’t want a cafe anymore, and will instead use it as an office space for admin.It’s most likely a cost thing.

“Maybe they aren’t making enough off the cafe. It’s a 21st Century story really.”

Mr Capmbell said since receiving a letter from the church confirming the contract had ended, customers have been shocked by the news.

“I am not sure what the congregation think about it closing,” he said.

“They will certainly have to find somewhere else to go because they met up in the cafe to have their chats. It was also a space that attracted many people of different faiths - Buddhists, Christians and Muslims.”

He said lawyers from the nearby courts also flocked to the cafe and are now slightly at a loose end when it comes to finding somewhere to spend their lunch break.

“It has come as a big surprise to people, but I am mostly concerned about the staff because it really was their livelihood.

“I know they will get jobs, but it was their livelihood.”

The beloved cafe appeared in several guide books and was a “hotspot” during the Edinburgh Fringe according to former staff.

A spokeswoman from Saint Giles Cathedral said the business of the cafe space was not their responsibility.

She said: “The cafe was taken over by a company wholly unconnected with St Giles’ over 10 years ago.

“It would be quite improper for us to comment on the actions or affairs of a company with which we have no connection.”

A Church of Scotland spokeswoman has however confirmed the church will be using the cafe for office space.