An Edinburgh childhood: Chorying yaps, tenement shootouts and Tally Toor picnic – Steve Cardownie

I see that Edinburgh recently received another accolade when it was voted the best place in the UK to be a kid, topping the poll with 2.5 times the national average of 41 activities per 1,000 children at 101 events per 1,000 children.

Wagon Train - starring Ward Bond - fuelled the young Steve Cardownie's imagination. Picture: Getty
Wagon Train - starring Ward Bond - fuelled the young Steve Cardownie's imagination. Picture: Getty

It is a far cry from when I was a youngster in Leith when any activities that you were involved in were entirely of your own making and usually involved a ball or such like.

Summer took care of itself with daily trips to Keddie Gardens or Victoria Park to play football, with the former displaying a big sign stating NO BALL GAMES – so it was one eye on the ball and another looking out for the polis.

As autumn approached the attraction of “chorying yaps” took hold – if you are from one of the more genteel suburbs of our fair city a word of explanation would perhaps be of assistance.

The aforementioned activity invariably entailed the scaling of garden walls and the perilous act of climbing trees to relieve them of a little of their burdensome apples. Yaps = young apples.


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Winter was a bit of a bummer with early dark nights and only BBC and ITV to watch on the telly, which did, however, offer up delights such as Bronco, Have Gun Will Travel, Cheyenne, Maverick and Wagon Train (pictured) which fired the imagination and with Winchester Rifle in hand provided scenarios that could readily be enacted up the stairs of the surrounding tenements.

One of our highlights was when we would all gather together and parade down to the docks to the ‘Tally Toor’ (Martello Tower) and have a picnic while watching the latest ship launching from the yards of Henry Robb’s, a sight to behold, especially at our age.

No awards given nor sought after, changed days indeed but memories to be cherished.