Ex-paper staff recalls Scotsman building's glory days

Liz Reid was just shy of her 17th birthday when she got a job in The Scotsman's advertising and notices department on North Bridge.

Saturday, 23rd June 2018, 6:00 am
Liz Reid, who used to work at The Scotsman reception

She spent her days measuring advertisements to work out the cost to the company or individual and worked with nine other women in what was known as the “front office”.

Lined up in front of the marble desk the women look chic in their brand new uniforms from Patrick Thomson’s department store, every hair in place and toes daintily pointed to the camera.

It was 1964 and Edinburgh was an exciting place to be, so much so that the then teenager admits that her “head was full of other things”.

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The Grand Cafe is part of The Scotsman Hotel on the Bridges. Picture: Greg Macvean

Liz, pictured second from the right, remembers lots about that time but little about work matters and less about her colleagues.

She said: “I worked closely with Ishbel McKillop (fourth from the right) and we went for tea breaks together but everyone else was in different departments.”

With the launch of the new Grand Cafe at the iconic Scotsman building, in the very spot that housed the room where Liz, now 71, worked, the Evening News is on the hunt for the other women immortalised in the sepia photograph that Liz has cherished all these years.

Owners of the new eatery are keen to serve them a slap-up meal and recreate the original line-up.

The new Grand Cafe at North Bridge.

Liz was hired for her office and secretarial skills, honed at her first job after she left school at military tailors William Jardine & Sons on Forth Street.

Her head for numbers meant that she quickly secured a role working for Scotland’s biggest newspaper.

The only other person she can remember from that time was a workman’s apprentice who was finishing off the newly renovated office where she was housed.

His name was Jimmy McAinsh and he was working for his dad’s joinery company when the chatty teen caught his eye.

Liz Reid, who used to work at The Scotsman reception - Liz second from right, in the reception.

Liz said: “We went on one or two dates. He took me to The Gamp dance hall on Victoria Terrace where they played rock ‘n’ roll and disco. It was great fun but nothing serious.”

She was paid £7 a week at The Scotsman, a princely sum for the Stockbridge-born girl whose family were loyal Evening News readers.

She bought herself a leather saddle bag with her first paycheck which lasted for years until it eventually frayed and gave up the ghost.

She said: “It was exciting to work for a newspaper but we didn’t have any contact with the journalists who entered and left the building by the steps on Cockburn Street but I did get asked by a photographer to be his model one day.”

She posed among the flowers in Princes Street Gardens in a shoot dedicated to the awakening of spring where she was snapped laughing and jumping among the blooms.

She remembers a cheeky copy boy who used to while away his days tucked up in a gallery above the advertising ladies and pelting them with elastic bands about their legs.

One day the women took revenge by stuffing him into a wastepaper basket and dousing him in cheap perfume before they smeared him with lipstick and sent him on his way.

After 18 months Liz was looking for pastures new when a friend, keen to try her luck in London, persuaded her to relocate down south.

Liz’s father would only approve the move if she secured herself a job before she left so a role was secured at the Fleet Street offices of The Scotsman. She was employed as a shorthand typist for five reporters but lasted only a few weeks.

She said: “I could do it but not as well as they expected I would. I just couldn’t keep up. I had to keep asking them to repeat themselves which didn’t go down well. They were not amused.”

Liz has been invited to the opening of the Grand Cafe next weekend where she will enjoy the seasonal menu devised by executive head chef and former Masterchef: The professionals finalist Chris Niven.

The renovated restaurant space has brought the walnut wood panelling, marble pillars and ornate cornicing that dates back to when Liz worked there back to life.

She said: “I’m really looking forward to seeing it. I hope that lots of memories come back. I really enjoyed my time there.”