Storyteller kicks up a stink about Seafield smell for Leith Festival

Marie Louise Cochrane with some of the lyrics to Stinks on the Links. Picture: Greg Macvean
Marie Louise Cochrane with some of the lyrics to Stinks on the Links. Picture: Greg Macvean
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THE notorious Seafield stench has sparked many angry phone calls and letters, quite a few demonstrations and numerous meetings over the years.

But professional storyteller Marie Louise Cochrane – better known as Mrs Mash – who lives close to Leith Links, one of the worst-affected areas, decided she would write a song about the pong.

The mother-of-three penned her verses eight years ago, at one of the points when the smell from the sewage works was at its worst. She only shared it with a few friends and the odour later became less dominating.

But now there is a new stench, as revealed by the Evening News last month, and Ms Cochrane has revived her protest song.

Now she plans to perform It Stinks on the Links at the upcoming Leith Festival and more widely.

She said: “We’ve lived in Gladstone Place, right at Leith Links, for 20 years. I wrote the song in 2008 when it was bad before and subsequently it has been much better.

“My son was at St Mary’s Primary School at Leith Links at the time and he was regularly retching from the smell – he really suffered.

“This new smell is different – and it feels poisonous. At least before you knew it was sewage. Now we don’t know what it is or what’s in it.”

Residents say the new smell is like burning rubber and metal and is coming into their homes at night, waking people up.

They fear it could pose a health risk and say they have traced the problem to a new piece of equipment at the sewage plant which works like a pressure cooker, turning sewage into fertiliser.

Ms Cochrane, 48, is angered by the latest turn of events. “I lived through the last lot of problems with the stench and I thought it was over.

“Although I wrote the protest song back then, it was just my song and I sang it to a couple of friends. I wasn’t very active in campaigning then.

“But now we have this new problem – when it’s sunny I can’t open my windows. I’ve got rid of a lot of chemicals from my house and now I can’t open a window because it doesn’t feel safe to be breathing this air.

“There’s the primary school at the Links, the children play outside.

“We don’t know how it might affect people’s health. This is our air.

“We need someone to say what’s happening, why it’s happening and when it’s going to stop.”

Rob Kirkwood, of Leith Links Residents Association, welcomed Ms Cochrane’s musical protest. He said: “We engaged in some street theatre when the campaign began. People can express concern in a variety of ways and it all helps highlight the problems the community is experiencing.

“The concern about this new smell is widespread.”

Scottish Water, which owns the Seafield plant, has said it takes all complaints about odour extremely seriously and it is liaising with the regulators – Sepa and the city council – and site operators Veolia to ascertain whether or not the smell relates to the plant.

The council said it had investigated the smell but had not been able to identify a source and would look into any further complaints.

It stinks on the links

If you wanna take your kids out to play

you better check the wind direction today

cos theres something in the atmosphere

and what it is is all too clear

It stinks on the Links x4

If you want to go for a run

I’m warning you now it won’t be much fun

you may wish to improve your health

but if you breathe too deep you’ll sicken yourself

It stinks on the Links x4

If you’re working on your veggie patch

or like to sit outside then there’s a catch

the stink will come and visit you

it’ll put a damper on your barbecue

It stinks on the Links x4

The children walk to school and they play outside

and you think its healthy til you realise

that the air is poisoned so we’re asking why?

When will this stink ever end?

It stinks on the Links x4