Your memories: ‘We had an inside toilet which was a privilege’

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HARRY Hawthorne, 94, grew up in a two-bedroomed tenement flat in St Leonard’s. Here he recalls a happy, if poor, childhood in the 1930s.

“It was in the Pleasance, in a tenement near St Leonard’s Street. There were shops at street level and houses above. Four storeys high, the flats consisted of two rooms. We had an inside toilet which was quite a privilege.

There were 16 flats and my family consisted of my parents, five boys and one girl – and we were looked upon as a small family. My parents slept in the alcove bed in the living room and the rest of us slept in the other room, mainly on the floor.

People often ask if we ever had other children to play with – well, we had at least 64 children in this one stair. Our playing spaces were the back green, which was a concrete affair so not much use, and the street – the most popular venue. The boys played football in the street every day. There was a very limited amount of traffic – horse and carts and only the occasional car.”

The boys, he says, would play heedless to what was going on around them, until they felt a clout on the side of their head. “A policeman had grabbed you on the collar. That was a risk you had to run. The other place we frequented was Holyrood Park, especially in the school holidays. We spent hours there if the weather was suitable.”

Saturday matinees at the cinema were also popular. “I think you got in for about a penny and your mother was glad to get you out of the way. Once we had seen the complete programme, being boys we became a bit boisterous. We used to drop from the balcony to where the other children were sitting down below until the attendants collared us and ejected us into the street.”