'The Venchie'

Playground at Craigmillar

Around 1978

Children's playground 'The Venchie' - Craigmillar, Around 1978

© Reproduced with acknowledgement to Andrew Crummy                                                                                Photographer not known


'The Venchie'

Thank you to Andrew Crummy for allowing me to reproduce this photograph.

The photo, which comes from Andrew's mother's collection, is of 'The Venchie', a children's playground close to Craigmillar School.  The playground was popular with the many children who lived on the nearby Niddrie estate.

On the FLICKR web site, a contributor named 'Peter Pan's Wee Brother' says:

-  he is in the photo, near the front, but only his legs can be seen because three children are hanging from him.

-  the playground used to be run by Ron Aitken, assisted by Ron Crosbie.

-  the photo would have been taken in 1973*, soon after the playground opened.

*  In fact, this photo appears to have been taken a little later.  See Recollections 1 below.

Here is photo taken of the playground in winter.   I don't know which year it was taken.

Children's playground 'The Venchie' - Craigmillar, in winter  -  which year? ©




Stewart Fraser


Thank you to Stewart Fraser who wrote:


    Children's playground 'The Venchie' - Craigmillar, 1973 ©

"This photo is shown as being 1973**, but it is more like 1978.

 I know most of the people in the photo.

Stewart Fraser, Niddrie:  2 September 2013

Date of the Photo

**  I've now corrected the date shown for the photo at the top of this page.

Who is in this Photo?

I've asked Stewart if he can tell me the names of some of the people in this photo.

Update:  Thank you for your reply Stewart.  (See Recollections 2 below.)

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:   6 September 2013




Stewart Fraser


Thank you to Stewart Fraser for writing again.

Stewart wrote:

The Venchie

"I still live in Niddrie and still see a few of the people who are in this photo of the Venchie.  I used to live next door to Combes, born in 1969.

I played in the Venchie for years.  I used to go there every day:

-  we built huts out of doors

-  we played pool

-  we went to the disco.

Here is a copy of the photo of the Venchie, with the names that I know added to it:

© Reproduced with acknowledgement to Andrew Crummy for providing the photo and to Stewart Fraser for adding the names..

Stewart added:

"I have some great memories of those times at the Venchie.

I also have fond memories of The Merry and the Bingo." ***

Stewart Fraser, Niddrie:  6+7 September 2013

***  I've asked Stewart if he can tell me more about the Merry and the Bingo.

I also mentioned to Stewart that I had originally thought that the name 'The Venchie' referred just to the adventure playground at Niddrie, but it appears from his comments that it also included some of the indoor activities beside the adventure playground.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:   15 September 2013

Stewart has replied in his Recollections 3 below.




Stewart Fraser


Thank you to Stewart Fraser for replying to my question and comments that I added after his Recollections 2 above.

Stewart wrote:

The Merry

"The Merry was a nickname for a large common area that was surrounded by houses. It had some swings and a few steel bars you could swing on.

There were small trees around this common area and when it rained we used these for shelter until the rain went off. Sometimes we would have a few sneaky cans of Tennents lager in the trees, hoping nobody would notice."

County Bingo

"County Bingo was next to the Launderette.  We had many nights of fun there."     Please click on the photo below to enlarge it.

The County Cinema and Rex Launderette, Craigmillar ©

"We often tormented the staff there by knocking on the door and running away.  It was great for us, but it must have been a real pain for the owners."

The Venchie

"The whole complex was called 'The Venchie'.  This included the indoor activities.

Stewart Fraser, Niddrie:  18 September 2013 (2 emails)




John Arthur


Thank you to John Arthur who wrote:

History of The Venchie

Funding in the Early Days

"The Venchie opened opened in the early-1960s.

Children's playground 'The Venchie' - Craigmillar, 1973 ©

It was part-funded by the local residents including my ma, Annie Arthur (Annie Beatson at that time), and the University Settlement where many of the early volunteers were pooled from.

My mother and other local parents ran Beetle Drives and what could be described as a ‘numbers racket’ using the Sunday Post football scores with the first to 21 goals collecting the jackpot.  I understand that this has been recently revived in the area."


"The location was between the Wee Free Church and the University Settlement building at around 63 Niddrie Mains Terrace.

There was an Adventure Playground movement in the 1960s and this is where the idea originated.

Early activities included being rolled down the small hills in wooden barrels and playing in old cars in the playground, before railway sleepers and the ubiquitous telegraph poles were liberally utilised."

Webber Belts

"One of my favourite memories was of going into the Venchie one afternoon when I was a bairn and the big laddies were practicing using their ‘webber’ belts. These were army surplus webbing belts, liberally adorned with metal studs and chains which they used for fighting.

These guys were seeing how fast they could whip the belt off and hit the wooden poles (stand-ins for other gang members). There was a technique for fast draws and I was mesmerized by how quick they could get the belt off and hit the target in one swift movement."

Youth Workers

"The first Youth Workers that I remember were a married Israeli couple called Ozzy and Jaffa Popperoffski (probably spelled differently).  They were lovely people.

I liked Ron Aitken too.  He forgave me in later years for the torment we occasionally put him and his staff through over the years."

John Arthur, Edinburgh:  March 4, 2014