Edinburgh New Town
- between India Street and Howe Street
History of the Street
Jamaica Street was planned, in 1802, as
the only street of artisan housing in Edinburgh's Northern New Town.
The street was were demolished in 1960 and the site was redeveloped as
Jamaica Mews in 1981.
Source: The Place
Names of Edinburgh (Stuart Harris)
Demolition - Update
Tim Jeffrey, London
Thank you to Tim Jeffrey who wrote:
"I lived in a top floor flat at 7 India Street,
overlooking Jamaica Street, from 1964 until 1978.
I remember walking along Jamaica Street to go to Sinclair’s grocery
store, so the street was lived in at least
though into 1965.
remember, well, the
trepidation I had as a 5-year-old
walking along a very run-down street;
I normally took the longer Heriot Row route.
Jamaica Street lay derelict and empty for a
period, so it cannot have been demolished
until at least 1965 or 1966. I remember watching
the ‘bongers’ for hours as it was demolished.
Does anyone have any photographs of Jamaica Street?"
Jeffrey, London: August 18, 2010
Thank you to Ian Sergent who wrote:
Living in Jamaica Street
father, Robert Sergent, was born
in Jamaica Street and lived there in the
He left in 1955, came to England
and joined the RAF just to get out of the poverty and have three
meals a day.
hard to believe some of the stories he tells me -
they sound more Victorian than 20th century.
He had a brother,
Alan, and has two sisters,
Agnus and Jenny.
grandfather (my father's father) was
doorman at the Regal Picture House.
"In Edinburgh, my father was friends with Jim Patience. He
would like to get in touch with Jim again, if at all possible.
Does anybody know where he is now? I
hope you can help."
Ian Sergent, Redditch, Worcestershire, England: September 10,
you know how to contact Jim Patience. If so, please email me,
then I'll pass on your message to Ian.
- Peter Stubbs: September 10, 2009
Thank you to Robert Williamson who wrote:
"Ian Sergent has been looking for a friend of his father, Jim
Patience. There is a Jim Prentice now living in Alberta.
He comes from Leith, at about the same time"
Eddie gave me the email address for Jim Patience of Alberta.
I've now passed it on to Ian Sergent.
Robert (Eddie) Williamson, Pickering, Ontario, Canada: May 14, 2010
Thank you to Pat Brown who wrote:
Living in Jamaica Street
dad moved to Jamaica Street from Boness when he was about 11 after
his mother died. He never told me about what it was like there and I
would be thrilled if I could find out now.
He was the youngest of 11 children and he was called James Brown.
Could you tell me about him and where he lived?
His brothers' names were Robert, Matthew, William and John
His sisters' names were Annie, Jennie and Lizzy
There were also others that I don't know anything about.
It would be nice if you could tell me about them as well."
Pat Brown: May 11, 2010
don't know anything about Pat's dad's family myself, but perhaps
somebody else will know about them. If you'd like to send a
message to Pat, please email me, then I'll pass it on.
Peter Stubbs: May 13, 2010
Thank you to Stewart Mayne who wrote:
Banned from Jamaica
"My mother was born and brought up in India Street,
from 1919 until the war. She used to
tell me that she and her brother and sister were banned from Jamaica
Street when they were little.
Once, they sneaked off there and bought
sweeties. Eventually they confessed to their father what they had
done because people had told them they would be poisoned by the
sweets sold there.
Luckily he said that they would be unlikely to be ill,
but might have had short measure. He was
very sensible and became a noted judge."
Visits to India Street
When I was little, I used to go with my
mother on the tram from Morningside to visit the grandparents at
India Street. I don't remember going into Jamaica Street
which seemed to be full of tenements.
I do recall a barrel organ lady on the corner of Charlotte Square,
and the milkman making a noise on the cobbles with his pony and
The India Street house had a rear extension with bath, designed by
Basil Spence (!) and a coach house on Gloucester Lane (?).
My memories are vague because it was 60 years ago."
Stewart Mayne, near Ashbourne,
Derbyshire, England: June 28, 2011
Thank you to Al Love who wrote:
asking how Jamaica Street used to be. Well, I can tell you my
experiences of the street as I lived at No.40, first flat,
for a short time with my Auntie Nan Hamilton my uncle
Jimmy and cousins Richard and Wilma in 1949-50.
Here is a photo of my Aunt Nan, in
her younger days, standing on the bridge at Deanhaugh Street,
Reproduced with acknowledgement to Al Love, Leith, Edinburgh
reason for my stay in Jamaica St. was my Mother passed away in June
1949 and the family thought it would be
too much for my Father to look after my Sister and
myself, so we went to stay with my Dad's
Sister, but strangely he couldn't live
street had a terrible reputation,
but I enjoyed my short stay there because I liked my
were quite a few Pubs and on a Friday and Saturday
night we would sit at the window, no telly then, and watch
the drinkers spill out of the Pubs at
There never failed to be a fight of
some kind and if you have ever watched under-the-weather
drinkers fighting, it's better than any
Keystone Cops movie."
"On the corner of Jamaica Street and Howe
Street was Collars Limited where my Father
used to get his stiff collars starched."
and her family eventually emigrated to
America and lived in New York and I had the good fortune to
visit them in 1958 when I was on route to Christmas Island
during my Army Service.
that perhaps one of my Cousins might just read this.
Al Love, Leith, Edinburgh: July 30, 2009
Message for Al Love
(cousins or anybody else) would like to send a message to Al,
please email me, then I'll pass on your message to him.
Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh: July 30, 2011
Dorothy Finlay (née
Thank you to
Dorothy Finlay who wrote:
The Banks Family
Peggy and Alan Banks lived
in Jamaica Street in the 1950s. Alan
was a skipper on the trawlers. Peggy had
red hair and five bairns. Does anyone remember them?"
Dorothy Finlay (née Cossar),
message posted in EdinPhoto guest book, January 25, 2012
Thank you to
James Patience who replied:
The Coghill Family
at 34 Jamaica Street
in the 1950s. I
don't remember a Banks family living in the
family I remember living there, who had a
dad on the trawlers, were the Coghills.
They lived at 28 Jamaica Street. The father was lost
when the trawler sank in the 1950s."
James Patience: message
posted in EdinPhoto guest book, January 25, 2012
wrote in the EdinPhoto Guestbook:
34 Jamaica Street
"My Mum's birth mother lived
at 34 Jamaica Street at the time of her
death in 1952. Her name was Grace
Hossack Cameron. She was unmarried.
Does anyone have any recollection of her
or could tell me about the place then .
Rachel Godden, Lanark,
: message posted in EdinPhoto guest book, October 22, 2012
Within a day
of posting her message in the guestbook, Rachel had received replies from
two people who had lived ad Jamaica Street - Dave Ferguson and Jim
Patience - but unfortunately neither remembersed a Grace Hossack Cameron.
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Danny Callaghan wrote:
Rosemary (Rossie) Carr
"When I went to St Mary’s York Lane
School from 1950 to 1957 one of our class mates -
Rosemary (Rossie) Carr - came from Jamaica Street.
She was the class Tom Girl. I
heard that she went on to become a very respected lawyer, so never
judge a book by the cover. Rossie is on the extreme right of this
Danny Callaghan: Falkirk, Sterlingshire,
Scotland: October 25, 2012
Gordon Small wrote:
Jamaica Lane and
"I had a garage in the late-1960s
sixties in Jamaica Lane. They were demolishing Jamaica Street
at that time.
There was great hoo ha over all the
copper and cables going missing."
January 30, 2014
Willingham, Cambridgeshire, England
Michelle Beasley wrote:
Margaret Mary Ross
"I have no family
left now, but have been trying to find out more about my family who
grew up in Edinburgh.
became excited when I saw photos of people who lived in Jamaica
Street and might possibly have known my family. They lived
almost next door to them."
Margaret Mary Ross, lived at 27 Jamaica Street with her sister,
Elizabeth (married name McGarry), and their father, John Ross, in the 1940s.
My grandfather was on
war service in the Royal Navy, docked in Leith, when he met my
grandmother. They met at a local dance hall and married
in Edinburgh in 1944.
anybody remember them? If so, I'd love to hear from them."
near Willingham, Cambridgeshire, England: April 16, 2014 (2 emails)
Reply to Michelle
you'd like to send reply to Michelle,
please email me, then I'll pass on her email address to you.
Stubbs, Edinburgh: April 20, 2014
Thank you to Peter Stewart who wrote:
"I was born at Simpson’s in 1953
and lived at 34 Jamaica St for the first 9 years of my life. I
notice that Pat Brown wrote her Recollections 2 above back in May
2010, in which she names among her uncles a Robert Brown. I suspect
he’s the Robert Brown I called a friend back when I was 8 or 9 years
old. I’d be more than happy to hear if he’s still with us as he owes
me a penny ha’penny for some wee woodbines we all chipped in for and
from around the street are a little more
vague, although I do remember:
Margaret Macintosh and her
brothers who lived on the same side as us,
toward the Howe St end.
a slightly older boy
called Ronald Marshall who I think lived on Heriot Row with his aunt.
(Obviously didn’t mind slumming it!).
Donald or Ronald Campbell
who lived in one of the terraces in India Place – it says India St
on the map but I’m sure it was India Place back then – and whose dad
was 'Mr Fixit' of children’s TV fame, or at least that’s what I was
led to believe."
"I think we
lived on the third floor at No.34,
next to Elma Haynes and had to endure the privations of one 'lavy’
for the entire floor of flats - a particularly traumatic experience
for a sensitive young boy, particularly after old Mrs Baxter had
'warmed the seat' first!"
"We moved to
Australia in 1962 where we have lived ever since.
I was disappointed to find on my
first trip back to Edinburgh, many years
ago, that the old tenements had gone
although some of my less savoury memories give me an insight into
why they had gone.
Time glosses over a lot of the bad,
so it’s all:
- yellow gas lamps lighting up
bags of coal delivered
for 2/6 to the coal bunker in the flat.
earning threepence pocket money
for swapping plastic tokens.
working as a milkman's runner, collecting
tokens and exchanging them for milk, while
the old milkman sat Steptoe-like, all rugged-up
with a tarp over his legs, on his horse-drawn cart rolling
his own in fingerless mittens and a cloth cap.
burly blokes heaving beer
barrels off of a dray from Ushers and down to the cellar of my
getting free cocoa and a
buttered bun while listening to the missionaries on a
at the Baptist Chapel off Charlotte Square.
making crank calls to the
‘polis’ using the free phone on the Police box
up on Heriot Row
watching with considerable
amusement while the Fire Brigade tried to free my brother David’s
big head from the railings at one of the private gardens
‘recycling' chewing gum
off the street having rendered it fit for further human
consumption with the magical words ‘God before the devil!’ (That
makes me squirm, even now!)
Peter Stewart, Perth, Western
Australia, Australia: 9 November 2015
Reply to Peter Stewart
you'd like to send reply to Michelle,
please email me, then I'll pass on her email address to you.
Stubbs, Edinburgh: April 20, 2014
Pat Martin (née
Thank you to Pat Martin for replying to
Recollections 10 above.
"We are the
Thomson Family. We lived at 40 Jamaica Street. I
cannot remember Michelle who wrote
but we must have both been brought up in
Jamaica Street during at least some of the same time period.
Most of what she says
rings very distant bells for me:
knew the Haynes family. Were
the kids not Stevie & Avril?.
throw a few other names 'in the mix'
and see if it stirs up any more of the olde brain cells for
Morrisons (2 families). The
would have been in the stair opposite
The Bells (No. 35?)
McDonalds who ran the shop, Nellie
and Sis and Nellie's
daughter (Myrtle?) who had a corgi dog. They
lived in the stair next to the
- Nellie and
Sis used to assist
their old mum all the way doon from 'top flat' to sit in the shop.
I wonder how many 'fourpits' o' tat
ties we purchased there! LoL
Dempsies, etc., etc., etc.
Jim Patience has some
memories printed on the site. Did you know
him? I think he was 'pals'
with my older brother. I just
recall the name.
Tam Cullen was another
They are still great
- I had forgotten about the
'God before the devil' ritual. Yuk!
we are still here to tell the tale!
What that says,
I'm not sure, except that I think
the 'cleanliness' thing has gone way too
far, like so many other things!
Thank you, Michelle
for sharing your memories.
Par Martin (née Thomson),
Hawick, Borders, Scotland:
13+15 November 2015
Baberton Mains, Edinburgh
Thank you to Colin Strutt who wrote:
Boys and Girls of Jamaica
lived in Jamaica Street, about 1946 to
1955, but I must admit that I felt a
bit disorientated when I read so many different names above that I
did not recognise.
from Jim Patience, who I always knew as Jimmy, and his older brother
Alec, the only other names above that I recognised were:
McGarry. He was my next door neighbour, and we used to play
Ali Khan who you showed in a picture.
Most of the guys I knew were,--Alec Cant-John Hardy Jim Melrose of
boys and girls that I remember from Jamaica Street
Alan Derragetti (spelling?)
Ronny Barry, who I
believe became Roy Barry, of Hearts
Betty (Rebecca) Ramage
and, of course, Davie
to living in Jamaica Street, I lived in Cumberland Street, about
1940 to 1946.
managed to bring up quite a bit on the Internet about Jamaica
Street, but and I can find very little on Cumberland Street -
just modern day property prices.
help me with this please?
Baberton Mains, Edinburgh: 9 May 2016
Unfortunately, I don't know of pages on the Internet. That's not a
topic that I've ever investigated.
perhaps somebody will send in memories of Cumberland Street to me so
that I can add them to the EdinPhoto web site.
Please email me if you'd lie to do that.
Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh: 14 May 2016
Noosa, Queensland, Australia
Thank you to Bob Sinclair for replying to the
'Cumberland Street' paragraph in Colin Strutt's Recollections 11 above.
your correspondent looks under Scotland Places and types in
Cumberland Street Edinburgh in the top RH box he will get a photo of
Cumberland Street in he 1960s. That's the best I can do.
Noosa, Queensland, Australia: 16 May
Thank you to Jim McKenzie for replying to
Colin Strutt's Recollections 11 above.
formative years were spent in the New Town, Edinburgh, between 1959
and 1970. I have great memories of playing in the streets
alongside the abundance of other children who populated every inch
of space in those days.
Although I lived in Pitt Street, now known as Dundas Street, most of
my friends came from around the corner in Cumberland Street. There
were, of course, two Cumberland Streets to us as Cumberland Street
was divided by Dundas Street which seemed to act as a replica for
the Berlin Wall back then.
cousins who lived on the east side of Cumberland Street, (on the
other side of Dundas Street) but in all honesty we did not mix
outwith family gatherings.
loyalties were definitely with the west side of Cumberland Street,
the one with the St. Vincent's at the end not the Cumberland Bar."
our time was spent playing football in the lanes. We would play all day
and all night if it was not too dark. The lanes were car-free,
apart from a few working vans that were garaged there.
favourite football games would have, maybe, seven or eight a side and
the players would change throughout the three or four hour sessions.
seemed to tire of kicking a ball or each other up and down the
cobble-clad surfaces. Variations on traditional football games would
we played with lived a very precarious existence owing to a multitude
of disasters laying in wait for it:
There always seemed to be a couple of dogs who
would be joining in with the game, chasing and trying to burst the ball.
On top of the surrounding walls there was an
abundance of barbed wire and broken glass to contend with.
The lanes themselves would be full of sharp objects like nails, tin
cans and broken bottles.
that my legs were constantly covered in bruises and we lads were never
short of a cut or two either.
some reason, we didn't have a ball, we would have to find other things
to do. Often we would walk on top of the walls and jump the gaps
occasions we would play 'kick-the-can', a variant on 'hide-and-seek'.
a year the football had to play second fiddle to collecting for the
bonfires. Of course, on November 5 we would have a huge celebration
culminating in the traditional bonfire.
with this annual extravaganza, the good children of Edinburgh would do
it all again in May on Victoria Day.
collection of chairs, tables and anything else that would burn took
priority over everything else in the weeks leading up to the fires. It
was at these times that all of us would bond together in a communal
effort to ensure that our street was going to have the biggest and best
bonfire in the town.
rivalries would reach 'Lord of the Flies' proportions at some times.
Many pitch battles used to take place where stones were hurled back and
forth and fights with cudgels were common place.
Way of Life
knells for this way of life in the New Town were heralded by the
building of new estates around the city. Many of my friends simply
disappeared, never to be heard of again.
all of that, I have nothing but great memories of my childhood in that
bygone environment. It sounds like all of us should have been taken
into care judging by today's standards, but nothing could be further
from the truth.
look out for each other and nothing too bad seemed to happen to the
kids. Also, a load of great Scottish footballers were nurtured
this way. We could do with a few of them now!"
some of the names that I remember:
Stuart, Ian and Mary McDermott
Chicko, Davey, Jimmy and Mary Stewart
Ian, Brenda and Alan Robertson.
This was not a racist name.
He simply liked the sweets 'Black Sambos'.
She was a friend of my sister Eleanor McKenzie
boy called Denzel,
Jim McKenzie, Portobello, Edinburgh: 29 January, 2016