Leith Co-op

Milk Deliveries

Thank you to Frank Ferri, now living in Newhaven, Edinburgh for sending me these memories of his milk delivery round in Leith

Milk Boys, Leith ©

Between 1939 and 1958, Frank lived in Ballantyne Road, Leith, opposite the State Cinema.

'A Few Bob'

"Earning a few bob for yourself and your mother at the tender age of twelve was very common in these days.

Milk Deliveries

"We would get up very early in the morning and, prior going to school, deliver milk for the Co-op.

In Bowling Green St, you collected your large wheeled bar off a pend at the collecting point, collected your deliver book and load of milk, usually about four crates containing a dozen pint bottles in each crate. It was a heavy load for a wee skinny laddy like me."

The Route

"My run started at the top of Bangor Rd, then Burlington St. and Breadalbane St. 

Then the route back to base was via Bangor Lane, which had a pillar in the centre of it to stop vehicles accessing. The gap between the wall and this pillar was barley enough to get the barrow through and you had to take a run at it because it was up a hill.

After a day's work, tired and weak, you might have to take a couple of runs at it. On many occasions I would skin my knuckles on the wall trying to get through this narrow gap.

The other hazard with the barrow was when it was loaded very heavily.  It had long piece of metal suspended from the front of it, that acted as a break or stop.

Bangor Rd is a steep hill, and if the barrow got away from you and you let the front down too suddenly, to stop, the barrow would tip over, scattering the whole load of milk all over the street."

Christmas Tips

"At Christmas, you would pay greater attention to collecting your empty milk bottles, expectantly looking for your Christmas tip.  In the darkness of the common stair, you would stick two fingers into the empty bottle lift it up hoping to find a note or hear the rattle of coinage.

On most occasions your fingers were coated with the thick, smelly and slimy dregs of green sour milk, clinging to the inside of the bottle, where nobody bothered to wash them out, or they smelled of urine, having been used as a night bottle."

Gas Board Man

"On my early morning milk run, I used to meet the man from the Gas Board.  His job was to go around all the common stairs and turn out the gas lighting.  He suggested to me, that if I turned out all the gas lights on the top and second-top floors he would reward me at the end of the week. I did this for a few weeks, but somehow we never managed to meet again.  I wonder why?


"Some of my customers were comedians. One would give me a right telling off if I was late, or failed to knock on the door  -  not because he was waiting for his milk.  No, I was his alarm clock for him to get up for work.

Needless to say, that when I delivered his milk after this, I laid the milk down very quietly and tiptoed away.  'Donít mess with this kid'.


"The winter time was the worst.  We had no anoraks or parkas or suitable warm clothing on those days.  At best, a balaclava, woolly gloves and a warm jersey. In the bitter cold, as a kid with a vivid imagination, climbing these dark stairs was quite frightening"

Frank Ferri, Newhaven, Edinburgh:  April 1, 2008


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