Leith Wild Cat



Nicola McGhee wrote:

Wild Cat

"I am trying to find some proof - photographic or otherwise - to confirm the existence of a wild cat in a pub in Leith.

My nana swears it's true, but very few people believe her. She says this pub was on the corner of Commercial Street, which would be the Guiliano's Restaurant now.

The pub may have been called Fairley's. She said it was large black cat in the window, which she described as a cheetah, but I am assuming it would be a puma if it were black,

She and her friends would walk along at lunchtimes from the whiskey bonds, where they worked, to look at it. This would have been around 1975/76.

Any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated."

Nicola McGhee, Leith, Edinburgh:  May 19, 2008

If you know anything about this wild cat, please email me, then I'll pass your comments on to Nicola.

Thank you.    - Peter Stubbs:  May 20, 2008


Reply 1.

Ian Mycko

Gilmerton, Edinburgh

Thank you to Ian Mycko who replied within an hour of me adding the question above to the web site.

Ian wrote:

Wild Cat

"The story is true

I recall something about either a puma or black panther being kept at Guiliano's when it was  a pub.  I can't remember what pub was called,

I think it may have been in late 70s or early 80s."

Ian Mycko, Gilmerton, Edinburgh:  May 19, 2008


Reply 2.

Katrina Blackburn

Kent, England

Katrina Blackburn, formerly of Leith Walk, wrote:

Wild Cat  -  Fairleys

"The pub that kept the cat was indeed Fairleys. It was known as 'Fairleys by the Shore', as opposed to the other Fairleys which was in the old Leith Street.

Both pubs were well known in Edinburgh for many years as  pubs for sailors and 'ladies of the night'.

Fairleys kept a panther or cheetah in the late 1960s.  I don't know if that would be the same one Nicola's Nan saw."

Katrina Blackburn, Kent, England:  May 20, 2008


Reply 3.

Stuart Old


Stuart Old, a Staff Nurse at Balfour Day Hospital, Astley Ainsley Hospital,  Edinburgh wrote:

Wild Cat  -  Fairleys

"I work in a Day Hospital, with elderly people from Edinburgh, and enjoy gathering their memories. We have heard this story of the wild cat in Leith from a couple of sources. Both sources name Fairleys as the venue where a black panther was indeed kept in a cage at the end of the bar.

In one version, from an ex-policeman.  The cops were called to an 'incident' at Fairley's.  This, I believe, was fairly usual in those days - 1960s and early 1970s.

To put it politely, a lady was removed from the bar, and taken up to the Infirmary with numerous deep scratches on her back. Knowing the little I do about Fairley's reputation, I wonder if she was part of the 'entertainment', or maybe she was just a fightable Leith lassie with issues!!  Frankly it sounds like another world!

I have a wicked habit of asking the ladies who come here about their nights on the tiles at Fairley's.  I am invariably met with:

 'Aw naw son, ma mither wid nivver let me go there, whit wi' aw thae sailormen??!!'

Except one woman, who said she worked in the tea-room there and it was very nice.  If only we could turn back time and check these things out, eh?"

Stuart Old, Edinburgh:  May 21, 2008


Reply 4

Eric Gold

East London

Eric Gold, formerly of Dumbiedykes, Edinburgh and now living in East London,  wrote:

Wild Cat  -  Fairleys

"My big brother, Tam, told me of the puma.  I thought he was joking but it was true.  The bar was definitely Fairley’s.  It was opposite The Jungle (The Kings Wark Pub) in Leith."

The puma was in a cage to the right of the bar.  He hissed and spat at the customers all night.   What a beast!  I felt sorry for him as he should not have been there.

Later, when I was working on the QE2, I heard from a steward from Leith hat the landlord let the cat out one night and it attacked and injured one of the girls in the back bar, which was a small dance room and pick up joint.

The landlord was arrested and sacked.  I don’t know what the cat's fate was.  This was around 1974-77."

Eric Gold, East London:  May 25 + 29, 2008


Reply 5

Frank Ferri

Newhaven, Edinburgh

Thank you to Frank Mae who added:

Leith Pubs

"The pub referred to was originally the Merchants, a favourite haunt of merchant seamen.

Then it became Fairleys of Leith (not to be confused with Fairleys in Leith Street).

It is now Giuliano's.

Yes indeed, the eccentric owner did have a puma during the pub's Go-Go dancing era of the 1970s (which was all the rage then).  I believe the Police were not amused so it had to be removed

Incidentally, that area of pub life on the Shore at Leith, was once known as the Barbary Coast (after a similar 'Red Light' nautical district in San Francisco) and/or The Jungle, a name that the old King's Wark pub acquired for many years."

Frank Ferri, Newhaven, Edinburgh:  June 10, 2008


Reply 6


formerly Edinburgh

Thank you to Derek who wrote:

Wild Cat  -  Fairleys

"Yes, it was indeed a black puma, and the lady mentioned was my ex- partner, Marjori Williamson.  The story she told me was the bar was closed she had fallen asleep in the toilets.  When she awoke and came out of the toilet the Puma them attacked her.

This happened long before i new her.  If you find out anything regarding this, could you keep me updated  please, just for history reasons and my our daughter are interested."

Derek:  July 31, 2008

Derek added:

Looking for Marjori

"I no longer live in Edinburgh.  I sold up and left, around two years ago now.  I bought a place out west.

As far as I know Marjori is still in Edinburgh.  She used to beg on the streets a couple of years back.  I don't know where she is now.  We are trying to locate her though."

Derek:  August 3, 2008


Reply 7

Ian Cropper


Thank you to Ian Cropper who wrote:

Wild Cat  -  Fairleys

"I was interested in the 'Black Panther' kept in Fairleys.  People on the EdinPhoto web site have confirmed the existence of the 'cat in the cage' but the time span as to when it was there varies.

I joined the Police in 1979 and worked in Leith.  I think 'Fairleys' was the 'Trade Winds' or Westward Ho' by this time.

I got a call to the pub one weekend in 1979 or 1980 and can confirm, without question, there was a black cat, I would say a Panther, in a cage, behind the bar.

It's not the kind of thing you forget easily.  To this day, funnily enough, I have not been in another pub with a wild animal in a cage!"

Ian Cropper, Edinburgh:  May 15, 2009


Reply 8

Eric Gold

East London

Thank you to Eric Gold who replied

Wild Cat  -  Fairleys

"I was interested to see what Ian (7 above) had to say about the cat in Fairley’s in Leith, my drinking area (ha ha ha ha) when I was on the boats

In fact, the cat was not a panther but a puma -  just as vicious as a panther, but panthers are a bigger cat.

The police were called after the cat attacked a lady of the night. The landlord was arrested and the cat was taken away by the animal people but I don’t know what the fate of the cat was.

 Fairley’s was a lively pub, as was The Jungle, Nobles and all the other bars in Leith."

Eric Gold, East London:  May 22, 2009

 Reply 9

Dougie Shearer

Trinity, Edinburgh

Thank you to Dougie Sherar, Trinity, Edinburgh, who wrote:

Wild Cat  -  Fairleys

"The wild cat in question was a puma.  It was owned by a chap called Ian Black who was either the owner or the Manager of Fairleys at the time."

Dougie Shearer, Trinity, Edinburgh: January 9, 2010

Reply 10.

Bert Love

Leith, Edinburgh

Thank you to Bert Love who wrote:

Wild Cat

"The Black Cat in question belonged to the person that was running the pub at that time.  I am afraid his name escapes me for now, but I do know that he was once a bus conductor with the SMT in New Street where I was a driver."

Bert Love, Leith Edinburgh:  July 21, 2011

Reply 11.

Alastair Scott

Thank you to Alastair Scott who wrote:

Black Cat

"I was in Leith last Saturday and saw what seemed like a large black cat in a small industrial estate on the corner of Constitution Street and Tower Street.

It was the size of a large dog but walked and moved like a cat, with the same profile.  We watched it for about half an hour from the flats across the road."

Alastair Scott, 14 August 2011

Reply 12.

Donald Gray

Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland

Thank you to Donald Gray who wrote:

Leith Wild Cat

"I remember being in the pub with the puma, about 1977-78, more than once.  The pub was called the Westward Ho then.

The Puma was not kept in a cage, but was on a leash that was tied to the back wall at the right hand side of the bar.

No-one went to that side of the bar to get served as the puma would strain against its leash towards you if you got too close.

On nights when the dancers were on, the place was always busy."

Donald Gray, formerly Leith; now Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland:  January 31, 2014


Reply 13.

Winnie Henry

Thank you to Winnie Henry who wrote:

'Sunday Post'

"There was a front page story in the 'Sunday Post' about the puma attacking the dancer in the pub in Leith.

I've tried for years to get a back copy of that particular paper as the photo accompanying the story was of my husband and his second mate who were through from ICI in Stevenston with cargo for a boat and had went into Fairleys for a lunch break.  At least, that was his story!

I have tried various archives to no avail but would love to trace that particular copy of the 'Sunday Post'."

Winnie Henry:  January 28, 2014

'Sunday Post'

Reply to Winnie

If you know the approximate date of the 'Sunday Post' paper that Winnie refers to above, or how she might be able to get a copy of the paper, please email me, than I'll give you her email address, then you can try sending a message direct to her.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  February 10, 2014


Reply 14

David Vass

Thank you to David Vass who wrote:

Two Pubs

"There were 2 pubs in Leith at that time that  had gogo dancers - The Happyland and The Merrymaker. One had a puma. It was not a friendly beast at all, and lived in a cage at the end of the bar."

David Vass:  July 10, 2015


Reply 15

David Vass

Thank you to David Vass for writing again, adding:


"There were many strange goings-on at that time (mid 1970s) in Edinburgh.  I recall being offered a lift one night by a chap called Sid and his wife, Tania I think her name was.  She was a dancer. I had to share the back of their car with their pet lioness, a very sobering event I can assure you."

David Vass:  July 11, 2015


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