In and around

St Mary's Cathedral




Danny Callaghan

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland

Thank you to Danny Callaghan who wrote:

Cathedral Buildings

Theatre Royal Site

"The Theatre Royal, a burned out shell adjoining St Mary's Cathedral was purchased in 1956 by the church, so safeguard the amenity of the church.    They paid approx £10,000, a fortune in those days but a bargain now.

The site now houses a new baptistery, meeting rooms and a Café called Café Camino named after the pilgrimage route in north Spain, as well as a car park."

Waverley Pools

"In order to pay off the loan for this purchase and to raise funds to develop the site, a 'football pool' was set up, called Waverley Pools.   As a member you selected numbers.  It cost a shilling (5p) a week and there were collectors who collected the shillings.

I cannot remember how it worked, but it was unusual for a church to have a form of gambling at that time.  I'm sure they used to read out or post up the winning numbers at Sunday services.  I think 50% of the money was for prizes and the rest for the fund and administration.   It was administered from the Cathedral Halls in Albany Street."

Church Hall

"St Mary's Cathedral had their Church Hall at 45 & 47  Albany Street.   These were two of the Edinburgh New Town houses.  To the rear of these houses, in the gardens, a large hall was built in 1907.   It was equipped with a full stage, a large dance floor and a balcony.   

I attended St Mary's School in York Lane.  Our school's annual shows, as well as youth clubs, made good use of the hall.   With my mates we used to play snooker in the 1st floor rooms, with the curtains open as we were too mean or penniless to put a shilling in the meter for the lights.

The church no longer has this hall but the name is still clearly visible on the stonework.   For a time, an office furniture company used it for a showroom.  Looking at Google Earth the hall still seems to remain."

Neighbouring Buildings

St James Square YMCA

"Would this be the hall behind the Theatre Royal and the Cathedral?    This hall was used, for a time, by the Post Office as a temporary sorting office.

It was purchased by the church in 1937I'm sure the upper floor is  now the Church Hall for St Mary's Cathedral and the lower level is a pick-up point for John Lewis' store."

Model Toy Shop

"There was a shop next to or near the Deep Sea chip shop where I used to get my Dinky model cars.  These were much better than Corgi.     I used to save up and get one every few weeks for a while.   I still had some of them until recently, some still in their boxes."

Medical Shop

"I remember this shop opposite the Cathedral.  In the window, there were medical bits and pieces.  I think that they sold medical appliances such as trusses and I'm sure that is where my dad got his.    I used to look in the window and wonder what some of the things would be used for."

Dolls' Hospital

"I remember the Dolls' Hospital, right opposite St Mary's Cathedral, not that I was a customer!    This was a single-storey building unlike the other two legs of the Union Place triangle."

Danny Callaghan, Falkirk, Stirlingshire:  November 19, 2009




G M Rigg


Thank you to GM Rigg for adding these further memories to the guest book:


"The businesses around the St James' Square & Greenside areas that I remember from the late-1950s and early-1970s are:

- Strachan's, the Ladies Hairdressers.  This was where I had my hair cut as a child,  and my mum had her perms done.

It was situated at the Leith Walk clock tower junction,  just off London Road, just around the corner from Rankins the fruit & vegetable shop.

The barber's shop off St James' Square, on East Register Street at the Princes Street end.  This is was where my brothers had their hair cut.

It was accessed down a wide flight of steps, and there was a huge model of a bear on a striped pole over the door.

I'm pretty sure I saw the bear on the pole at Huntly House Museum years later.

The big pharmacy on Elm Row that still had all the Victorian jars, bottles and drawers that you would expect to see in a museum now.

- Timothy White's, the chemist shop opposite Jerome's "THE" photographers.

- Valvona & Crolla on Elm Row. This was everyone's favourite 'smellicatessen', as we kids used to call it.  It's a lot posher now than it was in the 1950's.

- The Dolls Hospital, opposite St Mary's RC Cathedral, in the basement, if memory serves.  It was between the Deep Sea & Meiklejohn's, the grocer.

"I have a vague recollection of the Doll's Hospital being near the West Port.

I also noticed, many years ago, that there was  a Doll's Hospital at Dalry Road, Haymarket. It has now gone from there."

Lynda Maine, Colinton Mains, Edinburgh
May 8, 2009

Tony Ivanov replied:

"I can remember the Doll's Hospital in the 1950s.  It was actually in the Grassmarket at the foot of the West Port.

To be more precise, at the foot of the West Port turn left and it was just a few doors along."

Tony Ivanov, Bo'ness, West Lothian, Scotland:
 May 11, 2009

The only other shop I can remember in the street was a pharmacy (or similar) as it had medical instruments in the window, presumably to sell to the many medical students lodging in the area

Message posted in EdinPhoto Guest Book:  G M Rigg, Edinburgh  April 25, 2009




Betty Fraser (née Simpson)

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Betty Fraser wrote:

St James Square  -  YWCA

"By the way, does anyone remember the 'YW'  -   the YWCA club which was in a hall in St James Square circa 1945-48.

It was run by Mrs Masters?"

Betty Fraser:  Sydney, New South Wales, Australia:  November 8, 2008




Danny Callaghan

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland

Here is a photo taken in 1958, showing St Mary's RC Cathedral and the shell of the burnt-out Theatre Royal beside it, both near the bottom of the photo.

The tenements in St James Centre (most are now now demolished) and the North British Hotel (now the Balmoral Hotel) are in the background.

Aerial View of St James Square, St Mary's RC Cathedral and the site of the burnt-out Theatre Royal  -   looking to the SW  - 1958

©  Scotsman Publications Ltd.   Click here for web site details.     Licensed by Scran,   
Photo 99990859  Scran 000-000-
051-707-R           Photo published: Aug 12, 1958

Commenting on Sr Mary's RC Cathedral, and its development of the Theatre Royal site,  Danny Callaghan wrote:

Theatre Royal Site

Purchase of the Site

"St Mary’s Cathedral purchased the Theatre Royal and the other buildings behind the church in 1956 for the princely sum of £10,000.


In order to fund the purchase and pay for redevelopment of the site and the church, they set up a fundraising scheme called the Waverley Pools. I'm not sure of how it worked exactly, but was based on having set numbers which matched with teams on football pools  goals scored or similar.

It cost 1/- (5p) a week.  The money was collected each week by over 200 collectors and was administered from an office in the Cathedral Hall in Albany Street.   I think 50% of money collected went to the fund and the rest to the prize winners.  I believe that the most you could win was £100.

Plans for a New Cathedral

At that time there were proposed plans to build a new Cathedral along with the other developments in the area.  The cathedral's 150th Anniversary Booklet, published in 1964 says:

'Any new cathedral on the present site would require to attain architectural dominance by unusual feature or dramatic building technique'

Thankfully that did not happen, as we all know what has happened to many of the 1960s buildings.

Development on the Theatre Royal Site

The development of the Theatre Royal site has seen a new baptistery and entrance to church, a car park and meeting rooms and very modern café. The building to the rear is used by John Lewis as a collection centre.

Danny Callaghan, Falkirk, Stirlingshire:  July 24, 2012




Lisanne Valente

Thank you to Lisanne Valente  who wrote:

45 Albany Street

"Danny Callaghan wrote about St Mary's Cathedral and referred to Albany Street in his Recollections 1 above.

My Grandfather

"My grandfather was German and, at the beginning of the 1st World War, was sent to a camp in the Isle of Wight.

When he was returned to Edinburgh at the end of the war, he couldn't find work, so the Catholic Church employed him ... and his whole family."

The Bocker Family

"He and his family were given a home, and 3s 6d worth of coal a month.  My grandfather earned 1s 6d a week but was on call for the priests '24/7'.

So, I'm just writing to let you know that it was the Bocker family who ran everything in the Church  after the war.  They lived in 45 Albany Street, the Church House, which was linked to the Cathedral Hall. I'm fairly sure Danny Callaghan would have known the family.

My parents married in St Mary's Cathedral and my grandfather, the Sacrosanct, attended in July 1942. The Bockers lived in Albany street for another 8 years."

 Lisanne Valente:  19 January 2017


Recollections  -  More Pages