Thistle Street

A narrow street that between George Street
and Queen Street, parallel to both



Levi Smith

London, England

Thank you to Levi Smith who wrote about many of the shops that he remembers in Thistle Street, between about 1956 and 1966..

Levi wrote:


"In the mid-1950s, turning at the Queens Arms in Frederick Street into Thistle Street, there was a wonderful bakerís shop (Brown's?) that turned into an antique shop by about 1960.

Opposite, and at the corner of Thistle Street Lane North, was a small electrical shop. 

Next door was a shop that sold sweets and cigarettes; it was owned by a man with red hair and a black beard or moustache.

Then was Burke's, a grocerís shop where you could buy fruit, vegetables, cold meats, dairy products, etc.  I remember that Mrs Burke was quite heavy and that her husband wore glasses that seemed to be about half an inch thick."

Ladies of the Night

"Further along past Burkes and in the middle of this section of Thistle Street was an antique shop and a little farther on a stair where the local Ďladies of the nightí used to hang around waiting for custom.

I used to chat to them and vividly remember when I was about 10 being invited upstairs if I had a shilling Ė I didnít go and, anyway, why should I pay a bob to go upstairs?"

More Shops

Next to this stair was a small greengrocers called Douglas where kids could buy singles (cigarettes) for 1d or 3d each.

I think that there was a barber, now an antique shop, opposite. 

Next to Douglas was a small printerís shop where you could buy envelopes, paper, etc.

Then there was a pub (The Thistle?) where you could go in a side-entrance to the main door to find a counter where women could buy beer to take away while men went into the pub proper.

The next shop I can recall was after one crossed Thistle Street Lane North.  It was a sweet shop (Gills?). 

Before the corner there may have been a small cafť before you came to Hendersons, greengrocers, on the corner of Thistle Street and Hanover Street.

Night Spot

"Opposite Gills was another barberís shop and on the corner of Hanover Street there was a trendy beatnik night spot Cafť in a corner basement."

Lane Auctions

"Once a week or once a month there were sales of used furniture in Thistle Street Lane South."

Lane Auctions

"It's amazing how many small shops there were selling food in Thistle Street - and that is not forgetting nearby shops such as:

 Macfisheries in Castle Street

Crawfords in Frederick Street

Frederick Street

"We had the Post Office in Frederick Street and a shop that sold artwork and artists' materials.

I also mustn't forget Joe who used to stand on the corner of Frederick Street and George Street to sell the Evening News on the doorstep of the Bank of Scotland."

Levi Smith, London, England:  October 7 + 11, 2010




James Tarbet


Thank you to James Tarbet for responding to the comments about the small electrical shop mentioned in Recollections 1 above.

James wrote:

Electrical Shop

"I just wanted to add, regarding the small electrical shop that Levi Smith mentions in his Recollections 1 above."

Electrical Shop

"I served my apprenticeship there from 1960 to 1965.  The shop was owned by a James W McLellan, who was there until about 1970 when he retired, aged about 75!

He began there in the 1950s having been the manager of the Edinburgh, Frederick Street branch of a Portobello firm called Cole and Company that ceased trading.

By 1966, I had left the little electrical shop and gone abroad. There were two journeymen employed there:

Davie Gilroy (known as íthe man with the five bairnsí)

-  Bert Aldridge, who was based in the then Caledonian Hotel, where I also was for about two years.

The other apprentice at the shop was about 4 years behind me.  His name was Stephen Haynes."

The Shop Next Door

"The shop next door, where I often went for a ham or cheese roll, (probably about 4d in those days) was run by Mr and Mrs Putt.  He had reddish hair and a moustache, looked a bit like ex-RAF"

More Electrical Shop

"At that time, every electrical wholesaler on the planet was in the George St / Queen St / Frederick St / Hanover St area  -  to name a few:

Wood and Cairns

-  Simplex Conduits

Philips Lighting



 - Sinclair Campbell Kinghorn

Sloans (became Edmundsons)

Fotheringhams (Joe)

J. Aikman

T T Young.

I think there were more, but I canít remember the names.

I hope these facts will jog a few memories."

James Tarbet, Edinburgh:  2 July, 2015


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