Policemen on 'Point Duty' ***


West End


Foot of the Mound

***                         Point Duty or Points Duty?

Whilst reading this page recently, I noticed what appeared to be inconsistencies.  Some people had been referring to Point Duty,  some had been referring to Points Duty, and I had a mixture of both terms on the site, so I searched on Google to help me decide which term to use.

-  A search for "Point Duty" and found 86,300 pages.

-  A search for "Points Duty" and found 3,760 pages.

-  A search for Police "Point Duty" and found 44,100 pages.

-  A search for Police "Point Duty" and found 3,080 pages.

So I decided to use Point Duty throughout this page. 

Reply Received

It didn't take Eric Kidd long to notice the change that I made.  Please see his comments below.  See below:

Any Further Thoughts?




Eric Kidd


Thank you to Eric Kidd who wrote:

Point Duty or Points Duty?

"A friend told me that he had seen the postings about my father and the others regarding the points duty in Princes Street. I went into the site yesterday just to have another look and noticed that it refers now to point duty rather than pointS duty!

Is it possible for you to amend it to include the "s" just for historical accuracy. It was definitely always referred to as points."

Eric Kidd, Edinburgh:  29 March 2017


Eric:  I apologize if the change that I made caused you any concern.  I hope my comments above make sense to you. 

If you (or anybody else) would like to follow up this topic with me, please email meThank you.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  2 April 2017





Gus Coutts

Duddingston, Edinburgh

Thank you to GusCoutts who wrote:

Point Duty or Points Duty?

"My recollection is that it was always referred to as PointS Duty and that the expression was derived from the fact that the places where police directed traffic were junctions in the Tram Network (when it really was a Network and not a Lesley Hinds alleged one) where points in the tram tracks were located."

Gus Coutts, Duddingston, Edinburgh:  3 April 2017




Allan Dodds

Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England

Thank you to Allan Dodds who wrote:

Point Duty or Points Duty?

"In my day (the 1960s) it was always described as 'Points Duty'. My Policeman friend Corrie would always excuse himself from a social event by saying that he was on 'Points Duty' that day."

Allan Dodds, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England:  10 April 2017


Recollections 1


George T Smith

Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Thank you to George T Smith for sending me his recollections of the policeman on 'Point Duty' at the West End of Princes Street, before traffic lights were installed at that junction.

George wrote:

Policemen on 'Point Duty'

West End of Princes Street

"I wonder if anyone remembers the policeman on 'Point Duty'  at the West End just outside Binns who, as I recollect, was famous for the balletic movements of his hand signals?

He did them with a  graceful sort of flourish that seemed personal to him.  I imagine he  was based at Torphichen Street."

George Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada:  August 11, 2007


Reply 1


Peter Stubbs


Policemen on 'Point Duty'

Foot of the Mound

I don't remember seeing the policeman that George mentions above,  but when I first came to Edinburgh in 1963, I remember watching the two policemen working together, one at the foot of the Mound, the other a few yards away at the foot of Hanover Street, on 'Point Duty'.

They worked together as a 'double act' with lots of waving of arms as they controlled the traffic from Princes Street, Hanover Street and the Mound.

On one occasion, I filmed them with a cine camera for about five minutes.  The film turned out to be more amusing than I had anticipated.  The camera battery was running down, so the policemen began to move faster and faster as the film came to an end!

-  Peter Stubbs:  August 11, 2007


Reply 2


George Smith

British Columbia, Canada

George wrote again:

Policemen on 'Point Duty'

West End of Princes Street

"Watch this space -  I've asked my brother ,ex Embro Polis (Edinburgh Police) who  now lives in Italy, if he can recollect the polisman with the fancy moves.

My brother was based at Torphichen Street from about 1958 but  it may have been before his time.

Did I hallucinate or did they  really wear white gloves?

Any idea when traffic lights took over?"

George Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada:  August 16, 2007

White Gloves

1. It's true.  The Police on Point Duty really did wear white gloves.  I remember them.

Traffic Lights

2. I'm not sure when the traffic lights took over.  I'd guess some time around 1970.

-  Peter Stubbs:  August 16, 2007


Reply 3


Betty Smith


Betty Smith wrote:

Policemen on 'Point Duty'

West End of Princes Street

"There is a picture of a policeman directing traffic at the West End in a book we have about Edinburgh.  He is probably the same person as you are thinking about.

His name was John Hope, known jokingly as 'Lord John Hope' after the MP of the same name.  He was on the point up until it was light-controlled."


"Another flamboyant policeman who directed traffic was John Robertson, known as Singapore Sam.  He was the one with the really fancy hand signals, but he was later than John Hope. 

I remember him well on the point at Ardmillan."

Betty Smith, Italy, sister-in-law of George Smith, British Columbia (above): Aug 22, 2007.


Reply 4


Eric Kidd


Thank you to Eric Kidd for responding to my 'Reply 1' above.  Eric sent his reply nine years after I posted my message.

Eric wrote:

Policemen on 'Point Duty'

Foot of The Mound

"I came across this page today and was interested to read about this when you mentioned the two policemen on Point Duty at the foot of the Mound and Hanover Street. It would be interesting to view your film!

Unfortunately, some time in the intervening 50+ years, I appear to have lost my little film clip.

                      Peter Stubbs:  6 Dec 2016

Foot of The Mound

The two policemen were James Kidd and John MacRae from 'B Division', Gayfield Square.  'B Division' looked after all the Point Duty in Princes Street from Frederick Street to the East, including the Hanover Street / Mound junction.

Point Duty for the West End or South Charlotte Street junctions in Princes Street was covered by the West End Division.

James Kidd and John MacRae were regulars on Point Duty in Princes Street for many years, and were there until the introduction of the traffic lights in the early-1970s. After that, they were still based in the centre of town and were well known in the area.

They both retired circa 1977, both having joined the City Police after the war. 

James Kidd was my father."

Eric Kidd, Edinburgh:  5+7 December 2016


Reply 5


Eric Kidd


Thank you to Eric Kidd for writing again to, follow up the comments in his 'Reply 4' above.

Eric wrote:

Edinburgh Police

"I have a Police staff newsletter which had an article on the Point Duty Officers when they were finishing on the introduction of the traffic lights.

There was also an article in The Evening News at Christmas, about 2 or 3 years ago which featured a photo of my father, on the front page, at the foot of Hanover Street directing the traffic.

The article was to do with the police cut-backs with regard to road safety officers going round schools. How that connected with Point Duty remains a mystery!"

Eric Kidd, Edinburgh:  7 December 2016


Reply 6


Ian Taylor

Ian wrote:

Policeman on 'Point Duty'

The Mound

"On my Wedding Day in 1968, my new wife and I were being driven along Princes Street, west to east, when the Officer at the foot of the Mound recognised me and stopped all the traffic so he could pass on his congratulations, and disbelief.

My wife wasnít best pleased, but still puts up with me all these years later!"

Ian Taylor:  12 December 2016


Reply 7


Eric Kidd


Thank you to Eric Kidd for writing again and sending the photo below of his father, James Kidd on Point Duty in Princes Street at the foot of The Mound.

Princes Street

James Kidd on Point Duty in Princes Street

James Kidd on Police Points Duty in Princes Street, at the foot of The Mound

©  Reproduced with acknowledgement to Eric Kidd, Edinburgh

Acknowledgement:  Eric Kidd, Edinburgh:  15 January 2017


Reply 8


Eric Kidd


Thank you to Eric Kidd for also sending me a photo of the 10 policemen from 'B Division' who were on Point Duty immediately before the introduction of traffic lights in Princes Street.

The names of the policemen are given as:

-  John McRae

-  John Gow

-  William Rawlings

-  James Kidd

-  Ronald Macleod

-  Bob Gibson

-  Chris Anderson

-  Brian Hunter  

-  Alan Jeffreys

-  David Graham.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  22 January 2017


Reply 9


Allan Dodds

Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England

Thank you to Allan Dodds who wrote:

Donald Cormack (B Division) on Point Duty

"In the 1960s my friend, Donald Cormack of B Division, used to be on Point Duty at the foot of the Mound, partnered by his colleague at the foot of Hanover Street. '

'Corrie', as we knew him, was my Best Man at our wedding in 1966, but I lost touch with him when I left Edinburgh."

Allan Dodds, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England:  4 March 2017


Reply 10


Iain Belcher

The Hague, Netherlands

Thank you to Iain Belcher who wrote:

London - Edinburgh - The Hague

"I lived in London until the age of seven and ended up here in the Hague, the Netherlands.

I lived in Edinburgh from 1956 until 1968 and went back to Edinburgh for 7 years in 1973 after the oil crisis."

Point Duty in Edinburgh

"I was a policeman for that time. I was on point duty for a couple of years in Princess Street until the lights were installed, which took ages.  The policemen listed in Reply 8 (above) were my colleagues at the time."


"I notice that my bit of Edinburgh is not mentioned on the EdinPhoto site.  I  lived in the Rankin scheme off Mayfield Road.  It had no real claim to fame, I suppose.  We had the University Buildings, Blackford Hill and the Royal Observatory.

I donít come near the place these days, for health reasons. I've never regretted coming here, mind.  It's a great country."

Iain Belcher, The Hague, Netherlands:  16 March 2017

Hi Iain:

Try putting Mayfield into the search field on the EdinPhoto home page, and you should find that it will bring up quite a lot of results.  I hope you'll find something of interest amongst them.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  22 March 2017


Reply 11


Alan Jeffreys


Thank you to Alan Jeffreys who wrote:

Princes Street Pointsmen

"I happened to see my name crop up on your feature on police pointsmen in Princes Street and would like to add a few comments. 

The principal manning of the 'points' was from 'B' Division (Gayfield Square), although the last two, at the West End, came under the aegis of 'C' Division.  Neither the West End double junction, nor the North Bridge/Leith Walk junction, were manned in my time (I joined Edinburgh City Police in 1963), but the 'active' ones were:

3 Point - South St. Andrew Street;

4 Point - Waverley Bridge;

 5 Point - South St David Street;

 6 Point - Hanover Street;

 7 point - The Mound;

 8 Point--Frederick Street;

 9 Point - Castle Street. "


"The Points were generally manned in two shifts, one 8am to 4pm and the other 10am to 6 pm, the latter known as '6 hours' points duty although in fact it was 5 and a half with reliefs.

6 and 7 Points of course had to work in concert with each other.  When not directing traffic, the constables were supposed to patrol round the city centre looking out for bad parking and so on  (but more often they ended up ensconced in a Chinese Restaurant drinking coffee as 5 hours points duty was thought energetic enough!)

I served on this duty (voluntarily) from late 1965 to the end in Summer 1970.  I was not there at the absolute death though because in June 1970 I suffered a severe injury while exploring a Yorkshire pothole and was 'off sick' when the traffic lights became operational."

'Forthright' Magazine

"To relieve the boredom, officers would get up to all sorts of tricks and I wrote a tongue in cheek account of our escapades in 'Forthright' the Force magazine which ceased publication in 1993 (I have a complete set of the magazine). 

 I was editor of this, and in issue Vol.16 No.2 (1990) on page 23 there appears my article; "Everything Stops for Tea".  The article includes several photographs - including one of the last regular points team in 1970. 

Some of the 'regulars' in the team were players in the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band, at that time one of the leading bands in the world.  So that they could be available for gigs, they could not be on essential police duties such as working a beat.


When I joined the police, it was a regular arrangement that B Division recruits spent 18 months on points after their probation period was finished,  and I was one of those who volunteered to stay on because it was a regular day shift with weekends off!  Whether incipient lead poisoning  hindered me thereafter is a moot point!

Perhaps because I was there for so long, or more likely because of my antics in the public eye, there seem to be legions of people who remember me 'at the foot of the Mound' although of course I rotated through all the junctions.

 Happy days!"

Alan Jeffreys, Edinburgh:  31 January 2017



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