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William J Hay

(1863 - 1955)


William J Hay

Knox Series Postcards


William J Hay lived and worked for many years at John Knox House in the Royal Mile.  He produced postcards in the 'Knox' series.

Almost all are of scenes in the Royal Mile, leading from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace.

John Knox House in the Royal Mile  -  Described in this 'Knox series' post card by W J Hay as "House in which John Knox died".

House in which
John Knox died

Sir Walter Scott's house in North Castle Street  -  A postcard in the 'Knox series' by W J Hay.

Sir W Scott's House
North Castle Street




W J Hay

'Knox series'


William J Hay

Small Leaflet

  Early 20th Century

William J Hay produced an attractive small leaflet from his curiosity shop at John Knox House in the Royal Mile - probably early in the 20th century.

The leaflet measures about 6 ins x 3.75 ins folded (6 ins x 15 ins open).  See below.  Please click on the images below to view them.   The large sizes will be slow to load, but far better for reading the text.

Back Cover

  William J Hay  -  Small leaflet  -  Back cover

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Front Cover

  William J Hay  -  Small leaflet  -  Front cover

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Royal Mile Map

  William J Hay  -  Small leaflet  -  Royal Mile Map

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Objects of Interest - 1

  William J Hay  -  Small leaflet  -  Objects of Interest - 1

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Objects of Interest - 2

  William J Hay  -  Small leaflet  -  Objects of Interest - 2

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William J Hay

Bookseller and Custodian

William J Hay was born in Edinburgh in 1863.  He worked as apprentice in the Princes Street bookshop of William Brown, on a site later occupied by RW Forsyth Ltd. 

In 1902, he started his own business in the shop beneath John Knox HouseThe following year was appointed custodian of the Museum at John Knox House - a post he held for 40 years.

[EEN:  22 Jan 1955]


William Hay was reported in the press, on the occasion of his Golden Wedding, on 22 June 1938, as [still] carrying on business as a bookseller and art dealer at John Knox House.  [Edinburgh Evening News  22 June 1938]

He lived to the age of 91, and died in an Edinburgh nursing home in January 1955.  At the time of his death, the curator of John Knox House was one of his sons, W Clement Hay.

Graham Hay is the great-grandson of WJ Hay.  He is currently looking for more information on W J Hay.  If anybody has info that they would be willing to email to me, I will be happy to pass it on to him.

Graham Hay reports that he has a photograph of his grandfather, W J Hay, at his Christening at John Knox house in 1954  -  a few months before W J Hay died.

Sound Recording

Graham Hay has discovered that the American Folklife Centre at the Library of Congress holds a sound-recording of W J Hay, made by James Madison Carpenter, between 1928 and 1935.

In this recording, W J Hay was apparently singing a folk song on one of his filed trips around Scotland.    [March 2005]

Research Work

William J Hay was employed for many years by Sir Henry Irving and Ellen Terry to carry out historical research work.

[EEN:  22 Jan 1955]

Old Edinburgh Club

William J Hay is credited with having founded the Old Edinburgh Club in 1908.  In recognition of his services he was appointed to honorary membership of the Club. 

This club still exists, holding regular meetings and publishing volumes of "The Book of the Old Edinburg Club"

[EEN:  22 Jan 1955]

I believe that members of the Survey Group of Edinburgh Photographic Society were also instrumental in the early history of the Old Edinburgh Club.  More research is needed to discover what role the EPS Members played..