Ask the Archivist session

Portobello Baths poster

Portobello Baths poster

Starting on Monday 23 February from 10.30-12.30, is a new monthly drop-in session in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection within Central Library on George IV Bridge.

What are archives and can they help you discover more? Are you interested in finding out more about your family and local history, or a business? Do you have records you don’t know what to do with?

Why not come along and talk to one of the archivists from Edinburgh City Archives to get some free advice. The drop-in sessions planned so far take place on 23rd February, 30th March, 27th April and 25th May from 10.30 until 12.30

If you are interested in this but the time is not suitable, please email us on or call us on 0131 529 4616.

We look forward to meeting you soon…

Edinburgh City Archives: Collections Growth 2014


Edinburgh City Chambers Home Guard, 1940-44

Edinburgh City Chambers Home Guard, 1940-44

Many people associate archives with libraries and although, on a superficial basis, there are some similarities at least between local history sections of the latter and archival institutions, both tend to work along quite different lines.  For example, libraries collect material and classify them according to set categories or systems of organisation which can mean that historical material accepted by them is ultimately split into a library’s separate classes of books and records.  On the other hand, archives use the principle of ‘provenance’ (or the origins of the records being collected) to maintain the collection as a whole to provide historical context for the archives.

Another key difference is that archival material is almost always original and therefore unique and as such is never thrown out like old library stock and replaced by new; archives are ever-expanding!

ECA grew by a total of more than 30 linear metres last year alone which constantly brings challenges in terms of storage capacity but challenges which have to be faced in order to meet our obligations to collect, preserve and make available to the public the records relating to Edinburgh City Council and to the economic and social history of the city as a whole.  The more than 40 separate donations of records we accepted are clearly too numerous to be detailed fully in this short article but a few of them are outlined in what follows.

Although we by no means hold all educational or school records for the Edinburgh area we do have custody of quite a few: in 2014 we also took in records relating to Abbeyhill Primary School, 1879-1993; a single Davidson’s Mains School log book, 1927-1951 and various items relating to Trinity Academy and Leith School Board.  Furthermore we received additions to our already voluminous collection of Wellington School archives, an institution dating back to the 1850s and now closed.

We also acquired the records of some of the sporting activities of some prominent schools in Edinburgh.  These were the records of the Royal High School Athletics and Cricket Club, 1921-1977 and those of the Stewart’s Melville Royal High School Cricket Club, 1973-2014.

On the social history side of the Capital’s life we took in Edinburgh Festival Society agendas, minutes, correspondence and related papers, 1976-1991; a copy petition of February 1976 by Edinburgh Playhouse Society to Edinburgh District Council and a petition to save the Playhouse Theatre in Edinburgh both of which appear to have had some impact given that it’s a thriving and well-used venue today.

Many of our accessions of course are textual but we do still receive donations of a more pictorial nature.  We brought in a sizeable collection relating to Granton Gasworks comprising mainly a large collection of photographs.   One last item worth mentioning is also a photograph; a black & white image taken sometime during World War II which shows the assembled and largely named company of Edinburgh City Chambers Static Post Attached 6th Battalion Home Guard.

So, a mixed bag of accessions but all part and parcel of the ever growing volume of historical material which all adds to Edinburgh City’s Archives collections and helps elucidate the Capital’s long and continuing history.

Midlothian Remembers 1914-1918

Penicuik Silver Band Memorial

Penicuik Silver Band Memorial

After months of effort and hard work we are delighted to announce the launch of the Midlothian Roll of Honour 1914-1918.

War memorial at St James the Less Episcopal Church, Penicuik

The new database records all memorials to the First World War in Midlothian and provides details of every casualty listed on the memorials. So far we have recorded 79 memorials in local parks, churches, workplaces and schools, and the details of 1364 casualties. In addition, we have recorded headstones in local cemeteries that commemorate the war.

Launch of Midlothian Remembers November 2014
A dedicated team of volunteers have helped to locate and photograph the memorials, and also to research the stories of the people on them. The database is by no means complete and research is ongoing. We also hope to produce a print version in due course.
Family history fair at Newtongrange November 2014
The new database was launched at a successful Local and Family History Fair at the National Mining museum in Newtongrange in November 2014.

Days in the Life: The Great War in Edinburgh



Much has been written recently in this anniversary year of World War 1 and most, if not all, of this has rightly focussed on the terrible conditions suffered in the trenches and the battles fought by troops on the Front Lines.  The traumas experienced by ordinary soldiers and the privations endured in trench warfare are almost unimaginable to us today.  Those who were left behind in Britain – the wives, fathers, mothers, brothers & sisters – could only bear the experience of this terrible period as best they could, hope and pray for their loved ones, and ‘do their bit’ for the war effort.  On this ‘front’, the citizens of Edinburgh were no different to those in other parts of the UK; they did whatever they could to help the lads on the Frontline.

 This little pictorial exhibition of some of the posters that were produced in the years of the conflict and which would have been posted in public places around the City gives some idea of the kinds of things ordinary folk here got involved in – from enlistment itself to raising money – to help bring victory and the War to a close.

 There are 6 categories of posters illustrated below:

 ·         Enlistment

·         Flag Days

·         War Loans

·         Advice & Exhortations to the public

·         Fund-raising events

·         Morale-boosting propaganda


1: 1914 September Enlistment in City Battalion

1: 1914 September Enlistment in City Battalion



2: 1914 September Royal Scots Enlistment

2: 1914 September Royal Scots Enlistment




Slides 1-3:  The Royal Scots is the oldest infantry regiment of the line in the British

3: 1915 February Royal Scots enlistment

3: 1915 February Royal Scots enlistment

Army and both the City of Edinburgh Battalion (15th) and the 2/9th, Highlanders Battalion were raised in the City in September 1914.  The 17th (Service Battalion) was formed shortly afterwards by Lord Roseberry and a local committee in February 1915.

4: 1918 Parade of Women's Army Auxiliaries

4: 1918 Parade of Women’s Army Auxiliaries

 Slide 4: The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was formed in early 1917 and survived under this name till November 1918.  Over 57,000 women served during this time. On 31 March 1917 women in the WAAC were first sent to the battlefields in France, 14 cooks and waitresses.

Flag Days

5: 1915 Help Serbia Flag Day

5: 1915 Help Serbia Flag Day





Slides 5 & 6: The Serbian Campaign, fought by the Kingdom of Serbia against Austria-Hungary began in July 1914 and continued to the end of hostilities in November 1918.

6: 1917 Serbian Boys' Flag Day

6: 1917 Serbian Boys’ Flag Day




During the war Serbia lost more than one million of its inhabitants representing 27% of the total and 60% of the male population – easy to see why the allied citizenry were exhorted to support them.


Slides 7-9: These posters were used to coax Edinburgh & Leith’s populace to financially support various allied countries such as Russia and France or just to raise funds for troops or medical supplies.

7: 1916 Edinburgh & Leith Russian Flag Day

7: 1916 Edinburgh & Leith Russian Flag Day

8: 1915 14 July Help France

8: 1915 14 July Help France





9: 1917 Edinburgh Flag Day

9: 1917 Edinburgh Flag Day

War Loans

10: 1915 Victory Loan Campaign, Usher Hall

10: 1915 Victory Loan Campaign, Usher Hall



11: 1915 The British Sovereign Will Win

11: 1915 The British Sovereign Will Win

Slides 10-15: Just some of the many posters used to help the country raise funds for the war effort – some from central authorities such as the Parliamentary War Savings Committee while others were locally instigated like those illustrated in slides 10 & 14. 

12: 1910s War Loan - Message from our troops

12: 1910s War Loan – Message from our troops

The Town Council of Edinburgh had been investing in the War Loan scheme for some time but at a meeting of 6th February 1917 they voted to purchase more with the purpose of re-selling to the citizens of Edinburgh; Lord Provost, John Lorne Macleod put his name to this local plan.


13: 1916 Crush the Germans Parliamentary War Savings Committee

13: 1916 Crush the Germans Parliamentary War Savings Committee

14: 1917 February - The War Loan - Edinburgh

14: 1917 February – The War Loan – Edinburgh

















Advice & exhortation to the public

Slides 15-16: These illustrate the effect that German submarine attacks on British shipping carrying food supplies to Britain was having by 1917 – all were urged to eat less and tighten their belts.

15: c. 1917 Food Economy Poster

15: c. 1917 Food Economy Poster


16: 1917-18 Bread will save You

16: 1917-18 Bread will save You







Slide 17: As the War wore on not only the death toll but the numbers of casualties rose.  This poster encouraged employers to find jobs for those disabled fighting on the Front.

17: c. 1918 Don't Pity Disabled

17: c. 1918 Don’t Pity Disabled

Fund-raising events

18: 1915 Charity Rugby Match

18: 1915 Charity Rugby Match


19 :1915 Cinema Ambulance Day

19 :1915 Cinema Ambulance Day







Slides 18-19: These two posters exemplify just some of the other methods used to collect funds for the war effort; these included not only rugby matches and cinema events but also boxing & football matches as well as concerts in public halls.  All demonstrate how locals contributed to the overall campaign.



Morale-boosting propaganda

20: 1916 The King visits His Armies

20: 1916 The King visits His Armies

Slides 20-22: These colourful posters show the kinds of morale-boosting propaganda – with film and by photographic exhibitions – that was used in Edinburgh and the country at large to give the populace heart and maintain an esprit de corps throughout the long war years.


21: 1917 The German Retreat - Battle of Arras
21: 1917 The German Retreat
22: c. 1917 Official Naval Photographs Exhibition

22: c. 1917 Official Naval Photographs Exhibition

Edinburgh City Archives’ Story Box 2014

Archive RememberedAs part of the Explore Your Archive campaign 2014 Edinburgh City Archives are once again having a ‘story box’ on show to give you an idea of the kinds of records we keep and make available. Inside you will find snippets of information on the likes of Policemen, Army Recruits, Criminals, William Burke, Aliens and Disappearing Dukes!

If you fancy delving into the story box you will find one in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection within Central Library on George IV Bridge, as well as one in the City Chambers main reception, on the High Street (opposite St Giles Cathedral).

The boxes will be available to look through from Monday 10th November through to Monday 17th November 2014. You will also be able to take away one of our general leaflets which gives you a bit more information on what we are all about, as well as our contact details so you can get in touch.

Happy exploring, we hope you enjoy…

Family History Day at Edinburgh Central Library 2014

Edinburgh City Archives are taking part in the Family History Day at Edinburgh Central Library on Saturday 15th November 2014, 10.30am to 4pm. Whether you have already made a start to your family tree, or you are a complete beginner, this is a fantastic opportunity to quiz the professionals under one roof. For more information please see

We look forward to seeing you there…

Centenary of a Royal Visit

Souvenir programmeAs events in Europe moved ever closer to war, preparations for a happy occasion in Linlithgow are revealed in the Town Council minutes.

“The Provost reported that he had received intimation … that Their Majesties the King and Queen were to honour the Burgh by a visit on Saturday 11th July next …,” Minutes of meeting of the Town Council of the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow, 14th April 1914. A Special Committee was appointed to “attend to all necessary arrangements in connection with the Royal Visit.” and the minutes of their meetings in June and July reveal these detailed preparations.

The Committee oversaw the construction of barricades to maintain public order and, in response to his request, granted the chief Constable the use of the Victoria Hall “for the purpose of feeding the Police brought in to assist the local force”. The Linlithgow Station and District Ambulance Society were provided with a Headquarters in the Masonic Hall and turned out four squads of four men each. The Committee agreed that the Magistrates robes should be sent to Messrs Pullar & Co. Ltd to be cleaned and repaired after the Marches Day and the Burgh Officer was authorised to obtain a new uniform from Mr George Anderson, Tailor, Linlithgow.

The minutes state “About Decorations, the Committee are of opinion that Their Majesties should be enabled to see the Town very much as it is, but that an appeal should be made to the General Public to decorate their houses in a simple tasteful fashion.” However, more work went into preparing other buildings in the Burgh. The Council assisted with the cost of cleaning the Parish Church. Bailies Dymock and Wardrop organised the decoration of the Town Hall Stair Case, a task made easier by the loan of plants from Mr W.M. Richard of Clarendon and Mr William Dougall of Rockville, as well as the help of their gardeners. Flags of the Trade Incorporations in the Burgh were also displayed from the windows of the Town Hall.

Representatives of the Burgh were selected for presentation to their Majesties in the Parliament Hall of the Palace. Seats in the Hall were reserved for about 200 people with some official position in the County and Burgh, and the Committee agreed the order for the issue of tickets. Further spaces were allocated in the Ladies Gallery and a range of other locations including the Council Chambers, Burgh Court Room and even the South Windows in the Town Hall (“4 persons for each window”)!

Arrangements were also made for the official press including the Glasgow News, the Linlithgowshire Gazette and West Lothian Courier, along with photographers including Mr Haddow of Lizars & Co., and Pathe’s Animated Gazette.

On the day, the crowds greeting the Royal Party included more than 900 school children and their teachers from Linlithgow Public School and the Academy. The children were in their places in the Kirkgate and Palace Yard “by 3 o’clock pm prompt”. They were presented with a commemorative medal by Mr and Mrs Hope of Bridgecastle and also given refreshments by Mr and Mrs Cadell of Grange. Entertainment was provided by Bathgate Public Prize Band in the Palace Yard and Kinneil Reed Band at the Cross, with Mr Robert Cassels acting as Musical Director. In addition, town and church bells were rung.

Evidently, the event was “a splendid success”. The minute of 16th July reads “The Committee now beg to put on record the great satisfaction of the Community that the most welcome visit of their Majesties the King and Queen, accompanied by Her Royal Highness Princess Mary, which took place on Saturday last, had enabled the Burgh to renew its old time association with the Royal Family, and to demonstrate again its ardent loyalty to the Throne.” The minutes also provide a detailed record of thanks from the Committee “to one and all who in any way assisted in the successful carrying out of this memorable function.”



8 peterjackAs part of the First World War centenary, West Lothian Council Archives has created a real-time historical twitter feed which will offer a unique insight into life in West Lothian during the First World War. The twitter feed was launched on the official centenary of the start of the war and will run for 4 years with the project end coinciding with the end of the war on the Western Front in 1918. The tweets will be based on local newspaper coverage and records from the council’s archives.

In 2015, followers will be given a chance to glimpse beyond the home-front experience as the tweets draw in entries from Private Peter Jack’s diary which was penned in 1915-1916.

Follow @WW1WestLothian and learn about West Lothian’s war-time experience in real-time.

West Lothian History and Heritage Fair 10th May 2014



Come along to a fascinating day of displays, talks and workshops on a variety of aspects of Scottish, local and family history.    The 4th West Lothian History and Heritage Fair takes place at Linlithgow Academy on Saturday 10th May from 10am till 4.30pm. 

Entry is £2, with children under 16 free.   All the events are included in the entry fee, but talks and the old handwriting presentation should be pre-booked, as numbers are limited.  The remaining tickets will be available on the day, on a first come first served basis.

Throughout the day a wide range of national and local heritage organisations will provide displays and information about their work.

Refreshments and light lunches will be available.


10am:  Family history workshop by West Lothian Family History Society

10.15 – 11.15:  Trevor Royle, Land of brave men: Scotland goes to war, August 1914

11.30 – 12.30:  Dr Alastair Durie, Scotland for the visitor: why so popular?

12.40 – 1.10:  Short dramatic presentation of ‘Letters from the Front’: West Lothian soldiers’ letters from the First World War.

2.00-3.00:  Dr David Ritchie, Irish immigration

2.00– 3.00:  Presentation on old handwriting, by Margaret McBryde of the National Records of Scotland4828

3.15 – 4.15:  John Burnett, From curling to the Commonwealth Games: Scottish sport on and off the park.

To book, telephone 01506 776347 or 776321, or email;  or book in person at the Local History Library, Linlithgow Library, The Vennel, Linlithgow, EH49 7EX.





Edinburgh City Archives searchroom closure


Due to unforseen delays with our public searchroom refurbishment we are now intending to re-open on Tuesday 22nd April 2014.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause, and would remind you to contact us before you travel for up to date advice.

For more information please call us on 0131 529 4616 or email us at