I’ve still got a few episodes to catch up on but I’m jumping forward today to tell you about an extraordinary incident on Saturday that led to a fascinating visit the other night, from which I am still buzzing.
On Saturday evening I had a phone call from a relation to tell me to Google a particular name, as he had found someone in the family who had been transported for some crime or other. However on Googling the name, the first website I came across showed a bit of one of my family trees. I hadn’t put this on the internet myself so thinking I had found another and maybe unknown connection, I clicked on the Home Page. What came up on the screen certainly surprised me as its title was the name of the street I was brought up in, in Edinburgh! What had that to do with this particular family, I asked myself? Reading on, I discovered that the woman whose website it was had written a book about the Victorian inhabitants of the street, and that one of my great grandmothers and some of her family, including the daughter who was to become my grandmother, must have lived there in the 1890s, after the death of great grandfather. What’s more they had lived in the house of a good friend of mine from my 20 years in the street, 1953 – 1973.
Then I made yet another discovery, that my great grandfather Inglis, whose son was to marry the daughter mentioned above, had also owned property in the street, when the land was first offered for sale, about 40 years before the other family’s occupation! It transpired though that he only bought the land, and seemingly “sat on it” for a few years before selling it again.
I had to contact the author of the book to tell her of these connections and to say that I too had been brought up there. We exchanged a few emails over the weekend, and Monday evening found me sitting in her house with a cup of tea while we chatted about the information I had given her. She answered my questions, and volunteered more information, all of which is in the book which I had come to buy, of course. It was great!
Leaving hers a little later, I had a walk along the street to remind myself of the buildings I had so taken for granted back in my youth. It was quite strange, as the street seemed narrower than I remembered, probably because the gardens that had generally been far more open to view from the street, now mostly had high hedges to screen the houses from “prying eyes”. In contrast there had been several houses with high walls in front and only a solid wooden gate as access, so these were well hidden from view but they have now been opened up as drive ways for their cars have been constructed, thus opening up the views to the houses!
This is the house granny Inglis spent some time at in 1896 with her mother and some of her siblings.
And then I rang the bell of our old home! How strange it felt, standing on the familiar old doorstep, waiting for someone to open the door. It was the lady of the house who answered, so I introduced myself and explained that I had been brought up here. Well, I couldn’t have had a warmer welcome! It turns out that they were the couple who bought the house from my mother in 1979, still there, having raised a son who wasn’t even a twinkle in ‘79, and who is now grown up and off travelling the world! I was invited in, and we talked, then I had a guided tour of the garden – how beautiful it is, so different from the rectangular lawn of the 50s and 60s, with flowerbeds all round. That was just the way things were done then! Mrs R pointed out some plants that my parents must have put in, including a beautiful red rose. The little porch my mother had had added to the back door has been extended to make a nice little sunroom, and the whole of the basement, originally servants’ quarters, has been made habitable with the old coal hole now a laundry room. Upstairs, the layout is exactly as it had been, though the R’s use some of the rooms differently. Well, not everyone had an artist’s studio or an office in our day!
I thought the house was beautiful, such a different decorative style, and of course the rooms arranged differently. I think I had still expected to see things arranged almost as we had had them, so at first it was a bit of a shock to see the way they have the place, but I soon recovered! think it is gorgeous!
Then we talked some more, with my reminiscences, and their stories. We had a cup of tea and talked more. They told me about some of our old neighbours, one “young mum” from my day, still there, a rather elderly widow now. I found out about former neighbours who had left the street, one of the boys now being the partner of a famous dancer, and even found out the current address of my long lost great friend from across the road – so watch out, Pank! I’ll be getting in touch!
What an evening! I can’t believe we talked till midnight! I left to come home, having given them my phone number – they often come to Peebles - and we have exchanged a hope to meet again. It’s a sincere hope too. What a lovely couple they are.
Talk again soon.