59 Causewayside

59 Causewayside, built in the mid-19th century as one of a row of six tenements, originally named Canning Place in order to disassociate it from the ancient houses and crumbling rookeries that formed the rest of Causewayside at that time.

Notable former residents include:

1945 – Janet Buckle, whose elderly uncle, George Dickinson, visited her to celebrate the end of world war 2, enjoyed a great deal to drink, and fell to his death from the rear window just after midnight on VJ day.

1937 – Benjamin Wark Spence, who travelled with his wife and daughter to Ardrossan, where he abandoned them without any money. The County Inspector of the Poor took him to court, and he was sentenced to three month’s imprisonment.

1928 – Margaret Muir, 23, who died in October of an infection of the heart, only four months after her seven-year-old brother Richard, died of the same thing. (Their hearts had been damaged by bouts of rheumatic fever that spring.)

1928 – Jane Buckle, 61, who died in May of tuberculosis. (Her brother, George, would fall out of the rear window of her flat while visiting her daughter there seventeen years later—see above.)

1928 – Robert Fulton, 57, a gardener, who died in February of a heart attack.

(That makes one death in each of the four seasons of 1928—a bad year for the stair.)

1913 – William Cockburn, who, for a brief period, took out small ads promising to cure people’s ringworm, dandruff and eczema. No endorsements from satisfied customers were printed.

1902 – Nellie Cockburn (born Helen Taylor), whose mother had died when she was young, and who had been raised by William Cockburn (above) and his wife. At 16, she was working as a clerkess in a Causewayside confectionary works when she fell 28ft down the well of a hoist and died.

1876 – Police constable Lewis Dallas, who made the press only once in the course of his career, when he watched as an overloaded horse-drawn coach going down Clerk street toppled on to its side, throwing into the gutter the 14 passengers who’d been travelling on top of the cab.

(Only one man, Mr Bertram, travelling in from Lauder, was seriously injured—he had his left leg broken. Lewis moved the other more slightly wounded passengers off the road and a nearby butcher, Mr Forsyth, came out of his shop with whisky to revive them.)

Lewis died in his flat of tuberculosis in 1883, at the age of 39, after 17 years on the force. The city police band and pipers and 260 police officers in full uniform accompanied his funeral cortege from the tenement to the Grange cemetery, walking four abreast.

The brass band played Handel’s “Dead March” as they processed along Grange Road, and the pipes took over with “Land o the Leal” as they neared the cemetery. Afterwards, the constables, band and pipers marched down Marchmont Road to the Meadows, where they dispersed.

Lewis’s children all died young. The one who lived longest, William, was five when Lewis died. Twelve years later, when he was 17 and serving in the Royal Navy at the rank of Boy 1st Class, he was killed in an accident on board the battleship HMS Camperdown at Salonica, Turkey.

After that, Lewis’s wife lived alone in Causewayside, eventually becoming senile and dying in 1926, at the age of 75, in the Craiglockhart poorhouse.

1866 – James Inglis, plumber, who made his employee Ebenezer McDonald, 44, go out to work even though he was plainly terribly ill with a cold and a bad cough. Later that morning, while working in a house at Dick Place, Ebenezer had a heart attack and died.

The ground-floor-left shop, now a Thai massage place run by Nongnuch Thonkong, was once James Greenfield’s grocer’s, where, in 1854, a 40-year-old homeless man named William Smith bought and drank a glass of whisky, lit a match to his pipe and “fell lifeless upon the floor”.

Around the same time, Rev Dr James Begg had a schoolroom in the other ground-floor premises (now a flat).

The school was part of the Newington Free Church’s mission on Causewayside. On suitable summer evenings, Rev Begg would arrange the school’s chairs on the street and preach to the impoverished locals from the top of the outside stair of an old building across the road.

Rev Begg was one of the founders of the Free Church of Scotland, and even among those men he was known as “a disrupter of the peace.” He was strongly conservative, rigidly anti-Catholic and quite horrified when his son William announced that he was going to be a stage actor.

The reverend forbade William from attending the theatre, calling him “child of Satan” (perhaps not entirely seriously) when he discovered he had done so anyway.

When William was 16, he worked his passage to Australia. Eventually, under the name of Walter Bentley, he became the best-known Shakespearean actor in the colony and came home to Scotland, where he may have met his father again. Or not.

After a successful decade in British theatre, William’s reputation was damaged by a paternity scandal and he decided to return to Australia. His health deteriorated in his seventies, and, in 1927, after being confined to bed for a year, he shot himself in the head.

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