8 St Patrick Street

8 St Patrick Street. Built in 1781 on land with “agreeable prospects of the country adjacent and the firth of Forth”. Each flat had 3 bedrooms, kitchen, dining and drawing rooms and 2 bed closets (for the servants). There was a well in the rear.

Notable former residents include:

Willie Pullar, who died at 54 of a heart attack on a January afternoon. He had been a professional footballer in the 1920s, playing for Cowdenbeath, Leith Athletic and Raith Rovers. He stopped playing when he was 31, and spent his remaining years working as a postman. (1954)

Susan Wilson, who sued her landlords when they put her rent up to £2 8s a year. She said the house was not fit for human habitation—for instance, it had no water or sink, being a mere subdivision of a larger flat.

The sheriff threw out the case, saying that she’d rented the property in that condition and that, if a house was not fit for human habitation, the answer was to vacate it and move into one that was. (The solution was obvious—Susan should really have thought of it herself.) (1921)

Mrs Callander, whose four sons and husband had joined the army to fight in the war. The papers called them “a patriotic Edinburgh family” on the day it was reported that two sons had been hospitalised with wounds, and her youngest son was missing, almost certainly dead. (1915)

Janet McCondochie, who lived with her mother despite having been married for nine years. She had never lived with her husband, William—he was a commercial traveller, always on the road. One night, he came in drunk and thrashed her. She was pregnant at the time.

Despite the beating, she asked him to rent a house for them to live in. He replied, “You kid on I’m dead” and left. She never saw him again. (1914)

Janetta Wasserzug, who died of trauma after an operation to stop her bowel protruding through her navel, a condition that had been getting worse for several years. (1904)

F J White, a phrenologist who sold “beautifully coloured phrenological diagrams”—life size—for 1 shilling. He claimed to have read the skulls of lords and ladies, but also performed in the open air, gathering crowds by sending up fire balloons “8ft in circumference”. (1879)

(A scrap of one of his charts survives, in the National Library of Ireland’s collection of the papers of James Pearse, an architect who was the father of Pádraic Pearse. It said his head was of the ‘long’ type and he had ‘a sanguine temperament’.)

Mrs Burges, who lost a book called “Chambers’s Indian Mutiny” somewhere in Clerk Street on a Thursday night. (1875)

Agnes Duncan, who had become the infants teacher at Heriot’s Hospital when she was 21. That was the year her mother caught tuberculosis, which then passed to Agnes and her sister Sarah (14), killing all three within five years. (1874)

The ground floor premises have housed various businesses, like George Brown’s Bakers and Confectioners and Alex Buncle’s Provisions, where you could buy “REAL GOOD HAM!” because he “gives every Ham he sells its true character.”

In 1836, Naughty Thai was the premises of Peter Thomson, rope manufacturer, who raised money to send the Rev William Jameson to do missionary work among the recently freed slaves in Jamaica.

(A curious footnote, probably meaningless: the business that operated in the premises immediately before Naughty Thai opened was Jam Rock Jerk, a Jamaican takeaway, serving goat curry, fried plantains, ackee and other dishes that, presumably, the reverend sampled during his ten years on the island, before he left for the Calabar mission, in what is now Nigeria, where he died of fever.)

In 1890, the Edinburgh Coffee Lounge was James Cochrane’s grocers. He refused to close his shop for the Wednesday half-day holiday, saying that it would simply give the young grocers’ assistants (who regularly worked 14-hour days) “an opportunity for dissipation”.

A crowd of grocers’ assistants and message boys marched to his shop from the Tron and blocked the street for five hours, throwing refuse and potatoes at the shop and smashing both windows.

It had taken 30 years for the campaign for a weekly half-holiday to reach the stage of disturbances in the streets; it took 20 years more before Parliament finally legislated for it. James Cochrane had retired by that time.

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