Introduction to Tenement Town

The stories on this site come from public sources, mainly old copies of The Scotsman, The Edinburgh Evening News, The Caledonian Mercury and other ancient newspapers whose text can be searched on The British Newspaper Archive.

Often, only the barest glimpse of someone’s life will have been recorded — some noteworthy event, sometimes happy, usually sad, that they or someone else saw fit to place in the press — and no context will have been given for the event reported, which can be frustrating.

I think that, by compressing the incidents of a century or more into one story, each piece in Tenement Town creates a meaningful context for these small scraps of life: the building in which the people in the news stories lived. I hope that that gives us a way of relating to the people and to the city that was constantly growing around them, and is still growing as I write this.

A practical note, in response to questions I’ve been asked: I start by searching for the address of a tenement in The British Newspaper Archive, and collect any news stories that it features in, then I make a list of the mentions of the tenement as the address of someone in the Births, Deaths and Marriages column, and I do further newspaper searches for those people’s names, following that up with searches in other archives, such as Scotland’s People, which has all the statutory registers.

If you’d like any help or advice conducting your own research, you can get in touch with me using the Contact link on the main page and I’ll see what I can do.


  1. Hello Dairmid
    I heard your interview on Good Morning Scotland today. My grandparents lived at 5 Balcarres Street from about 1933 till around 1980 (my grandfather outlived my grandmother, and died in 1947). I wondered if you would be interested in their story. I have ww2 diaries written when they both lived in the house.
    Best wishes
    David Inglis


  2. I would be very interested if you could do our house in Willowbrae Road- we lived in a maindoor tenement then moved 50 yards along the street


  3. Fascinating stuff. Really enjoying the read. I am in the Shandon Tree Colonies, I’d love to read about them, I’ll DM the address.


  4. I watched an article about st Patrick square you did on stv news last week. My mum was born in 23 ( I think) Buccleugh street in 1927 that’s the one with the pend through to st Patrick square. Her family were the last to live there prior to if being demolished and rebuilt in the early 30’s. The bollards you can see were put there with ‘no cycling’ signs after her sister was run over by a cyclist as she left the stair entrance. Her granny had a shop in at Patrick’s square and she reckons she can remember most of the shops. Yes she’s still living and sharp as a tack. I wondered if you might benefit from some of her memories??


    • Thanks for writing. The tenement over the Buccleuch street/St Patrick Street Square pend is one of my favourite lost buildings. The replacement is not terrible — I’m glad they kept the pend — but it’s not anywhere near as characterful as the original. (Although I suppose it might be a bit nicer to live in.) Your bit of information about the bollards is great – thanks! It’s exactly the kind of thing that ends up being forgotten unless someone writes it down. I’ll be doing another St Patrick Square tenement soon. I have your email and I’ll get in touch…


      • Thanks. I’ve told mum I contacted you so she’s starting to ‘collect her thoughts’. (I think she’s making notes)It’s giving her something to really think about. She 95 now and lost her remaining elder sister last year aged 98 so a positive move to get her thinking.

        Liked by 1 person

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