'And finally, not everyone’s being doing topical. In fact, here’s the rather lovely 6 Oxgangs Avenue devoted to the history of the development of the area, this week highlighting how the block of flats came into being. Could have been prompted by Who do you think you are? Or just a timely reminder that not everything worth blogging about is in the here and now.'

Kate Higgins, Scottish Roundup 26/08/2012

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Comment From Eric Mullen Re: Moon River, Andy Williams Post 27 September 2012

I seem to remember Andy Williams visiting St Marks Church around about 1980 - I don't know why he would have done this but maybe I am getting senile and it didn't happen. Can anyone confirm? 

Friday, 25 October 2013

For Whom The Bell Tolls Number Two-Comments and a Response

Comment From Alan Brown:
Hi Peter, I was christened at St John's by the Rev Orr in 1967. I have a photo of me with my parents, brother and Auntie standing outside. Sad to hear this news, another link to my past slowly fades away.

Comment From Anonymous:
Hello Peter 
I also was a member of St John's Church even although I was christened in Colinton Mains in 1956. I remember the concerts that used to be held in the main hall for the local community and also the BBs, the 17th I think would meet there as well as the Life Boys as they were called in the old days. 
I went to bible class then progressed to the big church.
My most abiding memory was the annual fair held in the grounds and the main hall where all sorts of stalls were set up to raise funds for the church everybody used to turn up even teachers from all the local primary schools catholic and CofS, Oxgangs was a real local community in those days everyone knew everyone else.
Unfortunately In this day and age those days are sadly gone but thankfully the memories remain, good and bad but in my case the good outweighs the bad.
I notice that they are talking about closing the police station in Oxgangs, ironically I have the same scenario up here with my local station, so much for progress, sorry cost cutting, as Alan B said another link with the past fades away.
I think I will have a trip to Edinburgh this weekend and take some pictures of St John's before it is turned into a building site.

Keep on doing the The Stair Peter you are slowly jogging the memories out of me that I thought were long gone Thank you. 

Thanks for your very interesting e mail.

Because I drew down the curtain on Hogmanay 2012 I never got around to doing a variety of planned blogs-your e mail touches on some of them. Like you I too recall with great fondness the St John's Church Fete held annually each June-it really was a highly enjoyable day out. Looking at the area of the church it couldn't have been that large, but in my mind's eye it remains so. I vividly recall the bendy 'electric wire' (battery operated) that one tried to take a handle with a ring on the end from the start to the finish without the buzzer sounding-not often achieved as it took a steady hand-certainly beyond me today as it was at the time. 

The ice cream sold was always very pleasant and like the occasionally held fete day at Colinton Mains Church they held a sprint race for boys and girls on the grass area adjacent to the church building-I still recall receiving a colouring book and paints as a prize. There were excellent stalls selling all sorts of serendipities-it was from here and long before eBay we garnered our knowledge of ancient Dandy and Beano annuals. 

They always seemed to be very lucky with the weather; they really were sunny occasions and the volunteers-presumably church goers were equally sunny in their disposition, smiling and friendly-a really great and lovely day out for all the family-it must have warmed the heart of the Rev Jack Orr as he strolled amongst the happy crowd.

Similarly, I also recall performing in local youth club drama productions at the church hall-it was also probably one of several venues for The Pentland Festival-a blog which I really should get around to. 

Writing this wee response and your planned visit to Edinburgh has just given me the idea to record the sound of the St John's Church bells before they are perhaps silenced for ever-I'm due to be down next month so will need to brush up on the technology.

Thanks again for your comments-keep in touch!


*:) happy  

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

For Whom The Bell Tolls-Number Two

One of the loveliest memories of living at Oxgangs between 1958 and 1972 was the sweet sound of the St John's Church bells which rang out every Sunday morning calling the parishioners to worship. They had a lovely tone to them, somehow fresh and inviting, but also serving as a reminder of church bells down the centuries too. Very sadly these bells may no longer ring out.

St John's Church, Oxgangs
Last year on 2 September, 2012 I did a blog which focused on the former St Hilda's Church, Oxgangs Avenue-the last paragraph of which said: And what of St Hilda's Church? The congregation first met in a cottage in Colinton and then moved to the existing hall in 1951. In 1966 a striking, state of the art Modernist building was opened; and yet less than half a century later the church was knocked down only a few years after the start of the 21st century. The coming and going of a church within a few generations says something about Christianity and lends some weight to recording these vignettes before they disappear of life at The Stair.

I got quite a surprise a few weeks ago when I noticed that St John's Church and Hall were up for sale-St John's-surely not? I decided to inquire a little further and entered into some correspondence. I received an update from the Rev Iain Goring as detailed below.

Hi Alison,
Last year I authored a blog entitled The Stair about eight families living in Oxgangs between the years 1958-1972 which has proved to be quite popular with followers from as far away as Australia-St John's Church is mentioned a few times and particularly Rev Jack Orr-I still put up occasional updates and noticed the church building and hall has been put up for sale. I wondered whether you would be kind enough to please give me an update on this and also the congregation.
Thanks Alison.
Peter Hoffmann

The charismatic, Rev Jack Orr
Hi Peter - Alison Swindells passed on to me your email to her about St John's Oxgangs.  I arrived here on 15th August as Interim Minister and it is my task to take this congregation and the congregation of Colinton Mains to the point of becoming a united congregation on 1st January 2014.  The two congregation are only half a mile apart and although they are very different in background and culture the Presbytery of Edinburgh has wanted them to unite and become St John's Colinton Mains.

Colinton Mains Parish Church
As you might imagine this is a difficult time for St John's people because the building chosen for the united congregation is Colinton Mains and they are deeply sad at losing their own building that has been so much a part of their life and the life of the area.  As you have discovered, the building is to be put up for sale.  That will be hard for people to see.  There is a real hope that the site might be used for housing rather than for a supermarket  which the area does not need - it already has two and a small local supermarket as well.  

Come 31st December the building will no longer be used - and that will be another difficult time for people to come to terms with.

I hope this gives you a little of the picture of what is happening, but if you need any more info, then please do let me know.

Every best wish


Iain M Goring Interim Minister
Colinton Main & St John's Oxgangs
Mob: 07762 254 140

I'm sure all followers of The Stair will join me in wishing Iain and the new united congregation well-I can't recall whether Colinton Mains Church had bells-I don't think it does-if so it's a pity that the old St John's bell tower couldn't somehow be incorporated into Colinton Mains Church-as well as combining the two names a merging of the two buildings might go some way towards making it easier for those from St John's to adapt to life at the church down the hill-just a thought!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Dr Motley-An Update

Whilst editing The Stair into a book format (1 October, 2013) I came across the following extract from the Lincoln University Centennial Alumni Directory(1954)

MOTLEY, Arthur Philip, physician; b
Clarksville Tex June 18 1907; prep
L’Overature HS McAlester Okla; at-
tended Royal College of Surgeons Edin-
burgh: LMSSA (London) 1939; m Annette T H Comb Oct 1929; chil-Annette. Gen prac of med. Mem Brit Med Assn; assoc mem Brit Assn for the
Advance of Sci; mem Coun of Scotish
Health and Soil SOC; foundation mem of
the Coll of Gen Practioners; mem Edin-
burgh Clinical Club, Edinburgh Inter-
nat Hous. Ch of Scotland. Capt Royal
Army Med Corps 1940-46. Address:
(res) McAlester Cottage Oxgangs Rd
Edinburgh Scotland.

This puts a slightly different interpretation on one or two points in the vignette on Dr Motley on 16 December, 2012. First of all he married his wife much earlier than I had surmised-in 1929, not very long after he came to study in Edinburgh. And second that he was an army captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps between 1940 and 1946. The standard period of service in this unit was seven years which ties in with these dates. So clearly he served in the British Army rather than the British or American Navy. He would have needed to have trained for 6 months at RAMC Depot, Crookham Camp, Aldershot.  Immediately after leaving the army he would have sought work, so perhaps he either joined a practice in Edinburgh or set up on his own at Oxgangs. Again, I’m surmising here, but I wonder whether he recognised that because he was black and because many people would be prejudiced it would be very difficult for a local medical practice to appoint him and that he therefore realised he would have to branch out on his own and start his own practice?

Comment From Neil: Great article Peter, thank you. Dr Motley was always a classy person, we were fortunate to have him in Oxgangs. Your article got me thinking about the dentist - Dr Russell if my memory serves me correctly. Never had a problem going to Dr Motley but hated every visit to the dentist, Dr Russell !! 

Response: Aye-I can empathise-I did a swift paragraph on Mr Russell when I was wrapping up the The Stair back on 23 December, 2012. As part of the blog's raison d'etre a charming book well worth searching out is Leaves From The Lives Of A Country Doctor by Clement Gunn set in Peebleshire a century or so ago-a rather lovely read-you won't be disappointed! :-)