Thursday, 8 October 2015


I thought this week I'd continue on from the previous blog and take another look at the place where I live, Portobello.

There was a time when Portobello was the destination for thousands of holiday makers, primarily from Edinburgh and Glasgow, but its hey day was most definitely back in the 19th century. It became part of Edinburgh in 1896. From 1846 until 1964 Portobello boasted a large open-air, heated swimming pool, where if you found yourself in some difficulty, you might be rescued by the lifeguard who would go on to be the worlds most famous secret agent, none other than Sean Connery.

For 50 years, until 1917, we had a pier that extended 1250feet out into the sea. There are proposals to possibly rebuild the pier.

Back even further into the 18th century and it was a favourite haunt of less desirable visitors, that of smugglers and some seamen. One such was George Hamilton, who served under Admiral Edward Vernon during the capture of Porto Bello (the literal translation being "Beautiful Harbour") in Panama in 1739.  Hamilton settled here and built a small cottage, naming it Portobello Hut.

But my research uncovered even more surprising facts, though for that I had to go even further back. To 1296, and the eve of the Battle of Dunbar. Back then the area now known as Portobello was just an expanse of open moorland. The Figgate Burn flowed the two miles from Duddingston Loch to the open sea, giving the area it's original name of Figgate Muir. It was on this moor that William Wallace mustered his forces for the Battle of Dunbar. They were defeated by King Edward and it effectively ended the war of 1296. It would be later that year that the Stone of Scone, upon which the kings of Scotland had been crowned, would be taken to England.

Amazing to think of the place I call home playing a part in such significant changes for Scotland.

400 years later, in 1650, and a secret meeting was held here between Oliver Cromwell and the Scottish leaders in his campaign against the Scottish. He died eight years later. He would later be accused of genocide against the Catholics of Scotland and Ireland.

Forward almost another 400 years and here we are today, with a Scottish parliament, a desire to be independent from England, and the Stone of Scone returned home.

Portobello has been a gathering place of hordes of military; been a hideout for smugglers; manufactured pottery, soap, mustard and even the bricks that built a formidable power station that would generate Portobello's electricity needs until 1977.

Now the only hordes of people that gather are sun worshippers, and the only seamen are the hobbyists in their kayaks and dinghies. 

But it remains a "Beautiful Harbour".


Morag Phillips said...

I didnt know that about William Wallace Graham. Very interesting.

Morag Phillips said...

I didnt know that about William Wallace Graham. Very interesting.

Graham Kitchener said...

I also realised that Vernon Cottages up the little street beside the Baths is named after Admiral Edward Vernon, and the Kings Road is named after George the 4th as that is the route he took to the beach in 1822.