From There… To Here

The social history of Wester Hailes


Following on from last week, here’s the second part of Lisa McDonald’s question and answer interview. Lisa moved to Wester Hailes in 1974  when she was one year old and went to school at Dumbryden Primary and then the Wester Hailes Education Centre.

Did you work in Wester Hailes? If so, what was your job and can you tell us a bit about it?

I worked in Greggs the Bakers in Wester Hailes Centre for five years while I was at school and college. It was a brilliant place to work, the girls I worked with in the shop were great and the customers were lovely (mostly!) too. It didn’t ever feel like hard work to have to go in there. My most embarassing moments there were the time I sold someone a fake Christmas cake on Christmas Eve not knowing it wasn’t real ( they never did complain!) and on my 18th Birthday the Centre security asked over the tannoy for all shopping centre customers to make their way to Greggs – little did I know it was so they could watch the stripping vicar kissogram my workmates had got for me!

In what ways do you think Wester Hailes has changed over the years?

I had a gap of around fifteen years where I didn’t go into Wester Hailes, so to me it feels like it’s changed massively. My primary school in Dumbryden has gone and Greggs has moved within the centre, but the biggest changes for me are the ones around Westside Plaza, especially with the canal being open. It’s great to see money being put into improving housing too.

If you live somewhere else now, how does it compare with living in Wester Hailes?

I still live in West Edinburgh now, so I’ve not ventured far and while it’s nice where I am now, there’s not the same community spirit that we had in Dumbryden.

Dumbryden Gala Day 1979 – Lisa is the wee flower girl

What was the best thing about living in Wester Hailes?

The people and the community spirit.

And the worst?

Other people’s perception of what Wester Hailes was like. Even now occasionally people will judge me or comment on me having been brought up in Wester Hailes, yet I’ve got nothing but good memories. Wester Hailes is like anywhere else, it has its good points and its bad points, but a place is only as good as the people who live there and the people I know from Wester Hailes are pretty good!

What one thing would do most to change Wester Hailes for the better?

Ensure that there are enough things for kids to do in the community so that they grow up to be proud of where they come from.

What are your hopes for Wester Hailes twenty years on from now?

That organisations like the Council, WHALE and Prospect Community Housing continue to invest in the area and the people to ensure that the community continues on. Also that the Facebook groups like “Dumbryden Primary School” and “From There To Here” continue to flourish – having an archive of the history of Wester Hailes is important and it’s all the better when the archive is being added to by the people who lived and continue to live in Wester Hailes.

Next week we’ll be featuring a page from the January 1989 issue of the Sentinel written and designed by fifteen year old Lisa and four of her classmates from WHEC. It’s all about  Australian soap Neighbours and the pop group Bros (any Matt & Luke fans still out there?).


More of the Huts Online

We’ve added a few more clips from The Huts onto our Facebook page this week.  There’s a clip about the Sentinel, some footage of the Wester Hailes deputation to request that the Urban Aid grant wouldn’t be cut, and a reflection on how people in Wester Hailes perceived themselves compared to the outside world’s sometimes more stereotyped perception. In this last clip Mary Quinn commented about how Wester Hailes was regarded by public service providers, whose attitude seemed to be saying

“’s almost as if anything we have in the back of the lorry is good enough for Wester Hailes and they will accept it because they’ve got nothing there..”


Here’s the second of our question and answer interviews in which we ask people about their experience of living and working in Wester Hailes. Today’s interviewee is Lisa McDonald whose family moved to the area in 1974. Lisa’s provided us with so much interesting stuff that we’ll be running her interview in instalments over the next three weeks!

Were you born in Wester Hailes?

No, I started life in Dalry, Edinburgh.

When did you move to Wester Hailes and why?

My family moved to Dumbryden Gardens when I was one year old.

What were your family’s expectations when you moved to Wester Hailes?

My parents needed more space for my sister and I and they wanted to be nearer my Dad’s work at Sighthill Fire Station.

To what extent were these expectations realised?

We loved having all the space of a bigger house and we didn’t have a bath in the old house so a proper bathroom seemed very posh!

What are your best memories of Wester Hailes?

The amount of different things there were to do for kids. there were so many community things to get involved in, especially when it came to gala days. I was a flower girl for the Dumbryden gala day when I was 6 and just after that I was a member of Haggis the Clown’s Children’s Circus where I learned to stilt walk and juggle and where we took part in the Wester Hailes gala day. Although I wasn’t in the group for long I remember it well and can still juggle now (though I’m not sure how my stilt walking would be nowadays!).

I then moved on to ballet classes at WHEC with Joyce Patterson’s Dance School but that wasn’t for me either, so after that I joined Dumbryden Royals majorettes. In the 1980s majorettes were quite a big thing in Wester Hailes and there were several troupes – Clovenstone were the most successful and we always tried to outdo them at competitions but there were also the Hailesland Super Troupers and the Calder Merribelles along with our Dumbryden Royals. I loved majorettes and my mum was heavily involved too, helping to stitch the uniforms for the troupe and coming along to competitions with us. I was the troupe mascot along with our stuffed toy mascot “Royal Rabbit” and the troupe took part in lots of gala days in Dumbryden, Wester Hailes and in other miners gala days around East and Mid- Lothian. We never did quite reach the success that Clovenstone majorettes did, but we had fun trying!

Lisa & Royal Rabbit

As a teenager I used to spend a lot of time in Dumbryden Community Centre where we’d play pool and help out with the summer playschemes. We also did some good things for charity like a 24 hour stayawake for Famine Relief. I’ve a lot of good memories of the years spent there – the youth workers who helped run the centre did a brilliant job and we were never bored or stuck for somewhere to go. I was also part of the “It’s A Knockout” team the year Dumbryden won which I think was around 1987 and I even helped edit an edition of the Sentinel with some of my classmates when I was at WHEC – I had the honour of reporting on Scott and Charlene’s wedding in Neighbours! – Being able to get involved with so many varied things like that were what made growing up in Wester Hailes so good.

And your worst memory?

I can honestly say I have no bad memories of growing up in Wester Hailes.

The Huts Online

photo from Sentinel October 1984

Many people still remember the early Channel 4 film The Huts that was made about Wester Hailes in 1984.  The film focused on the efforts of local residents working together to improve life locally through the building and development of the huts as community facilities.  It showed how the  huts impacted on the lives of local individuals and groups, creating change and improving the life of the wider community.We posted an article about the film in February 2011.

Skyline Productions have now kindly agreed for excerpts of the film to be made available online thanks to the efforts of Wayne Cuthbert who contacted the company. We’ve uploaded the excerpts to our Facebook page From There To Here: A Wester Hailes Story.

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Only 116 years later!

Some people may be aware that there’s a football match taking place this Saturday that’s of particular interest to Edinburgh!  Not since 1896 has there been a match like it.  On Saturday in the splendour of Hampden, Hearts will meet Hibs in the Scottish Cup Final.  A mass exodus from Edinburgh will take place for those fans fortunate enough to have acquired tickets.  For many others, it will be a tense afternoon spent glued to the television.  For both sides, there’s a lot at stake. 

The ongoing rivalry between the two teams was a regular feature in the Sentinel.  Despite being a paper firmly located in West Edinburgh, reports and commentator columns had on the whole a balanced approach, giving space to both Hearts and Hibs, on occasion insulting them both equally!  Here’s a selection of articles featuring both teams. 

Fit For The Top Or Fit To Drop: an in-depth article from 1982 looking at pre-season training for Hearts, Hibs and Meadowbank Thistle.

Scoring His Way To The Top: local Hearts player Scott Crabbe gives an interview to the Sentinel. 

Reflections Of A Footballer: local Hibs player Paul McGovern talks to the Sentinel about joining the team.

Happy Days Are Here Again: signs of hope in 1991 for both clubs as they prepare for the first derby match of the season.

Why Oh Why? A reflection on why exactly so many people want to watch twenty two grown men kicking a ball around a field. 

Finally, here’s what the match looked like the last time the two teams met for a Scottish Cup Final at Logie Green in Edinburgh! Predating the Sentinel by more than a few decades, it was the only Scottish Cup Final to have been played outside of Glasgow to date.  The photo has come from the London Hearts website and was picked up from Lost Edinburgh.

1896 Hearts v Hibs Scottish Cup Final

It’s back! Wester Hailes Fun Run 2012

Last year we posted an article about the regular Fun Run that used to take place around Wester Hailes.  It caused a lot of debate and discussion locally and there was a feeling that this might be the right time to bring it back.  2012 is the year of the Olympics with the torch travelling through Edinburgh on Wednesday 13thJune.  A group of organisations and residents got together and have organised a 2012 Fun Run to take place on Saturday 16th June. 

The 5k route starts and ends in Hailes Quarry Park and includes some of the old

Poster designed by Carolina Skibinska at WHALE Arts Agency

race route, including that famous Greenway hill!  Meanwhile, in Hailes Quarry Park, Active Schools are going to be organising a Family Sports Day with lots of sports taster sessions for all ages, so that the day should be a day of Olympic celebration. 

 We’re now looking for runners to enter.  Whether you’re a serious runner, a fancy dress runner or a group of friends running, why not give it a go!  It’s open to all levels of ability and if you need to walk some of it, that’s fine!  You do have to be 14 years or over to take part.  For more information on how to enter please click here.  Please note there will be no entries accepted on the day.  If you don’t want to run but want to be involved, we’re also looking for volunteer helpers.  And of course, we’re hoping people turn out on the day to cheer the runners on!

Owned By The People

As is well known, when Wester Hailes was first built, it ended up with next to no infrastructure, despite the intentions of the original planners who had envisaged streets full of shops, services and facilities supporting a thriving community.  In 1983, the Sentinel reported on new plans from Wester Hailes Community Enterprises Ltd who were aiming to establish community owned facilities for the area.  The company was based at the Community Workshop in Hailesland Place and had been established to enable more local choice and control over local facilities. 

Community ownership is currently a hot topic ticking boxes for the Big Society concept but also giving decision making power to local residents about what is needed most in their area.  With 1 in 9 shops currently lying empty across Scotland, there are opportunities that enterprising groups and communities are taking hold of, developing community owned shops and businesses to safeguard future provision but also to create local employment and re-investment within the community.  Traditionally regarded as rural features, there are growing numbers of community shop and services flourishing in towns and cities. 

 Whilst not unheard of in 1983, the development of locally owned businesses was still a bold move by a new community such as Wester Hailes.  The Community Company researched a number of facilities that were needed in the area at that time.  Their first venture was a hairdressers, a unisex salon that was named Loose Endz, located in the Community Workshop complex.  The company aimed to run the business as a social enterprise, with all profits being channeled back into the community.  Loose Endz was officially opened in September 1983 by Leslie Fitz Simmons star of television’s Take The High Road

 It faced competition relatively quickly when a commercial hairdressers moved into the shopping centre.  Ironically, this strictly for profit business would probably only have made a move into Wester Hailes after assessing the market generated by the community owned business.  Meanwhile Community Enterprises Ltd continued to develop businesses including the Carousel, a community owned fish and chip shop that is often fondly remembered by its former customers.  Running businesses can be a risky business and this turned out to be true for Community Enterprises.  Despite high levels of enthusiasm from all those involved, some of the initiatives foundered and came to untimely ends.  Do you remember having your hair cut at Loose Endz?  It’s not clear from the newspaper what happened to this venture or for how long it survived. 

 There is perhaps more support and advice now available for those wanting to establish a community run business or shop and more sources of startup investment whether in the form of grant or loan.  Whilst the economic climate is harsh for new businesses, community owned facilities may have an edge as long as the community they are located in supports the initiative.