This photograph of my Scottish great-grandmother on the balcony of the family tenement in the Dumbiedykes in Edinburgh, overlooking Holyrood Park, is one that I only came across recently. It was hidden at the back of the cupboard in an album belonging to my great-uncle Adam which had somehow become separated from the rest of the photograph boxes (see Messy Boxes). And while it might not be of the same quality as the later photographs taken on the Neilson family’s tenement balcony between 1930 and 1945 (see A Tenement with a View), this informal image of a much younger great-grandmother is a rare find. It was probably taken when Catherine Neilson was in her mid-thirties and had finally become used to having a king on the throne after having known only a queen for almost the first three decades of her life.
Catherine Neilson, Dumbiedykes Balcony, Edinburgh, c 1910
Read more of this post at my new family history blog: A Scottish Family Album.
The Incidental Genealogist, October 2022
This month in my new Scottish family history blog, I am focusing on my grandmother’s childhood home in the Dumbiedykes‘ tenement flat in the east of Edinburgh. It is a house which I have never seen as it was torn down during the 1960s post-war ‘slum clearances’, although it had once been a much loved family home. Not only was the location fairly central for Edinburgh’s Old Town, but the balcony from the top floor flat looked over Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat. This balcony was also the scene of many family photographs – no doubt because of the space and light that wasn’t available inside the crowded tenement – and it’s thanks to this (and the unknown photographer, who was possibly one of my grandmother’s brothers) that there are so many natural images of the family relaxing at home throughout the 20s, 30s and 40s.
*My Grandparents on the Dumbiedykes Balcony, c1930
As a child I was always drawn to the set of photographs taken from the balcony of my great-grandparents’ tenement flat in Edinburgh’s Dumbieykes area. Through these images I saw my grandmother morph from a gangly 1920s teenager into a young married woman in the 1930s and then as a mother in the 1940s. Fashion moved on over the decades, but the solid-looking wrought-iron balcony was a constant. I have been told that the views from the flat over Holyrood Park were spectacular, although unfortunately no-one in the family thought to photograph them. My mother credits the fresh air blowing in from Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags for the Neilsons’ longevity – in addition to my great-grandmother’s plain and wholesome Scottish cooking. And even if they did not take advantage of the outdoor space in quite the same way we would today, the family must have appreciated being able to step out onto the balcony on a sunny morning, or to simply have a place to hang up damp laundry or wet overcoats.
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The Incidental Genealogist, February 2022