Who & Why

My name is Simon Swan and I am the curator of this archive. I was born in Edinburgh, July 1969, at Edinburgh Simpsons Maternity Hospital, Lauriston Place (now a hotel of all things!). 

I have been interested in and collected all sorts of things throughout my life from the normal teenage stuff like records, going to gigs of course, through to collecting toys, memorabilia, antique watches, the list goes on and on and changes from time to time.

One interest that has endured though, since I was around eight years old, was a fascination with history, mainly the social history of Edinburgh.

I think it all started when I used to have afternoons with my granny Cathie.  We would walk all around Edinburgh leaving from her Dalry Road flat, and along the way she would meet all sorts of interesting characters she knew.  We would often walk down the High Street and I would run away from her along the closes, only to be found by her joining in with whatever all the children were playing in the square.  Yes, children did actually play outside then!  In the street!

My granny used to work at the Empire Theatre, doing all sorts of jobs from cleaning, taking the money in the wee kiosk, and helping Dave Hill of Slade onto the stage as he had a leg in plaster at the time!!  But that’s another story!! 

I would sometimes go and meet her there, and was allowed to wander around the theatre, which to my eyes had not been changed much since it had been built in Edwardian times.  Obviously front of house had changed, but behind the scenes I am sure everything was pretty much as it has been decades before.  I remember Edwardian looking signs at the side of the stage, telling you how to work the trapdoor in the stage, and all sorts of dusty and old looking rooms and cupboards.  I was hooked and fascinated.  The place smelt of history, and I genuinely could feel atmosphere.  I wanted to know more….

My Uncle Tommy also worked there for a time, and I quizzed both of them like only a seven year old can, about anything they knew about the Theatre.  And the things that both my Granny and my Uncle mentioned the most were the concerts of the early seventies.  My granny remembered Marc Bolan being really small and sitting on the side of the stage during sound check, she remembered David Bowie asking everyone to leave the Theatre while he sound checked in a pair of denim dungarees, although strangely he let my granny carry on her cleaning; she even had Slade socks thrown at her when she was sent to tell them it was stage time.

Anyway, I barely knew who any of these people were at the time, I was about six or seven after all, but these stories stuck with me, and when two or three years older I started the age old ritual of borrowing my older brothers records, I realised the full gravity of what a Bowie concert in the Empire had.

Fast forward to 2005 and I had started to compile stuff on my PC at home with the view to maybe publishing a book, but it was very hard going as at the time I had no means to contact others to share stories and info etc.  Roll on to 3rd October 2007 and I pressed the button and launched this website.

Since then I have been lucky enough to have been contacted by all sorts of lovely people from all over the world who have a connection with Edinburgh, and this site relies heavily on your contributions of scans and information to help it grow.  I thank every one of you.

As I write on 8th March 2012, the site has had more than 37,000 visitors, and I feel it has really found its place after five active years.

Thank you to everyone who has sent a scan, story, or just had some kind words for the site.  It is genuinely appreciated.

Onwards and upwards…….

Best wishes

Simon Swan, Edinburgh, March 2012.