CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009

Craig Royston,

PORTOBELLO

Dorothy Cavaye was there 80 years ago

Dorothy Kelly
Dorothy Cavaye

THE CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON

& PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES

a talk given to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009

The illustrations and annotations were put together by Roger Kelly

The CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009

 

The celebrated Portobello Swimming Baths opened in 1901 and a couple of years later the Cavaye family moved to Portobello.  They were flitting from Leith to a house near the bottom of Bellfield Street which in our day used to be called Melville Street, so the children were well placed to become first class swimmers, which they did, as well as enjoying the pleasures of beach, sea and pier. 

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Portobello Public Baths on the promenade at the foot of Melville Street soon after opening in 1901

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Portobello Swimming Club and Andrew Cavaye soon after Public Baths opening in 1901

Father of the family Andrew Cavaye (1872-1930) was a keen user of the new Baths,

standing sixth from left in the back row of this Portobello Swimming Club photograph.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
High Street. Brighton Place and Bath Street 1901
from image in St Andrews University collections

Portobello central crossroads in 1901, where the High Street meets Brighton Place (right)

and Bath Street (left) – main gateway to the pleasures of beach, sea and pier. 

  CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Portobello Pier in 1911
designed by Thomas Bouch 1870s. removed in First War.

Portobello Pier in 1911, eight years after the Cavayes came to live at Melville Street nearby.

The structure had been designed by Thomas Bouch.  It was to be removed in the First War.

 

Mother and Dad had originated in Restalrig and Jock’s Lodge and with Dad’s cooperage business, Macgregor and Company, being newly set up in Storries Alley, Leith, they could be said to be rooted in the closely linked parishes of South Leith and Duddingston.  At that time there were already three Cavaye children, Bertie, Louie and Douglas so, appropriately, when the fourth one was born in Melville Street, they called him Melville. 

 

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Robert McClelland Cavaye  (1808-1876), Margaret Boyd Cavaye (1837-1906) and some of their childrenCAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Andrew Cavaye at Willowbrae School about 1880CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Andrew Cavaye in Leith

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Andrew Cavaye and Christina Grieve and family 1905

Andrew Cavaye was doing well in Leith after hard beginnings as 11th of his father’s children

at Northfield Cottages, Jocks Lodge. There were 2 more before the old man killed himself when

 Andrew was 4. He attended Willowbrae School (shown here c.1880) then learned shorthand and

French at night classes at Portobello School while working a junior clerk at Millers Foundry Abbeyhill.

His break came at Macgregor’s cooperage when the owner died and the widow put him in charge.

His wife Chrissie Grieve was from Thornville Terrace, Leith and had worked as a photo printer.

Here they are above in Portobello, with Bertie (kilt) Louie, Douglas (sailor) and baby Melville.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
foot of Melville Street now Bellfield St Portobello
CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Portobello Public Baths at the foot of Melville Street now Bellfield St.

As the Cavaye family grew they moved around Melville Street, ever closer to Baths and beach

They began in Number 7 a small flat near the top in 1903-4. Around 1907 they crossed over

to what seemed to the children a “dull old house,” the distinguished number 16 by the church.

They crossed again to an airy villa only two doors from the Baths at number 45 which they rented

from Captain Turner of the Merchant Navy around 1910, and finally crossed again even closer

to the beach at number 32.  Captain Turner’s henhouse (which he’d once had on one of his

ships) went with the Cavayes from 45 to 32 and then on to Craig Royston.

 

The rest, apart from one of their large family of twelve (one girl died) were born in Melville Street too, though in different houses as the numbers increased until, in 1914, they felt the need for even more space and bought the large semi-detached villa of Craig Royston in East Brighton Crescent.  Their last child, Ronald, was born there in 1919 and there the Cavayes remained, with all their consequent noise and energy, right through the twenties and thirties.   I was to become the first of the next generation, born in 1925.  From then on my descriptions and stories come from personal experience and actual remembrance.  I shall back up my own memories and give you the benefit of slightly earlier remembrances from someone who actually lived at Craig Royston, by quoting later from the Memoirs my Uncle Ronnie wrote in 1993.

 

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Craig Royston from Christian PathCAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Craig Royston from Christian Path with parlour steps CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Craig Royston parlour steps

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Craig Royston parlour steps

Craig Royston from East Brighton Crescent and from the Christian path, with the parlour steps

where Chrissie and Andrew Cavaye sit with their seven youngest children and first grandchild.

Behind them are Winks, Ian and Noel; in front Ronnie, baby Dorothy, Maysie and Stanley.

.

My awareness of the environment began quite early, for many of my most vivid memories come from the period when I was between eighteen months and four years old.  Because we lived then at the westernmost end of Portobello in Inchview Terrace, moving, when my brother was expected in 1929, round the corner to a bungalow in Wakefield Avenue, all journeys were down to the central part of Portobello to visit both sets of grandparents.   That bit I got to know well.     I was less familiar with the Joppa end of the town, apart from the Baths and of course the Daisy Park at Easter egg time.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Wakefield Avenue

Outside our bungalow at Wakefield Avenue

 

  The Great War seemed remarkably close, when I was little.  Everybody was conscious of it. My father, the eldest son of eight and the only one old enough to volunteer, had been away in the army in Mesopotamia, Palestine and India during the years 1915 to 1919.  He had nearly drowned with the sinking of the Cameronia (his swimming saved him).  He was wounded in Mesopotamia and narrowly escaped a leg amputation.  He told me lots of stories about the war, not just about his own experiences but about the sufferings of the men in the trenches.  Young as I was, he seemed to think it important that I learn about the mud and the rats and the sheer horror of life in the trenches.  He was a singer, so I heard lots of songs of the period,-Keep the Home fires Burning” – “Pack up your troubles in your old kitbag” – and “Mademoiselle from Armentiers, parlez-vous.  Also, when he took me to the Baths every week on a Thursday evening, and I had to be smuggled in to the Men’s Pond (“Her mother can’t bring her, she’s got a new baby”).  I was horrified to see from time to time men with one whole leg off, hopping along into the sprays.  At home, when beggars came to the door, neatly dressed and sometimes displaying medals, their plea was please to be generous to a man who had fought for his country and now looked hopelessly for work.  This happened quite a lot and at school too we put money in every week to what they called War Loan, obviously a hangover from the War years.  Many Portobello folk had lost sons and brothers and boy friends during that endless-seeming terrible War.  By the grace of God the Cavayes lost no sons.  They must have trembled when they thought of Andrew Cavaye’s sister in London who lost three sons one after the other.

 

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Andrew Cavaye, Robert McClelland Cavaye (Bertie) in uniform around 1916 CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Robert McClelland Cavaye's Army book

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Troopship Cameronia in prewar service with the Anchor Line.CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Troopship Cameronia sinkingCAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Troopship Cameronia sinking

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
No 1 IBD Bangalore Oct Nov 1917CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
No 1 IBD Bangalore Oct Nov 1917
Wilson, Cavaye, Fell stand behind Major Adams

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Lieut. R.M. Cavaye
Egyptian Expeditionary Force Pass

Young Bertie Cavaye’s soldiering took him from Melville Street to War in the East and back again

His letters from the War form part of Dorothy’s presentation Love and War 1914-1918

 

 The Great Depression didn’t begin for our family until 1931.  As far as the middle class families of Portobello were concerned the twenties were relatively affluent and easy-going, not forgetting the Strike of 1926.  Apart from volunteering to drive tram cars or buses, it didn’t have a huge impact on them. The end of the War had brought such relief to most families, the cessation of the awful killing, the end of rationing and seeing cakes back in the shops, life was getting better.  As the years passed, the gaps left by the loss of sons and brothers grew more bearable, eased by the return of concerts and dances.  Then there was the cinema, the pictures that everyone enjoyed as often as they could get there.  They had the Central and the Bungalow.  They all loved going – and the Pierrots in Bath Street and on the prom – all you needed for a lively summer evening.   With the Fun City and its figure eight and helter skelter and the grand Edwardian Cakewalk going “oompah oompah, it was full of entertainment.  During the twenties  Portobello was bursting with  irresistibly catchy jazz music and the frenetic steps of the Charleston thomping through the Town Hall, the Marine Gardens, Queensbay  Hotel and Mount Charles, where my Auntie Peggy had her 21st birthday party, made it feel to my parents and their brothers and sisters like a good time to be alive. 

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Coillesdene House Joppa
home of suffragette leader Mrs Grieve

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Postcard view from tower of Coillesdene House Joppa

Coillesdene House -home of Mrs Grieve (no relation) famously active in the suffrage movement-

punctuated views along the length of Portobello Promenade at the Joppa end like a towered Xanadu

and marked a popular tram stop.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Madame Smyth-Glen's petits pierrots 1920-1921

Les Petits Pierrots” shown here were a junior version of Portobello’s popular seaside attraction.

 Maysie & W.M. “Winks” Cavaye (back) Ian Cavaye and Ruby & Pearl White (middle), Noel Cavaye

(seated) were trained and staged by Madame Smyth-Glen, a voice specialist who lived in Argyle Crescent

with a studio at the west end of George Street. They entertained Army Hospitals and appeared for

War charities in Portobello Town Hall around 1920-1921.

 

Andrew Cavaye, like my other grandfather Willie Torrance, had done quite nicely out of the War both of them.  In the twenties their businesses began to slip a bit, but it wasn’t until the beginning of the thirties that the real recession hit them.  Both had to draw in their horns.  Andrew Cavaye had a setback with some contaminated casks from his cooperage and then a little problem (never to be forgotten by my father) with the Inland Revenue.  He suffered a slight stroke on a tramcar and then a more severe one in March 1930, which killed him at the early age of 57.  Willie Torrance, as I told you in last year’s talk, my other grandfather, hung on in a dwindling way of business as a miller, helped by a daughter with a good business head plus secretarial training, then he lapsed into dementia and died in 1936. 

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Cavayes and Willie Torrance at Lauder

Chrissie & Andrew Cavaye, Norah & Bertie Cavaye with Norah’s father Willie Torrance

 Bertie at right and Ronnie Cavaye in front are Chrissie & Andrew’s eldest and youngest.

Their first grandchild, Norah & Bertie’s daughter Dorothy plays with a doll and parasol

 

My father inherited Andrew Cavaye’s cooperage business, Macgregor and Company in Leith, with all its debts and a workforce with a liking for grogging casks.  He was advised to take out a trust deed and go bankrupt.  He didn’t, being of honourable and hard-working disposition.  He kept the dying cooperage to a low level, bought in some tumblers and wine glasses,  filled a suitcase and went round the pubs starting in Portobello and Leith on foot hawking his stock .   A thankless task it was, being patronised and ignored by several publicans.  The friendly ones, however, stood by him.  That saved him.   He had a hard row to hoe, but after five or six years of grind his efforts paid off, he bought a car and started employing an office assistant.  This is what things were like in my early years..  Although I went to a fee paying school up town I knew or thought I knew from the age of six that we were poor.  Of course we weren’t really, but I honestly thought we were.  Holidays and clothes did not come to me as they did to other girls.  We ate nutritious food, but never second helpings.  There was no such thing as pocket money and I very soon realised that the family’s fortune depended on me doing well at school.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Robert McClelland Cavaye children

R. M. ‘Bertie’ Cavaye and his children in his parents’ garden at Craig Royston

Bill Cavaye (1929-1995), Robin and Dorothy

 

Now I’ll tell you about number 12 East Brighton Crescent -Craig Royston.  It seems a grand name for a run of the mill Portobello house, but I thought it was quite marvellous, in fact we all did.   It was certainly a pleasure to live in or visit.  As my youngest Uncle, Ronnie, says in his memoirs written in 1993 there was never a time when the whole big family was at home.  They were Bertie, Louie, Douglas, Melville, Peggy, Winkie, Maysie, Ian, Noel, Stanley and Ronnie.  Shortly after Andrew Cavaye bought Craig Royston in 1914, Bertie, my father, went away to train as an officer in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.  While he was away, a few months after the War ended, Ronald his youngest brother was born.  A year or two after he returned from the War, his nearest brother in age, Douglas, went off to Canada to British Columbia to work in a bank.  His father had seen an advertisement for a job, probably in the Scotsman.  Andrew Cavaye was very conscious of the difficulty of finding employment in these newly hard times and he was ever on the look-out for opportunities for his large family.  He and his wife Chrissie went off on a jaunt to Canada in 1924, to visit Doug at the end of a journey across the continent by train.  There was still money to spare to do this at that time.  Doug, alone in a strange new land, starting out without friend or relative anywhere around, nowhere to go at Christmas or Bank holidays,  must have been jolly glad to see is parents.  After they came back, Andrew Cavaye, hugely impressed by the chances available in this new country,  went on the look-out for similar  openings for some of his younger sons.  In the meantime he went round with his Canadian slides and magic lantern to churches and organisations in Portobello and Leith, giving lectures on Canada, its vast expanses and enterprising businesses where there were endless opportunities for all. 

Craig Royston, East Brighton Crescent; Chrissie Cavaye with daughters Louie, Maysie & Peggy

Douglas Cavaye with cap and cane –his parents were to visit him in British Columbia in 1924

 

The third son in the family, Melville, saved his father the trouble of finding him a job, by enrolling at Leith Nautical College and gaining his Master’s ticket in record time and with first class marks.  Soon he became first mate sailing with the Currie Line from Leith and eventually captain of his own ship.  In 1926 the eldest daughter of the family, Louisa, (Louie) got married to Dr. Bryce Nesbit, so that left another vacant place in the house. Bryce and Louie had been going out together from school days at Portobello Higher Grade School. They had saved up their money all through Bryce’s medical training.  When he was fully qualified the Cavayes gave their eldest daughter a slap up wedding with all the trappings at Regent Street Church and the Queensbay Hotel on the High Road, Bryce’s family was an old local one managing Joppa Salt Pans.  He was dux of Portobello School before going on to do a sixth year at George Watson’s.  Portobello girls mostly married Portobello boys in those days or so it seems in my family.  All the Cavaye children went to Portobello School to begin with, but when the boys got to secondary stage up they went to Heriots.  None of the girls got this opportunity except Peggy, who, as Maysie said, “Nagged Mother until she persuaded Dad to let her go to George Watson’s Ladies’ College”. That tells you more about Peggy than anything else.

 

Melville joined the Currie Line, elder sister Louie married Bryce Nesbit of Joppa Salt Pans

 

During my childhood I watched Portobello School growing building by building.  I think I saw two extra bits added before they had to decide to build a new skyscraper on the other side of Duddingston Road.  The original 1870’s structure is the first one you see when you turn into Duddingston Park.  Andrew Cavaye, my grandfather had studied French and shorthand there in evening classes during the late eighteen eighties, while working daily as a clerk in Millers Foundry at Abbeyhill.  He had left Willowbrae School at eleven.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Andrew Cavaye in Leith

The original brick-built Portobello School in Duddingston Park, with later extensions beyond

Andrew Cavaye had attended night classes there after his early education at Willowbrae

 

Now let’s get back to Craig Royston.  I think the best thing I can do is quote from my Uncle Ronnie’s memoirs of Craig Royston, written when he was seventy four in 1993:

“I cannot remember any time during my lifetime when the whole family namely mother, father,  eight sons and three daughters were all resident in Craig Royston at the same time.  The highest number that I can remember and this must be around 1927 was father, mother, two sisters, Peggy and Maysie and the brothers, myself, Stanley, Noel and Ian.  Winkie had already been sent off to McGill College in Canada to do horticulture and Ian was to follow very shortly sailing from Greenock.  Melville was probably away at sea.  When the house was full of family members it was not unusual for the brothers to sleep and on occasions eat downstairs.  This of course was never allowed to happen to me. I was always given the privilege of sleeping upstairs and eating  in a proper gentlemanly way in the dining room.  One of the greatest features of Craig Royston was the basement.  I t seemed to me to be large, huge in fact and I was always frightened to go down there in the dark on my own.  It consisted of a very large kitchen with a black range for cooking and heating water and a scullery off the kitchen as big as a modern bedroom today.  There were three other large rooms, one used as a bedroom at the front of the house, quite big enough for a double and single bed and on occasions another single bed.  Another was used as a coal cellar and it was not unusual to have one ton of coal in twenty one hundred weight bags delivered at one time.  The other big room was the washhouse where all the family wash was done.  The rest of the basement consisted of a toilet, four or five large walk in cupboards and two other long narrow rooms constructed as wine cellars all connected by narrow dark spooky passages only parts of which were lit.  The basement always seemed to be male dominated by the brothers and I can clearly recall on a late Saturday afternoon their friends congregating in the kitchen and having tea and toast and buns which they had bought themselves.  They had a real rowdy but wonderful time and there were never any behavioural problems.  Ian’s friends in particular were a fairly down to earth lot, but always very considerate.  Noel’s friends were more genteel because they were golfers rather than soccer or rugby players.  They always used to break up in the evening without any problems in the streets.  On Sunday mornings the big kitchen was always a hive of activity; all the boys except me used to muck in and make their own breakfast.  There would be stacks of fried bread and French toast which was bread dipped in egg then fried, sausages, liver, bacon, tomatoes etc.  While upstairs in the little pantry one of my sisters would be preparing the run of the mill bacon and egg.  On more than one occasion, my father would slip downstairs with his plate in his hand expecting to be given some of the boys’ rougher fare and go back upstairs with it.”

 

I too remember the basement well but ate no meals there.  In my day there were train sets with rails everywhere and stations along the way.  All sorts of crafts and activities happened down there.  Bikes were repaired and made ready for the road.   Stanley had a fretsaw and used to make jigsaw puzzles for my birthday.  Always some project going on -   silver paper pictures or corn covered in coloured foil being got ready for Christmas presents.   The Cavayes were exceedingly resourceful.

 

There was a particular Cavaye version of hide and seek.  It was called snifter.  The basement lent itself to this with its  many rooms and nooks and crannies, dark corners and not too many lights.;  “It” was chosen and he or she would count to a hundred whilst all the others hid in the most unlikely places they could find.  When all were hidden there was dead silence.  Then “It” would shout SNIFTER and everyone hiding had to sniff loudly and so it went on until all were found.  Ingenious hiding places were often thought of.  The best was used by Noel, only twice.  There was a pulley for drying clothes in the kitchen.  It was eight feet long and could be lowered by a rope.  Noel climbed up and lay along the horizontal wooden bar.  The second time he used it his weight ripped the whole lot from the ceiling with pulley and plaster all over the floor. There must have been hell to pay.

The Craig Royston front garden seemed so long to a small girl

 

The entrance to Craig Royston was up three or four steps at the front.  The vestibule was large and had a couple of chairs and a hallstand with a brass Buddha, Melville had brought home from the East, on it.  Through a glass door was the hall with the white painted wrought iron banisters curling upwards to the next floor.  On the ground floor were the dining room, the main bedroom up a little step, the parlour at the back and another bedroom, a couple of big cupboards and the pantry which was used as an upstairs kitchen.  From the parlour with a French window at the back a wooden staircase had been put up going down to the garden with the basement below.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Craig Royston parlour steps

 

Upstairs was the drawing room with two windows on the front like the dining room below.  Besides the conventional three piece suite and a china cabinet, it contained a very fine Bechstein grand, played mainly by Melville, but later by Peggy and Stanley.  There were two bedrooms upstairs and another room, now a bathroom, but which must originally have been a bedroom it was so big.  The three girls always slept upstairs.  They were never kept down in the basement like the boys.  I loved my aunts, respectively fifteen and twenty years older than me – their clothes, their new hats, their peals of laughter, their fear of being an old maid (not in the least likely!) and the excitement of filling their bottom drawers.  What a different world it was!  Wearing specs was the catastrophe girls had to avoid at all costs.  Maysie paid for this vanity in later life.   The little bedroom above the door had been my father’s; it then became Melville’s and finally Noel’s.  

 

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Craig Royston drawing room

Craig Royston upstairs drawing room, the piano is on the right.  Above the roaring gas fire is a

print of Robert Gibbs depiction of the Sutherland Highlanders at Balaclava in The Thin Red Line.

 

The front garden was quite long with a big tree, perhaps an elm on the left and a very pretty almond blossom on the other side of the path to the front door.   Crocuses edged the pink gravel path in the Spring and roses in the Summer.  The back garden was long and rectangular leading down to the back gate onto the Christian Path and the well worn route to the station.  Against the end wall of the garden stretched the henhouse Grandpa had put up during the War.  The family was never short of eggs and for Winter breakfasts there would always be several dozen put down in pickle in a big cooperage barrel in the basement. The boys used to steal from this for some of their midnight feasts.  Next door stood the Convent or Nunnery - a sombre menace.  We were always aware of the nuns’ presence.   It probably subdued our wilder behaviour.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Christian Path from the station entranceCAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
The nunnery at number 11

At the back the Christian Path, and the Nunnery over the wall

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
grandchildren in the back garden

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
grandchildren in the back garden

Grandchildren in the garden

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Back garden on Maysie's wedding day

In the back garden on Maysie’s wedding day

 

Across the road was the little swinging gate to the Park where Ronnie and I played round the sundial sometimes and he warned me to beware of the Parkie.  These outdoor areas are not very much changed today.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
St Johns Church and Brighton Park

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
St Johns Church and Brighton Park

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
St Johns Church and Brighton Park
from image in St Andrews University collections

Across the road, Brighton Place Park

 

In my childhood, eighty years ago, the Church was a significant part of life.    Our extended family was very large.  My grandparents needed two pews.  Uncle Ronnie and I set out walking in front in our Sunday best.  The others followed in various shades of finery.  My grandfather, Andrew Cavaye with his big white moustache and fat paunch with his gold watch and chain stretched across it, wore a dark suit and a homburg hat and carried a silver-topped cane.  Grannie was equally stout, proud to be seen with her large family.  She was dressed by Madame Bonus, her salon in Brighton Place.  The handsomest Uncle (they were all handsome) Noel, cut a dash in a city suit with bowler hat and rolled umbrella and Auntie Maysie, the prettiest Auntie, in a tailored suit and what my mother called “a most unsuitable hat” of coarse yellow straw covered in lilies of the valley.  All yellow and white and green - I adored it. 

 

Ronnie and I would stop at Miss Wilson’s Dairy on the corner of Lee Crescent, where the shiny milk cans stood in rows and open crocks of milk and fresh buttermilk stood on the counter next to a big plate of slightly burnt home-made scones.  On weekdays the high milkman’s gig would be standing by for local delivery.  On Sundays Ronnie and I would go in and he would buy a bar of Fry’s Five boys Milk chocolate or a slab of Highland Cream Toffee.  Grannie’s capacious handbag would already be stocked with the mandatory pandrops to be sucked not crunched during the sermon.  We had picked up our collection money earlier from the table in the hall.   It was Regent Street church we were heading for.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Lee Crescent in an earlier era

Miss Wilson’s Dairy at the corner must have catered for the holiday trade in an earlier era

 

While they still lived in Melville Street the Cavayes had always gone to Portobello Parish Church.  The two eldest boys, Bertie and Douglas, had been members of St Mark’s Choir for years until their voices broke and then it was touch and go whether they remained there and got confirmed.  In the end they didn’t.  I still have the Prayer Book my father was presented with when he left.  For some reason, I have forgotten why, the family decided to leave the Parish Church and remove taking their two choirboys with them to Regent Street.  I suspect there was an element of snobbishness in this decision, for Regent Street was known to have a good class of congregation, with more than its share of maiden ladies who had inherited money.

Earlier family connections with St Marks choir and Portobello Old Parish Church in Melville Street.

 

Once we all arrived at Regent Street we Cavayes crowded into the stone-floored vestibule of the church.  There is nothing left of it now.  It must have been knocked down in the sixties.  I can still remember the border of stained glass to the door into the actual church, invariably held open for us by a well-known elder, John Scott.  One step down the coconut matted aisle were our pews.  We children crept in and I would busy myself with a hymn book into which I would stick stamps, Sunday school texts or pictures of birds or animals from the chocolate packet.  There were a couple of carpet-covered hassocks with lugs on the floor, handy for little children to stand on during the hymns.  My wee brother, Billie, later when he started to come, I can remember, used to be stuck up on the cushion of the actual pew in his little white coat and beret- I can still see him now.  It makes me cry.  The pew cushions were filled with horse hair and covered with some shiny black stuff like oilcloth, buttoned down.  There was no thought of comfort in church in those days.  In the aisles, one either side of the square church, were gratings at the side of the coconut matting.  There must have been pipes under there to heat the bare cold church.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Regent Street Church (Archie Foley)

Regent Street Church of Scotland had been a United Presbyterian (later United Free) congregation.

 

It was a plain building, built about 1830, I imagine.  I realise now that it had great architectural merit with its lofty height and tall windows and lamps standing on half a dozen simple brass hoops dangling from the ceiling.  The organ with its long silvery pipes was on the left of where the minister entered, up steps from the vestry to the pulpit.  He was preceded up the steps by the beadle bearing the big Bible.  I see it now as a very theatrical entrance – the Rev. Lonie Fraser with his bald head and big owl-like glasses, his black gown with its white hood, Master of Arts of Aberdeen, and the finishing touch of the crisp Geneva bands.  In front, under the pulpit stood the choir, led by a mature but elegant lady in powder blue, (like the Queen Mother) “trained in Italy, they said.   She wore a black wig – my Sunday school teacher. As I say these things I feel I might be caught for slander.  Then I think, “They all must be dead by now - for at least forty years!”  We Cavayes all sang heartily in our pews.  Grannie’s father had been a precentor in his Leith church before the kist o’whistles was accepted as standard church furniture.  She and her sisters the great Aunts, Nellie, Annie and Lizzie, had been brought up to attend church and sing hymns at least twice on a Sunday.  My Auntie Peggy had an absolutely glorious voice.  She soared like a nightingale above us.  We were a very competent team.  After the sermon and the blessing we all scuttled out into Regent Street and Grannie enjoyed a gossip in the middle of the road with whatever Portobello worthies were present and then we all hurried home to roast pork and rhubarb tart.  I can’t think who cooked that.  I know some people used a hay box on Sundays.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Regent Street Church: Peggy Cavaye marries Charlie Cruttenden

At the door of Regent Street Church for Peggy’s wedding to Charlie Cruttenden.

 

On Sunday afternoons while Grannie had her afternoon snooze accompanied by the latest Annie S. Swan, one or other of the remaining Aunts or Uncles was designated to take me on an outing, along with Ronnie, to the Zoo or the Docks or the Museum in Chambers Street. or Arthur’s Seat or, on anniversary occasions, to Andrew Cavaye’s grave in Portobello Cemetery on Milton Road.  Before setting out, walking when it was near, but otherwise by tram, we would stock up with sweeties from a wonderful shop in Southfield Place.  It could be macaroon bars or Jersey creams or snowballs or any other Scottish sweetmeat luxury like Policeman’s Gundy, hard to get nowadays.  The Cavayes had a very sweet tooth.  In Southfield Place as well, next to the railway bridge, was a battered wooden door leading to a tennis club. I think it was for Portobello School FPs.  Auntie Maysie took me there and sometimes she had to do the teas with me to help.

 

The other churches in Portobello were fairly well-known to me.  Friends went there and I was sometimes roped in for parties and picnics.  I remember going to the Baptist Church, ex Town Hall building, for an amateur dramatic show. A ragged little matchgirl singing a plaintive melody sticks in my head.  There were lots of amateur dramatics in Portobello just before my time.  The Cavayes all joined in those.  I know Auntie Louie played the heroine in Arms and the Man by Bernard Shaw.  As well as the churches, the Band of Hope was quite important in my parents’ time along at the Portobello Parish Hall, nearly opposite the tram depot.  I think they turned it into Woolworths in the sixties. The superintendent of the Band of Hope must have been a character.  He was remembered by Bertie and Norah, my parents, for always saying, “It’s RARE.”

 

The thirties was a very tough time in Portobello.  It was all right for the comfortably off, civil servants or teachers and doctors or ministers.  The poorer members of society, the unemployed or the poorly paid went ragged and subsisted on bread and jam.  Lots of children went without shoes and parts of the town had sunk into slums.  A particularly bad spot was round the corner of Rosefield Avenue before you got to the Bowling Green – where the library is now.  I remember a Dickensian building with the obligatory gangling daft laddie -a sort if Smike character.  They cleared these buildings away quite early on.  Possibly they should have been preserved as some of the first in Portobello.  Another eyesore was Mitchell’s Buildings – opposite the then Power Station. I t was threatening and out of bounds to us.  People in those days feared infection a lot.  Children died of scarlet fever and diphtheria and became deaf or blind through measles. 

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Woods bottle works
St Andrews University Adams collection

Rosefield Park and Wood’s Bottle Works beyond West Brighton Crescent, during the first war.

 

At the top of King’s Road, which I had to pass  on my way for messages down Portobello, there were always a  dozen or so of out -of -work men, huddled and cold in the wind off the sea -  grey and wan they were with greasy caps on their heads and grubby neckerchieves round their necks. Unshaven, with grey hair straggling and unkempt over their “collars”.  There was definitely a “them” and “us” in those days   Class distinction existed quite strongly.  There were doctors for the rich and doctors for the poor.  We changed from one to the other in 1931.  Some of us knew this wasn’t right.  When the Beveridge Report came out during the 1939 War it seemed as if Paradise awaited us with a free Health Service and money available even when you were ill or out of work.  Compared to the between the wars years this post-war Act was like a miracle and most class distinctions did disappear as a result.  This is how it seemed and still seems to my generation.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Kings Road
St Andrews University collections

Kings Road corner in a previous era.  An early dogfight of the Second War was to take place above

 

The Portobello shops kept going remarkably well during the thirties in spite of hard times.  I suppose the rates were relatively less and the overheads weren’t so high as nowadays.  There were no supermarkets, but a whole row of Coop stores along beyond Pipe Street and one at the top of King’s Road.  Although there were excellent department stores like Patrick Thomson’s and Jenners up town, quite a lot of people were content to buy locally rather than jump on a number twenty tram for the GPO.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Portobello Co-op letterhead

Portobello Co-op letterhead -enclosing an invitation to their Junior Choir Kinderspiel in March 1932.

 

Just people and public transport: uptown shops and the tram stop at Waterloo Place a decade later.

 

We still had good drapers in the High Street like Pearson’s which later became the Castle Warehouse and for gowns Madame Bonus in Brighton Place.  Round the corner by the Town Hall was Sadie Geaton’s and there was Margie Gunn’s along at Joppa for all your baby clothes.  There were great chemists like Findlay’s and Spence’s in the High Street and Jimmie Stone’s in Brighton Place.  We were overwhelmed with wonderful bakers like Forsyth’s and Brock’s and Perrier’s and Copeland’s with its lovely art nouveau glass partitions.  Grocers were equally abundant – Lunn’s way along on the Figgate Bridge and Low’s in Brighton Place and Mould’s at the Joppa end.   Best of all was Grant the Grocer with his lovely bowed windows in the prime site between Bath Street and Regent Street.  Next to Grant’s was a wee shop where I can remember them buying me a straw bonnet when I was four.  In my teens it became an Aladdin’s cave of ladies’ underwear.  My naughty brothers and I would call it “the Flooze Mince”. Now they’re all gone.  Butchers were great with Hunters and Forbes (later Marshalls) and Mathews.  The best of all ironmongers was Baxendine’s up a step in the prime area.  Mens’ tailors were there for us too with the dapper Mackay Scott for everything from a suit to a selection of ties for Christmas presents, and for the earlier generation there had been Mr. Smith the tailor along opposite the Bluebell -an old Portobello family too.

Two High Street views looking west:  in the 1930s by the Town Hall and in the 1920s by the Bluebell Inn

 

  Then we had the wonderful long-lived Danny Ross and his daughters for all the shoes you might need from cradle to grave.  He had a corner site at the top of Regent Street.    Rankin’s the fruiterer was originally farther west near the Parish Church Hall.  I remember going there for a penny’sworth of carrot and turnip for broth.  Later they moved nearer to Bath Street.  They were an old Portobello family who, my Grannie told me came up from travellers’ beginnings to comfortable means and prominence throughout Edinburgh.  It would be much harder nowadays to make a fortune from Portobello High Street.  Times then were hard, but in some ways there were more opportunities  - less red tape perhaps.

Rankins at the top of Bath Street below the Royal Hotel in a shop that had once been John Forsyth & Sons the bakers.

The Baptist Church (former Town Hall) with clock and gable is in this scene from the 1950s, as are five of Portobello’s seven banks.

The Commercial Bank of Scotland is on the left hand corner; facing us around the curve are the Royal Bank of Scotland, the

Clydesdale & North of Scotland Bank, and the National Bank of Scotland. The Edinburgh Savings Bank is behind us to the left,

and the British Linen Bank out of sight across the road to the right.  The Bank of Scotland had no branch in Portobello.

The litter bin on legs is characteristic of its time; there’s another in Santa Rosa California in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt.

 

I didn’t have the money nor would I have been allowed to go to chip shops or ice cream parlours, much as I longed to partake there.  For a penny or thruppence you could buy a lot.  Arcari had a crowd of dark curly-haired children;  Nicora was used later by us when we lived at St. Mary’s Place.  Best, of course, was Demarco on the prom.    What a gorgeous experience Demarco’s was, not just for the inaccessible ice cream sundaes, but the décor beyond compare! – was it Japanoiserie?.  I later met Demarcos at University. – another Portobello family that did well.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Marlborough Mansions
St Andrews University collections

Marlborough Mansions, Portobello Promenade in 1935, home of Maison Demarco. Earlier pictures below.

 

I mustn’t leave this cornucopia of Portobello without mentioning the Swimming Pool.  I had been brought up as a keen if not real Cavaye standard swimmer and trailed with my school friends down to Melville Street for a dip.  I even went in the sea.  So when the new Pool opened up in 1936 I was one of the first there. I got bought a season ticket for my birthday and you would see me there after school, and Saturdays and Sundays (I think we had to go early before church or maybe it was after church) and twice a day in the holidays.  By this time I was eleven and they taught me to dive.  The wave machine was wonderful, not seen anywhere else at the time.  Then they built the new power station chimney a towering giant dissipating its fumes, to stop the pool’s pure clean Artex-looking stucco getting black.  Sadly it’s all long gone, Power Station and all.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Open Air Pool
St Andrews University collections

When the wave machine came on beneath the chutes the surf broke over the steps far away at the

shallow end.  The high dive (three floors up) was where Sean Connery later cut a dash.

Portobello Power Station and Pool complemented each other. The municipally operated power station was one

of Britain’s most efficient, supplying all the city’s power needs, plus the council’s street lighting and tramway networks.

Coal came by rail from the mines; it was stockpiled in an old clay pit and brought in through conveyors under the road.

Cooling water from the generators heated the open-air pool alongside and their power operated the gigantic wave machine.

This heat-power-transport symbiosis began to fall apart when electricity generation was taken out of municipal hands. 

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Ebenezer James MacRae city architect

City Architect Ebenezer James MacRae -his magnificent Portobello Power Station and the Open-air Pool

 are sadly long gone, but his good quality houses and distinctive police boxes can still be seen around the city.

Under City Electrical Engineer Edwin Seddon the tramways adopted state-of-the-art pickups and insulators.

 

I haven’t much more to add.  By today’s standards the Cavayes were an unsympathetic rather hard-hearted lot.  Not really, but being a big family made them so.  They didn’t complain and they didn’t cry.  They didn’t kiss either.   Many Scots people were like that then.  My cousin Mary says that when her mother was coming into the family as wife to Melville, she would go to the pictures with her sisters-in-law.  She had to be very careful not to cry, for they never did and indeed frowned on such weakness. 

 

This is the story of a family, there must have been many similar families living at that time in other houses in Portobello.  The Cavayes were a very close family with a wealth of shared history, but even it, like most families, fell apart when their mother died at Christmas 1938.  She was only sixty four.  There were still boys at home and in those days boys were reckoned unable to look after themselves. The three of them went into digs in Newington.  Then the Second War came.  Ronnie and Ian volunteered and went into the army.  Stanley was in a reserved occupation at the Power Station and he got married to Beatrice in April 1940, buying a bungalow in Durham Terrace, so remaining in Portobello.  Craig Royston was taken over by the army for the duration of the War and, not unexpectedly, wrecked. Afterwards the family sold it. 

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Promenade
St Andrews University Adams collection

Portobello Prom just after the second War

 

Bits of this family have hung together despite the passage of the years.  When Grannie died there were only ten grandchildren.  After her death another ten arrived.  These are the Cavayes who, unlike me, never knew Grannie or Craig Royston.  It is a credit to her that, in spite of the passage of time and living big distances apart, the Cavaye family has held three family gatherings since her death and is about to hold its fourth Reunion in June 2009.

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
Grannie and grandchildren

CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
reunion 1964

Ian, Ronnie, Stanley, Noel, Douglas, Winkie, Bertie, Peggie and Maysie Cavaye in 1964 with their families

(and those of Louie and Melville) at a Cavaye reunion outside Hamilton Lodge Hotel, Hamilton St., Portobello.

Original Portobello street names survived into the 1960s but were later changed by order of Edinburgh Council.  Thus

Wellington Street was changed to Marlborough Street., Melville Street. was changed to Bellfield Street., and Pitt Street became Pittville Street.   

Adjacent street names had commemorated John James Hamilton, Duke of Abercorn, but Hamilton St. was renamed Brunstane Rd. North. 

Cavaye graves, Portobello
CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009CAVAYES OF CRAIG ROYSTON and PORTOBELLO IN THE THIRTIES 
from a talk to Portobello History Society by Dorothy Kelly: 7 May 2009
descendents gather at Craig Royston 1n 1894

Andrew, Chrissie & their eldest son                Doug, Ronnie Stanley & Winkie revisit Craig Royston in 1994

Bertie’s grave at Portobello cemetery              with Lilian (Ronnie’s wife), Robin & Dorothy (Bertie’s children)

 

 

For a printable version of this webpage click here

 

Love and War 1914-1918

Mount Lodge, Portobello –Dorothy Cavaye remembers

 

PORTOBELLO HOMEPAGE               KOSMOID HOMEPAGE

 

CAVAYE HOMEPAGE

Andrew Cavaye & his family

 

 

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