Dorothy Cavaye was there 80 years ago


 “I remember Mount Lodge from the beginnings of my consciousness until it was demolished about 1931.  The last time I can remember being inside was on my fourth birthday in March 1929, which also happened to be chosen as my brother’s christening day.  He was christened William Baillie Torrance Cavaye after our grandfather, “the owner”, William Baillie Torrance.  Of course my grandfather wasn’t really the owner; he had just rented it since 1905.  The North British Railway Company, and their successors the LNER had been the owners of the house and the land from the time the railway was built, back in the 1840s.  Now they intended to sell it all to Edinburgh Town Council for housing development.  Sad for me and sad for the Torrance family, who had enjoyed their years of prosperity and status in Portobello.    Ever after they harked back with nostalgia to what they regarded as their former grandeur.  It was Auntie Roma, then aged about 27, who in the last week before the removal, (she and her father were going to Rosefield Place) on a sudden impulse snatched up her box camera and, whirling round in the sunshine looking at everything in a rush of affectionate focus, snapped the rooms and the grounds.  This gave us a lasting memory.”


The Edinburgh-based North British Railway owned Mount Lodge for many years -their General Superintendent James McLaren had lived there before the Torrances.. Beside the Christian Path (named after Portobello Provost Christian who campaigned for it as a shortcut from to the station from Argyle Crescent) was the company’s goods line to Leith and beyond it up Hope Lane the very busy Portobello marshalling yards, and the junction where the Company’s Waverley Route to Eskbank, Hawick, Carlisle and St Pancras left its East Coast Route to Logniddry, Berwick, York and Kings Cross.  Legislation forced the North British to amalgamate with others in the London and North Eastern Railway in 1922.



Portobello Pier in 1911, six years after the Torrances came to live at Mount Lodge.

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


“Now let me describe Mount Lodge house and grounds as I remember them.  My memories go back about as far as when I was eighteen months old.  Sometimes I was pushed down to Portobello in my pram, sometimes we went in the tramcar from Inchview Terrace, either the old Musselburgh trams which were green and had a lovely whirly stair as in ‘Meet me in St Louis’ or in the Edinburgh trams which were painted in the familiar maroon and cream livery.  We got off at Brock the Baker’s at the top of Regent’s Street, crossed the road and walked up Windsor Place past the original Post office, which was small.  It hadn’t grown yet to the extended version. Past what was later the Driving Test house (previously a Doctor’s house with a carriage waiting outside in my mother’s childhood.)   At that point the houses on that side of Windsor Place stopped, though there had earlier been another house, so Mother said, nearer the railway.  There was a movement in to the left of the road, where one met a couple of pillars framing an iron gate.  Plain, not fancy railings, as I recollect.  From there everything was fenced.”



“Usually the gates were open. One entered and walked up what seemed to a small child a long drive with a lot of tall trees on the left hand side and a fence to keep the ponies in on the right.  On the left the grounds went down to the back of the High Street.  Mention was made of “Pike a Plea” just beyond where Nicora’s and the Blue Bell Inn used to be.  This section, in my time, was leased to Mr. Proctor, who I believe had made it into a market garden during the First World War.  He continued gardening there in the twenties.  I feel there were a few business disputes between him and the Torrances when I was little.  Someone will know what happened ultimately in that area.  The house stood square and unassuming at the top of the drive, facing North at right angles to the drive with steps leading up to the front door.  To the West of the house, where all the windows were above ground there was a big lawn, where I believe washing was hung.    Mother kept an image in her head of her mother wearing a man’s cap and beating hell out of carpets hanging over a line there.  To the back a conservatory had been added probably in Victorian times.  The East side also had all windows exposed, but the front had its basement under the entrance steps.   Mount Lodge was a bungalow, as was common in Bengal and very likely to the design of the original owner, a predecessor of Colonel Johnson and I believe an old India hand.”



Colonels Scott & Johnston : Mount Lodge’s best-known former occupants

Colonel Frances James Scott of Mount Lodge died in the house in 1821, having bequeathed large sums for a new St James Episcopal Chapel and School in Broughton Place, Edinburgh. His portrait by Raeburn –probably around 1811- hangs in the National Gallery of Art, Washington.   Lieutenant Colonel James Johnston of Mount Lodge –a veteran of Wellington’s peninsular campaigns- was Provost of Portobello for eleven years. Born about 1788, he died in 1861.

This impression of Mount Lodge was recently sent by Lt.Col Johnston’s descendants in Australia.   Lt Col Johnston’s wife (one of the Trotter family) died after she drank from a well in the Mount Lodge grounds.  It might have been Pike-a-Plea at the High Street boundary.  Lt Col Johnston was energetic in arranging the extension of the Edinburgh water supply to Portobello and the completion of comprehensive sewerage arrangements for the Burgh, although many Portobello residents objected to the expense.  Details of Lt Col Johnston’s military service are given in quotations from Baird’s “Annals of Portobello” below. His younger brother Dr George Johnston (1797-1855), a surgeon, was also active in public improvements and known as the "father of Berwick on Tweed


“The field with the ponies (they did escape once in the dark and headed for Mark Simpson’s farm up Hope Lane) stretched as far as the wall of the Christian Path at the West side of which was a gate handy for the girls to run out of on their way to the station and school.  There was scattering of old trees along the back edge...  Behind the house were trees and grass, including a tennis court carefully marked out in white as I remember it 

Marking the Mount Lodge court with my father Bertie Cavaye


Over to the West side there were hen houses and an old pig sty which had been put to use during the shortages of 1914 – 18.  Image two, retained by my father, was of Norah feeding the pigs, losing her footing and falling down into the muck.  The land sloped up steeply behind those outhouses right up to the high old dark brick wall of Hope Lane, where again there was a useful gate through which the three girls and their mother in Sunday finery (noted by lesser mortals like Bertie Cavaye) strolled to the Tin Church, later to become St James’s in Rosefield Place, but pre Great War on the site of Henderson’s Garage.  I also passed through that gate with my Cousin Puss and Cathie, the maid, en route for the Central Picture House and the excitement of my first film- Charlie Chaplin!  I hope I have made clear enough the extent of the grounds for it is quite difficult now to visualise the estate as it originally was.”



A. Henderson (later Henderson of Portobello) for sixty years were

 garage and motor engineers and agents for the Regent Oil Company. They took over the

old Tin Church: for many years the church roof could still be seen as part of their premises..

They gradually rebuilt their site at 255-277 High Street, Portobello


“By the front boundary, but closer to the Christian Path, there was what I can only describe as a hovel, a small, probably wooden house on stilts, animals below, family above with a wooden ladder going up to the front door.  There the Jessamine family lived, eight children I think.  Mr Jessamine did odd jobs and gardening work for Mr. Torrance, while Mrs Jessamine did washing once a week for Mrs. Torrance and, after her death in 1914, for whichever of the girls was left unmarried and acting housekeeper.  I gather Mr. Jessamine was a bit of a ne’erdo well, but Mrs Jessamine was highly regarded.  I played with the children.  There was no sort of class distinction.   I went inside their home with Auntie Roma, who was ready with help and advice when the break up of Mount Lodge came.  Ivy Jessamine was the youngest one and the one I played with.  She came to my party in 1928, when Auntie Roma and Uncle David organised a hugely extravagant party for my cousin Puss and me.”




Inside the House


“Now I must think about going up the front steps into the house.  To remind me there is a photograph taken on the occasion of my grandparent’s Silver Wedding -  William and Christina Torrance with their daughters, Mona, Norah and Roma, plus Grandma Cusiter,  in April 1914.    It is harrowing to know that within three months of that photograph, Christina Cusiter Torrance would be dead and the hearse with its four black horses would leave the bottom of those steps for the cemetery on Milton Road.  Women didn’t go to funerals in those days, in fact not for another forty years.   The girls and their aunts and Grandma Cusiter watched from the parlour window.    Norah refused to look out.  “You must, dear, it’s your mother’s funeral,” remonstrated Auntie Geegie.  Roma, who was only thirteen, went round patting everyone comfortingly on the back...  The fact that the War came at the beginning of August helped distract all three girls from the emptiness of their lives.”


“The steps must have been a struggle for me as a toddler.  The vestibule I remember as dark with chenille type curtains draping the archway.  I think it was cluttered, dusty and dark, that Georgian entrance, and then you were cheered as you moved in to the brilliant light of the hall.  Above was a great flat-domed cupola giving all the brightness desired to that big, oval hall. At the back stood the sideboard we knew as the Chippendale, whether authentic or a reproduction we can’t be sure.  On it stood two big Chinese vases, which terrified me as a child and which I specially chose to take for myself sixty years later, when all three sisters died.   To the left of the entrance was the stove room.  It must once have been a butler’s pantry, but now had a gas cooker in it, so that you could do some simple meal preparation without going down to the kitchen in the basement.  This was a solution being adopted by lots of people at this time, when basement kitchens with their coal ranges were no longer practicable.  To the right of the exit from the vestibule was the cloakroom.  I couldn’t remember it, but Auntie Roma told me where it was, when I asked her.”


“The parlour, to one’s left on entering the hall, was used a lot.  A square table, always there with its chenille cloth and waxy pot plant, had a white cloth put on at meal times when the maid brought up nice food for the family.  There was a big dark oak mantelpiece with an Alice through the Looking Glass mirror above.  On the left hand side was Grandpa Torrance’s winged leather arm chair, where he sat down to take off his boots, when he came home from the mill, not a woollen mill but the flour and oatmeal mill at Catcune.  He came by train from Fushiebridge to Portobello.


Catcune Mills Fushiebridge Midlothian 
Manager William Torrance


   At the other side of the big hall there was an alcove where the grandfather clock stood and the old-fashioned telephone was fixed on the wall.  To the extreme left were a bedroom and then the bathroom and close to the mahogany clock the door to the dining room.  It was a big room with lots of windows looking out to the Hope Lane side of the house.  It had a large fireplace and heavy pieces of furniture, mahogany furniture which still survives. like Uncle Willie Young’s bookcase, the heavy Victorian sideboard with its expanse of mirror above, an oblong table with extra leaves and a set of oak dining chairs square and solid with dull gold velvet backs and seats.  The dining room was used when guests came, notably , before my time, high teas after rugby matches, when the boy friends came crowding in.  Pa’s whisky took a pounding!”


“I am not so good on the bedrooms.  I don’t feel I spent much time in bedrooms.  There was Pa’s bedroom and Auntie Roma’s bedroom to the left side of the hall and the bathroom was there too.  To the other side of the hall was a smaller bedroom, where I think my cot and my parent’s bed were.  The door to this room was at an angle, I can remember...  Downstairs in the basement there were at least two bedrooms, one a maid’s bedroom and one which had full daylight with what I called witch’s windows, that is diamond panes with lead in between.  This was Norah’s room in her teens.  Mona and Roma shared a bedroom upstairs during these years and Roma used to love watching Mona get dressed for wartime dances and do up her hair with pads and puffs.  The bathroom I shall never forget, it was so imposing, all mahogany and gleaming white porcelain.  The bath had a high backdrop with taps and buttons calling for douches and shower baths as well as just cold and hot.  The wash hand basin was huge as well, and the lavatory seat to me was like a vast mahogany throne, easy to remember.”



“The drawing room too was unforgettable.  It stretched almost the whole length of the back of the house.  The woodwork was white and the walls pale.  All ceilings in Mount Lodge were high.  The white fireplace was on the partition wall to the hall and opposite were French windows leading onto a veranda facing south where all the sunshine came from.  We sat on that veranda under the eaves in the summer time and Norah was photographed standing there as a bride.    There is a photo too of me sunbathing there in the summer of 1926, when Roma was away seeing her fiancé in Tunis and we stayed at Mount Lodge for months on end to look after Pa.   Elegant furniture upholstered in rust coloured velvet was scattered about the drawing room, sofa and chairs all different shapes.  That furniture still survives re-covered in very similar material.  There were summer curtains and winter curtains, iris patterned chintz and faded rose velvet.  We have all seen them or used some of them at different times.  To the left of the fireplace stood the piano with its candlesticks.”

 “A final image is of Mrs. Torrance, having spied from the parlour expected visitors coming up the drive, would call to Mona to sit down at the piano and play something.   A few minutes later, the maid would usher the visitors in to the merry tinkle of the music and the glow of the welcoming fire.  Outside, of course, below the veranda was the conservatory.  This was a bit shabby and in need of paint in my day and bereft of a lot of plants except for a few geraniums permeating the place with their lingering smell.”


“Remember the house was lit completely by gas.  I remember the gasoliers in the parlour and in the drawing room and the technique Auntie Roma used to light them.  She said that during the War, when the zeppelins went over, the gaslight used to go down and up.  I can’t vouch for the truth of this story.”


“Downstairs to the basement, it was a proper wide stone stair, going round in a big gradual curve.  In no way could it be called a back stair.   It would not be too difficult for carrying food up, though I must admit at my age it makes me feel tired thinking of the maids getting all these dishes up for so many people.  They must have kept some food hot in the stove room.  At the bottom of the stairs there was a big oval hall, empty but carpeted with sort of canvas stuff.  The kitchen came off to the front.  I remember the big shiny range and the sinks and a deal table in the middle.  I wasn’t often down there with the maids. It was rather a dark kitchen, though big.  From there a passage led below the front steps and through to the daylight of Mr. Proctor’s garden.  There was an ice house in that area, Mother told me.  When I spoke to my cousin, Puss Gerrard about Mount Lodge, trying to recover memories from her, who was four years older than me, this dark passage was what she wanted to talk about.  Sadly she died in her seventies, not long after I spoke to her, so her memories have vanished.”


Auntie Roma, Grandpa Torrance, and Auntie Mona sit behind

In front, my older cousin Puss, my mother Norah and me on the right



“These are the impressions I have retained of much loved Mount Lodge, not so much adored by me, though obviously I remembered it, but hugely loved and missed by my mother and her sisters, the three Torrance girls. In summer sometimes they would sleep in hammocks in the grounds or Roma in her Arab tent and her harem outfit, brought back from her sojourn in Tunis.  There were garden parties and fetes for charity, these I do remember well, especially a clanging brass band, for I made a point of howling every time they struck up! 

These were happy times for the Torrances and for their friends and those who came to enjoy the rural atmosphere and birdsong of that pleasant corner of Portobello.  Its tranquillity was only broken by the chuff of the steam trains.  If I can tell you all this about the years from 1905 to 1930, how many earlier stories of previous inhabitants must be lost At least two sets of people after Colonel Johnson must have lived there before the Torrance family.  Their stories must be equally interesting if not more so.  One thing I feel confident about – everyone who lived there must have enjoyed it.”


In the week when the Torrances left Mount Lodge for the last time, the old house awaits demolition by the council.

This balcony probably overlooked the part of the garden where the lake once stood (see below)






     Probably about the year 1780, Mr Jameson had opened a

large clay bed on the site now occupied by Mount Lodge at

the top of Windsor Place.   The works must have covered a

large area of ground, the whole space from Hope’s Lane to

the west side of Windsor Place being Mr Jameson’s property.

      In 1809-10 this work was discontinued, and several feus

were then given off,  forming a new Street called Nicholson

Street, and at least in one plan,  Jameson Street, but which

ultimately came to be known as Windsor Place.      A large

quantity  of rubbish and earth was brought to level up the

excavations, and the present mansion having been erected for

Colonel Scott, the grounds were laid out with great taste,

 the old clay pit being formed into a little artificial lake.



392                                                                                                    .


 To Lieutenant Colonel Johnston, the town was deeply indebted

for the perseverance  combined with tact  which all through this

difficult period he displayed in bringing the drainage scheme to a

successful termination.      He was now in his fourth term of office

as Provost,   but feeling the weight of years heavy upon him he

resolved to retire in November 1860.    One of the last public acts

he performed was formally to inaugurate the completion of the

important work  to which he had devoted so much of his time

and strength.   The Promenade —so far as then built, from Bath

 Street to Melville Street — was on the 2nd June declared open to

the public under the name of THE PRINCE OF WALES TERRACE.

This name,  it may be mentioned,  was given out of compliment to

His Royal Highness, who during this and the preceding year while

residing at Holyrood had been almost a daily visitor to Portobello.

     Colonel Johnston, on his retirement, was accorded a special vote

of thanks by the Council for his long and valuable service during

a period of eleven years as the Provost of the town.     He died a

year afterwards, on the 12th November 1861.     The Colonel was

in many ways a notable man,    having distinguished himself in

many a hard fought battle in the Peninsular War.      As early as

the year 1806, when only a young man of 18, he proceeded with

the 40th Regiment to South America, and was severely wounded

in the assault on Monte Video. Returning home he again resumed

active service,   and was with his regiment in the Peninsula from

1808 to 1813, taking part in many of Wellington’s most important

engagements  as  at Roliega,  Vimia,  Salamanca,  the Pyrenees,

Talavera,  Badajos,  Vittoria,  Nivelle,  and Albuhera,  at which

latter place he was again severely wounded.   For these services

he  was  decorated with the  Peninsular War medal and clasps,

also the Portuguese Command medal for Vittoria, Pyrenees, and

Nivelle,   the cross for three campaigns,   and the order of the

Tower and Sword.      Alike in war  as in peace  he was a true

gentleman, and from the time of his coming to Portobello and

taking up his abode at Mount Lodge, till his death, he was held

in the highest esteem by all ranks and classes.                              .





When the Mount Lodge lease came up for renewal, LNER sold the land and buildings to Edinburgh Council. The City Architect Ebenezer James MacRae was looking to create pockets of high standard affordable rented housing in the centre of Portobello and in Duddingston Village.  McRae’s magnificent Portobello Power Station and Open-air Pool have sadly long gone, but his good quality houses and distinctive police boxes can still be seen all over the city, notably further up the railway on the old Cavalry Barracks site at Piershill Square and Smoky Brae.

Link to an image of Mount Lodge demolition in 1936 on the council website.

125 years after its construction, Colonel Scott’s house is carefully taken down and floorboards are stacked outside the garden front where the ornamental lake once stood. Behind, looking north, are the tops of houses in Portobello High Street and the back of Windsor Place UP Church. 


an earlier picture from another source believed to be Windsor Lodge nearby



Grannie Cusiter, Roma, Mother and Norah,

 probably at the photographers at the foot of Windsor Place

After Mother’s death. bowls in the garden during First War

Newlyweds Bertie Cavaye and Norah Torrance by the east wall

Norah and her baby, Dorothy, at Mount Lodge


Dorothy hides her head with her Cavaye grandparents and their

younger children on the back steps of their house Craig Royston in

East Brighton Crescent, just along the Christian Path from Mount Lodge


Portobello in the twenties


Later on


Dorothy on Portobello Prom 1940s, with son Roger & brother Robin, and outside her parent’s house in Pitt St.

Dorothy’s parents Norah Torrance (kneels 3 from right) and Bertie Cavaye (stands front right) at a Cavaye

 family reunion in 1964 outside Hamilton Lodge Hotel, Hamilton Street, Portobello.





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

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

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


Mount Lodge Portobello in Love and War 1914-18


Cavayes of Craig Royston & Portobello in the Thirties Dorothy Cavaye remembers

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