The War Ends
As children we had never been expected to realise the seriousness of the situation our country had found itself in. I had never known what peacetime was like; the War had always been with us. As it progressed, my friends and I were only aware of it through what we saw on newsreels and later as the soldiers came to live amongst us. Only when victory in Europe was approaching did we get excited about it. What would peace be like?
I was lying in bed fast asleep when my parents burst in and cried out to us, "Have you heard the news? The War is over!"
The War was over in Europe although it still had some months to go in the Far East.
As if to confirm their news, ships` sirens and horns blared out in chorus from the direction of the docks. Remember, no television was in existence at the time, and radio was not as sophisticated as it is now. As the news spread, the streets became a heaving throng with people emptying from their houses. The streets were dark but illumination was provided from the houses as the blackout blinds were cast aside. No need for them now.
After being dressed quickly, I was taken out by my mum and dad and made our way to the Foot of the Walk to savour the atmosphere. All the time people, acquaintances and strangers alike greeted us, full of exhileration and just glad that the conflict had finally ended.
We must have known victory was imminent because the elder boys had built a bonfire from material that had been supplied by `Wingy` Robertson from his scrapyard. The unlit pile had been erected before hand and had been zealously protected from marauding gangs of boys from adjacent streets. It was customary for rival streets to invade others to pillage fire materials, and a victory bonfire was no exception.
The `Coppy` bonfire survived this, and it was set alight with great delight at the good news. Adults and children alike sang and danced around it as the flames reached upwards. The atmosphere was one of sheer joy and happiness that was to repeat itself a few months later.
Once the euphoria wore off, thoughts immediately turned to the welcome home preparations for the returning servicemen of the area. The wartime slogan`make do and mend` was put into practice as old clothes and materials of many hues were cut up and formed into bunting.
The Coppy before demolition in 1981 Leith Hospital at rear.
The pennants were then slung across the divide of the buildings on the clothes lines that spanned the square. Augmented by flags fluttering from the windowsills, they presented a warm welcome home. Parties were held outside in the square as each soldier returned. I remember well the excitement on these occasions as the uniformed individuals returned to the bosoms of their families and community. The War had truly ended.
These then are my memories of a childhood in wartime Leith. On reflection the trials and tribulations of the period, allied to the camaraderie of the community in facing up to an uncertain future made a lasting impression on me.
We had our bad times, yet we were never down. Laughter was never far away. Neighbourliness was an integral part of our lives. We all pulled together and were there for each other when required. I am proud and lucky that I was part of it.
Truly, `PERSEVERE` was an apt motto for Leith in those days.
1945 General Election
Before closing this page I must mention the 1945 General Election. We kids had never experienced the likes before as candidates vied with each other for the right to represent Leith at Westminster. The incumbent of the seat was a Mr Ernest Brown who represented the Tory party under the banner of National Liberal Unionist or such like name.
His main opponent was Jimmy Hoy, a member of the armed forces who was released from service to stand as the Labour candidate.
On polling day, each party recruited children such as ourselves to parade through the streets carrying cardboard posters on sticks encouraging voters to cast their votes for their candidate.
Jimmy Hoy`s were suitably emblazoned `A Hoy for the Port of Leith`. Most of my friends volunteered to carry his. As we held the posters aloft we would march along Great Junction Street singing "Vote, vote, vote for Jimmy Hoy, he`s the man we need today. If you dinna let him in, you can go and have a swim, so vote, vote, vote for Jimmy now." We thought this great. My grandparents were dyed in the wool Liberals, having originated in the Borders. They didn`t look too kindly on me doing this but didn`t prevent me from so doing.
Jimmy won the seat and represented Leith for many years. He was a very popular MP.