A Labour of Love for Edinburgh

Posted by in July's Magazine

I created the EdinPhoto web site (www.edinphoto.org.uk) in 2001 to record my research into the history of Edinburgh Photographic Society. I had originally published this research as a 100-page booklet distributed to EPS members in 2000.   

Edinburgh Photographic Society


EPS has a long, rich history. Meetings have been held almost every Wednesday evening since 1861, except during the WW2 ‘black-out’ when they were held just once a month, on the Wednesday closest to the full moon! Early lecture titles included:

The Velocipede as an adjunct to Landscape Photography

My first Photographic Trip to the Country and what befell me.

A Tour of Yosemite Valley, USA in 1883 by the President, Mr Tunny, carrying nearly 2 tons of impedimenta mounted on 16 mules

Photographic outings in the 19th century were on foot, by cycle, wagonette, steamer and barge. In 1883, a party of 109 travelled to Almond Dell by decorated barge for their Annual Picnic. They took a couple of violins, a cello and a piano. A portrait in carbon print was awarded to the winner of the Ladies’ Solo Singing competition on the outward journey. The bachelors beat the married men in the tug-of-war, and there was singing and dancing on the barge for 3 or 4 hours on the return journey. 

In other years, at EPS Picnic sports, some of Edinburgh’s prominent photographers won prizes for the High Leap, 150-yard race, Barrow race, Hopping Race and Running Backwards race!

Photographic Convention of the UK – Princes Street Gardens, 1892
© Courtesy of EPS who acted as hosts

Edinburgh’s Professional Photographers

I searched through Edinburgh & Leith Post Office directories and my collections of cartes de visite, cabinet prints and postcard portraits from Edinburgh studios, and compiled a booklet of Professional Photographers in Edinburgh, it was published by the Royal Photographic Society in 2001.

I found names, addresses and dates for 1,057 photographic studios operating in Edinburgh between 1840 and 1940. Photographers included Hill & Adamson, Ross & Thomson, Tunny, Balmain, Wane, McLeay, Begbie, Crooke, Moffat, Yerbury and many others.

Rock House – home to Hill & Adamson and later photographers © Courtesy of Edinburgh City Libraries & Information Services

The Web Site

After creating the web site to hold my research from the two booklets above, I expanded it to include dates, titles and authors of over 2,500 EPS lectures (1861-2000) and 50 poems and songs about photography in Edinburgh. Here is the first verse of a Gilbert & Sullivan parody, written by EPS Member, Ko-Ko and sung on his President’s Evening by Dr Brian Covell.

‘When I was a lad with a smile so sweet
I took a little walk along Great King Street
I moved the chairs and I swept the floor
And I polished up the handle on the big front door.
I polished up the handle with such finesse
That now I am the captain of the E P S’.

In 2001, Facebook, Twitter and most of the other social media sites did not exist, so I created the www.edinphoto.org.uk site from scratch, designing it initially for people using computers with small screens (640 x 480) and slow internet speeds dial-up access.

I’ve continued to add to the site almost every day since 2001. It reached 10,000 pages by 2006, 20,000 pages by 2011, and now has over 27,000 pages and 26,000 photos. To find the site, key EdinPhoto into Google. To search it, use the search field on the home page, or click on a link at the top of any page or on any underlined word or any picture.

The site receives about 200,000 visits and almost 1,000,000 page-views each month, on a typical day there are visitors from over 100 countries and it’s been visited by people from 242 of the 247 countries that currently have Internet access. I’m still waiting for visits from Antarctica, Comoros, Galapagos Islands, Mayotte and Western Sahara. If you live in one of these 5 countries, it would be good to hear from you!


Over the years, I‘ve broadened the scope of the site to include other subjects that interested me; maps, transport, old engravings, postcards as well as recollections of streets, buildings, schools and industry in Edinburgh. I’ve tried to ensure that the site does not lose its focus on Edinburgh (including Leith!).

Edinburgh at Work – Rich Tea Biscuits at Burton’s Factory May 1992
© Peter Stubbs                                                                                                          


Many people have sent photos and memories of growing up in Edinburgh and others have responded with questions and answers. Over 200 people have written about Edinburgh clubs and discos in the 1960s. Many have recalled dance halls, cafes, shops, schools, and playing in the streets at a time when young children spent all day exploring and playing outdoors.  Some districts, including East Thomas Street and Dumbiedykes, now have lots of fond memories sent from around the world. Many people have told me that they have now re-established contact with old friends that they last spoke to over fifty years ago.

Looking down on Dumbiedykes from Salisbury Crags
© With acknowledgement to Norward Inglis and his daughter, Barbara Simpson

The last photograph shows a coal lorry that ran out of control down the steep Arthur Street at Dumbiedykes. People remember the occasion and recall seeing local residents filling their handbags with coal!

Dumbiedykes Coal Lorry
© Ron Leckie, California, USA

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