The Story of Circus Lane

World-famous Edinburgh street at centre of planning row | HeraldScotland
Circus Lane, back of Royal Circus, central Edinburgh

A Parable For a Nation

I am about to relate the tale of how, by accident, I changed a forgotten backwater lane in the centre of this nation’s capital to a thriving, beautiful place to live, and how it proved to be not only a microcosm of society, but a fable not unrelated to the fate of Scotland’s hopes to reinstate its self-governance. I could have shot a television soap opera there. The place was full of characters, from the young couple with twins to the antique dealer, from the widow to the boor with the arrogant swagger, as if his fly zip was undone, ready for a selfie. It was a village within New Town, within a great city. It is the story of empowerment, people power, and how easily it can be lost.

It began when I was homeless and gardenless. (There’s a magazine as antidote for that.) You can read about those uncertain days by clicking on the link at the end of the essay. I was living in a single room offered by a kind friend. A bedroom is not an address that impresses prospective employers. In my forties and married, I had to find a proper place to live, to function as a well-adjusted adult. With only a few pounds in my pocket my choice was limited to a skip (US – dumpster, a rubbish or garbage bin), or a cardboard box. A small-time estate agent suggested I look at Circus Lane; some properties for sale there, tiny rooms but cheap.

The miracle

I arrived confronted by a shabby crescent-shaped lane at the rear of the illustrious Royal Circus, a chalk and Bollinger comparison one with the other, Royal Circus soon to provide the first £1 million pound property in Edinburgh, whereas the delapidated mews lane offered a scruffy one-room office space with toilet for as little as £45,000.

The 9-feet wide cobbled lane had no footpath, two-way traffic using it as a shortcut at an averge of 25mph, a plethora of run-down buildings fixed with plastic windows and corrugated roofing. You could just about discern it was the remnants of a Georgian set of modest dwellings. The street was a forgotten rat run, council ignored since the Thirties.

As I walked along its length, dejected, ‘For Sale’ signs nowhere to be seen, one window was open, inside a joiner was hard at work sawing a length of timber on his trestle, one knee on the wooden plank. I bent down to look inside.

“Excuse me, do you know if there are properties for sale in the street?”

He straightened his back, pushed his cap off his forehead and stared at me.

“Ye kin have this one, if ye want.”

“Sorry? This is yours, you’re renovating it”, I answered, puzzled.

He moved to the window.

“Ah’ll be straight with ye. I wis buildin’ this fir ma mistress, but she’s dumped me.”

You could have knocked me down with a workie’s KitKat.

Within minutes the owner offered a price within my poverty limits sufficient to afford a deposit. Fate sealed, I spent the next twenty-odd years there, encountering good people and malicious, envious and reticent, taking life and adventures as they came, while improving everything around me. I stayed about five years too long, the core of this tale.

Stop those vehicles!

The dangerous proximity of speeding vehicles to homes along a narrow mews lane, with two blind corners, was alarming. What to do? One big truck parked right across my door and windows for an hour, blocking egress and light. I had an idea, one that would start a revolution of reformation. I removed a few cobbles (sett stones) and dug a small trench on both sides of my front door to plant large yew shrubs. Their bulk gave me an extra 18-inches of a safety zone. The shrubs warned speeding drivers someone lived in the lane.

A troubled neighbour asked what I was doing removing the cobble stones, council property. I pointed out we owned the soil three feet from the wall. We have to reach foundations, gas main, electricity, sewage pipes for repair. True, the council owned the cobbles, but I had replaced them around the yew bushes. There was a long pause while my explanation sunk in. “Can you do that for my place?” she asked, and that was the start of landscaping the entire lane from one end to another.

Homeowner and tenant, one after another, asked for my help to make their place safer to enter and leave. Over the years, in consultation with each resident, I planted something different at front doors and under windows for the sake of variety and individuality, from plain box hedging to magnolia trees, via rose bushes, taking care to ensure the shrub could withstand winter weather and freezing rain and slush chucked at it by passing cars. I chose evergreens whenever possible. Where there was a manhole cover, I added a large container of flowers on top.

I am relieved to say, a mews lane ignored by the council was, in this instance, a good thing. The mews never saw road salt guaranteed to kill all living flora, the reason so few trees line city centre streets.

The telegraph pole the GPO thought did not exist

Out with the old, in with the new

The next task I decided to tackle was a monstrous telegraph pole one-foot from a wall in the middle of the lane. People kept to the walls to avoid on-coming taffic only to find a whopping big, tar-injected British Telcomm (BT), pole smack in their path. From it hung thirty-nine phone lines running in all directions, and, as if the way of lazy convention, tacked across the front of buildings, disappearing bored through window casements to get access to rooms inside.

I made the phone call to BT.

“Hi. I’m calling from Circus Lane. Can you remove a telegraph pole?”

“Depends where it is,” came the expected reply from the BT official.

“Right in the path of pedestrians.”

“Impossible. I’m looking at our grid, and there’s no poles in that street.”

“You’re kidding. I’m staring at one.”

“Our records show no standard poles since 1932.”

“I’ll buy you a bottle of pure malt whisky if you find none when you come here”, I answered.

When he arrived he was non-plussed. He eyed the monster of a telephone pole. “Hell!”

“This lane is full of poor folks”, I intoned, pleading. “How much to remove it?”

“We will do it for free”, he said, without a pause.

“In that case” I interjected swiftly, “Can you remove the one behind that wall too?” I pointed to an old stone wall, another telephone pole behind it.

“If the line can stretch to the nearest fixed point, yes”

“The cables and wires crawling all over the house facades, how many are live?”

From his van he took his box of electronic tricks, checked the cable running up the pole and said ….. “Bloody hell, only one.”

Thirty-eight redundant cables. I asked him to relay the one used telephone wire along and under gutters and remove all the others. To his credit, BT did that and removed all the redundant telegraph poles for free. With the Thatcher creed infusing everything with a financial value, free is not a choice today. Everything has a price. Aye, we used to laugh at cans of Edinburgh air sold to gullible tourists, but look at us now, we can even buy and sell our place in a queue.

I digress. My first great achievement was a doddle – visual clutter removed from the lane in an instant. I felt triumphant. I had beaten the system. There was nothing beyond my capacity to make things better!

The changes

Over the next two decades, aided by enthusiastic residents, I began a campaign of alterations and restoration. The list I recount is not comprehensive.

One of the best moves got rid of the Fifties orange illuminated concrete lampposts and substituted them with Georgian lanterns affixed to the buildings. Half the money came from the folk in the lane, matched by half from the council. The poorest folk, usually retired, paid a few pounds, the well-heeled, £500. Soon as the lamps were installed, people came out their house smiling with pride. They had improved their surroundings, added quality, thrown off what was crap for what was quality – the first glimmer of people power. Very soon after, residents began improving the interior of their homes, modernising kitchens, bathrooms and electrics.

Next, I had plastic windows removed, Georgian 12-paned windows installed. The thick yellow No Parking line was relaid as a thin yellow conservation line. (Yes, there is such a thing, if you ask the council nicely.) I divided property block units visually (three properties), with an architectural line, roof to street level, delineating individual houses, so that owners could paint their exterior walls and doors a conservation colour to kill dead the monotonous grey facades.

I put doors under strict Georgian conservation colours – exterior eggshell, not gloss! My wife is a painter, knew which front door needed a sharp hue or a muted 18th century tone, advice from a world expert on colour.

I replaced ugly areas of brick inserts with sandstone as original, painted ingoes, lintels and sills a contrasting colour from the wall in the old Scottish style. I got chimneys rebuilt, concrete additions removed, proper Scottish slate put back on roofs, asked owners to remove satellite dishes, and often landscaped their small back gardens to achieve places of peace in the southern sun. Finally, I had the council make the lane one-way, west to east, the direction least used by rat-run drivers. This added a huge measure of safety and tranquility to life in the mews of mews. Drivers began to slow down, inhibited about using a residential mews as a race track.

When the council widened the footpath around the chapel at the end of the mews, opposite the St Vincent Bar, I got permission to plant a mature tree there to soften the area, an indigenous variety, a multi-stemmed silver birch. I surrounded it with Georgian railings to give it pride of place and keep it safe from vandals No sooner were the railing installed than cyclists used them to chain their bicycles – I then added three cycle racks nearby.

To the branches of the tall silver birch I added a hardy white Scottish climbing rose. One day, when both were in full leaf, the rose blooming, I heard a young girl say to her boyfriend admiring the roses in the branches, “Ah never kent them birch trees grew flooers”.

I left the lassie blissful in her ignorance.

301 Stockbridge Edinburgh Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images -  iStock
My home at Number 11, where it all began, my New Dawn rose in magnificent splendour

A smart place to live on a budget

In short time the lane was awarded full conservation status, a great thing for preserving its best elements, dissuading Barbarian incomers from sticking Magnet and Southern doors on their house to make it look ‘different’. All that and a ton more alterations achieved by rustling up resident support to see their environment a superior place than before. And it was all pushed ahead by a change in council attitude to community participation: let people propose ideas, not council impose them. Gradually, a visual harmony took shape followed by a shared pride.

Wherever there is human activity, there is money to be made. Developers moved in, in double quick time. Created an A Listed conservation mews lane curbed architectural vandals’ worst excesses. If residents did not like a planning proposal because it was out of character with the surroundings, they let the council know. Plans modified, gap sites were filled-in with sensitive contemporary renditions of mews properties. House prices rose. Everyone was happy.

Police women on horseback used the lane as if of old. The sun shone on Circus Lane.

The people are paramount

By then I had organised residents into an association, people power, which I did without much effort. There was unity of purpose. To my responsibilities, largely assumed because no one set down what a ‘secretary of the Association’ should do, I added a monthly newsletter. I sent it to every resident that lived in or used the mews, and to council officials. By that protocol I left people with the honest impression of a cohesive community.

We met once a month to discuss moans, groans, neighbour disputes, and what we had in the bank. Solutions to stop vehicles using the lane and parking was the most regular topic, followed by dog walkers who thought the planting was there for their dogs to cock a leg. In one incident, a drunk lawyer used a plant container as a toilet, showing no shame when I bollocked him as he peed.

“A man has to relieve himself”, he said, swaying unsteadily, giving judicial pronouncement.

“Is that so? Tell me where you live so I can crap at your door!”

Membership of the Association was a modest £25 a year. Often, I paid the sum myself for the few on welfare benefits. Most paid eagerly, one or two were always ‘out’ when I called.

Lest folk think I exaggerate the tasks undertaken, I emphasise the lane renovations, the improvements, the renaissance of the mews, and the verdant landscaping admired today, were accomplished over many years, augmented when I had surplus money from film commissions, and time to put my back into the work, local friendly guerrilla gardener and landscape artist.

Residents paid what they could towards items for improvements, but not the work involved. I did that voluntarily, for free. When I left, they continued the effort of planting, now veering to the twee for my taste, but pride of place they have aplenty.

Flies in ointments

Not all went swimmingly to plan. Some owners had to be encouraged to make things better, cajoled, schmoozed, short-term incomers understand they had no entitlement to destroy improvements, substitute plastic for wooden windows, or cut down shrubs.

By 2010 the lane had become internationally famous, an Internet site to itself, voted ‘The Most Beautiful Street in Edinburgh‘, the destination of film and stills shoots the world over, from Japan to Australia, from the USA to Italy.

Fashion designers love it as a backdrop. A Mercedes Smart Car advert said, “Small is beautiful”. Movie stars marvelled, Julia Roberts took her coffee break on the stone bench I had built outside my windows. Jack Vettriano kept his muse there in a property he bought – his muse nested in a mews. Mike Hart, founder of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, lived there most of his life.

I received no reward for my work, no accolade, no remuneration. I did it because it was a great thing to do, a gift to the community, thanks were enough from residents. The only negative was the odd annoyance of a new council official keen to control lives. “Why is this tree planted here?” “Because I got council approval, that’s why!”

Circus Lane was one way to make my mark on my country even if there is no plaque on a wall to say I was the architect.

The history of Circus Lane

At this point I should mention something of the lane’s history. Most visitors think the lane the result of indiscriminate placing of stables. To a quick study, buildings are usually seen as stables to house horses of the wealthy of Royal Circus, now homes for the hoi polloi. There is only one stable, at the west end entrance, and what we see in the lane is the rear facade. The front, the best side, a clever miniature of Georgian composition, faces Royal Circus and the owner who built it. Because of the angle it is built, on a curve, it is nicknamed ‘The Squinty House’.

Properties were built on once fertile cattle fields from the early 1800s, but in an haphazard fashion, one, here, another there, numbered consecutively as they were built. Postmen and delivery drivers are forever flummoxed, Number 6 is at one end, number 7 at the other, number 25 in the middle, number 24 is down a short alley.

Mistaken as stables is forgiven. A lot of the buildings were built by Hansom cab owners, the middle-class of their day. Horse and cart stayed below, hay bales on the first floor, the cabby and his family in two rooms next to the food store.

One of my last ambitions was to add aGHeorgian stone archway at the lane’s entrance, one side marked ‘Circus Lane’, the other ‘Stockbridge’, the stonework adorned with eteched silhouettes of Hansom cabs, wagon wheels, and horses. That was a costly project, and I was on the point of moving out. I still think the lane needs a monumental architectural marker at the entrance, an arch the perfect boundary.

A census record from 1891 tells a story of cab proprietors, and cab drivers who were not owners, a widow, a teacher, a general merchant, a confectioner, and one hapless ‘unemployed’. To the mews lane’s modern history should be appended a plaque on Number 11, ‘Here lived the eminent Royal Academician Painter Dr Barbara Rae CBE RA RSA RE, and her Writer and Producer Husband,’ Gareth, who wrote volumes of stuff’.

Circus Lane, circa 1960s – two-way traffic and soot charred buildings

End game

To return to the beginning where it all started: how does all this history of human activity relate to the self-inflicted travails of the Scottish National Party. If the reader can be patient a little longer, I’ll tell you.

Shortly before I moved home, an annoying thing happened. Two years earlier I had responded to resident complaints about parked cars blocking the narrow lane, a common occurence. I asked the council to consider double yellow lines only at certain narrow points. Many months later the council’s roads department popped up with a proposal to place double lanes the entire length of the mews. I got wind of the proposal two days before it was to be passed by the Council. What to do?

I decided here was the test for the residents. Rather than me, Association Secretary, take the hit, rushing off to the council and arguing the original case for short lengths of lines, I thought it a good experiment to see how the residents handled it themselves, standing on their own two feet.

The gossip went round like lightning: whose idea what this? Only one resident picked up the baton, the selfish one who left her car in the street, her garage used for her son as a gymnasium. She got the no parking lines proposal stopped, but did not consult a soul about it. The community democracy I had taken pains to engineer was broken in one fell swoop. One council official gloated, “I see Circus Lane is not all unity, sweetness and light as it’s made out to be.” My cover was blown.

More tales to tell

The lane really was, and probably still is, a microcosm of society. I could have shot a daily television soap there with ease, the place was full of characters, a village within New Town, within a great city.

One day I woke up to find the lane had its own Internet site and had become internationally famous. It was a place to visit when in the capital, after you had seen the Edinburgh Castle. Tourists flocked to take photographs. Some of my happiest memories are talking to excited Japanese tourists, and visiting performers there for the great arts festival.

And what of the residents in their new-created paradise? There was good and there was annoying, like any other community. Some folk dodged their annual £25 membership fee yet expected to get all the benefits of representation. There were those who joined in shared work generously, those who couldn’t by dint of commitments, yet offered support. One new resident, an ‘inspirational speaker’, stuffed £100 in my hand on the day we met. “Use that for the lane. Excellent place to lay one’s head!”

We had the usual naysayers to new ideas and the inevitable sociopath. I named him El Jerko. He prided himself on being a ‘property developer’. In reality he was another two-bit renter, his ‘units’ the property of the banks. A small guy, he walked with a swagger, hips pushed out, as if his flies were wide open, his manhood worthy of a selfie. One day the banks called in his loans and he was forced to sell his prime property. Revenge is sweet if you wait long enough.

There were happy times too, getting together with neighbours to share a chinwag and a beer on a warm day. Meeting people taking the lane as a shortcut and getting to know them with a cheery ‘How’re you today?’ Back would come the reply, ‘All the better for a walk through the lane!’ Accusing a delivery boy on his ‘motorbike’ of speeding and he answering, “Don’t get my hopes up!” He was on a moped that could barely manage 10mph.

“The history book on the shelf keeps repeating itself” ABBA

After I left the lane it began filling up with English incomers: “I knew this was the place I wanted to live” – sadly, some disrepectful of what had been created that had attracted them. (One rented out her garage as a commercial workshop, no rates paid!)

Meanwhile, I remained the go-to man for film and stills photographers to contact, a fee negotiated, donated to the Residents Association fund for the upkeep of the mews. But I noticed the Residents Association was nowhere to be seen, the fees I collected in the wrong hands, and no record of their spending. I protested, gently, and was told to take a hike. The community now had a quiet dictator intent on doing things without responsibility, backed by an unreliable ‘treasurer’. I cut off all connections.

Did my experiment fail? I had planned a Georgian archway at the lane’s west entrance but left the idea too late to achieve fruition. I have the drawings to this day. More importantly, I learned it is harder to alter human behaviour than to alter buildings, but altering buildings for the better can have a positive effect on human behaviour.

From May to September you will find Circus Lane ablaze in colour, at night music and laughter from an open window, the hoot of a barn owl, the scud of rust red hair belonging to a shy urban fox. In winter it affords a wind free walk among evergreens beneath the illuminated church steeple. Life for me has moved on. I am almost finished creating a Roman garden on strict Venetian lines at my new home. My biography states essayist, educationist and ‘creator of spaces and places’. It is satisfying to make one’s mark on society for the common good. Circus Lane was a milestone in an eventful life.

Post Script: In 2022 the mews lane was voted ‘The Most beautiful Street in the UK‘, with Bath’s famous Georgian Crescent taking second place. It was also note the most photographed, over 200,000 photographs uploaded to the Internet.

NOTE: The motivation to live in Circus Lane is here:


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43 Responses to The Story of Circus Lane

  1. strathedin says:

    If it were not for its undoubtedly unpleasant connotations, I would say
    “Sir…I salute your indefatigability”…

    Instead, I’ll simply say…Very well done…and your allegory is noted, and appreciated…Thank you.

  2. Doreen Milne says:

    What a lovely article, Gareth. You’ve accomplished so many amazing projects. I’ve walked along there so many times, it’s stunning to think you had such a huge part in it’s transformation.

  3. diabloandco says:

    I really enjoyed that , thank you.

  4. Gordon Doyle says:

    Garreth did you by any chance know my brother who used to have John Doyle Photography in North West Circus Place ?

  5. Grouse Beater says:

    Not personally, but was familiar with his work. As the mews grew in fame, I copyrighted it, and asked still photographers to check with me if a householder wanted their front door in a shot.

  6. lynnlinnhe says:

    Aw, Circus Lane. I used to walk this every day as a child in the 60s and early 70s, walking home from school to Cumberland Street. It was a lane of delights to a child: the cats sitting in the windows of the Cat Protection League; the smithy with all the doors and windows open, and we’d stop and watch the sparks from the furnace and sometimes the smith would wave a glowing orange horseshoe at us. As we walked along we’d hear hammers and saws and machines, while men whistled and called to one another. Further along was the garage, always a mechanic outside having a smoke, and the smell of oil hanging in the air.

    I remember them closing one by one and feeling some regret that places of manual work became homes or offices, but I also accepted they were old-fashioned jobs and would have closed anyway. I noted the first plants appearing and realised it would never again be the street of my youth. It is beautiful of course, and rightly deserves to be so well photographed, but whenever I see these images, I can’t help feeling a pang of nostalgia as I see past this beautiful view to my personal one, where the furnace glows and the sun beats down, and the smell of honest work dominates.

    But since it’s you Gareth, you’re forgiven.

  7. Hugh Wallace says:

    A remarkable & wonderful tale. What an achievement! Thank you, GB.

  8. katielass04 says:

    Ohhh I loved reading this article! As I read, I could ‘see’ in my mind’s eye how the street developed and I was entranced by the changes as each new (in the sense modern fittings were replaced by more tradition styles) feature was installed! It was a bit like watching the movie ‘The Time Machine’ as the dial rotates and the dummy in the shop window is clad in ever more distant fashions! So too did your changes take the street back to more aesthetically pleasing times! Thank you for that wee visual walk through such a very eye catching & pleasant street! The work you did is just PERFECT.

    To be honest, I’ve never been along that street before. But this is now on my ‘To Visit’ list! I’ve been working in my own garden to give it a more ‘ethereal’ feel of other times, but I’ll never get it looking as good as your project! Thank you for sharing your wee bit of ‘genteel culture’ with we unlucky souls who don’t live in such pleasant surroundings! It’s wonderful just to look at in picture form.. *sigh*… Thank you.

  9. Robert McAllan says:

    Surely a nuanced illustration of subtle leadership in microcosm by which society is the unwitting beneficiary. Oh how Scotland would flourish were it not for the moral deficit incurred by this current SNP administration and the actions of their inglorious leader.

    Gareth by exposing the frailties of the human psyche you give inspiration which must surely nurture a fairer and better society when all might seem lost. Gratitude you most surely deserve.

  10. Dear Gareth, I loved reading this article. I intend to change direction in my walks south and head north today for a visit.I don’t really know that part of Edinburgh at all. I will take my own flask of tea, camera and sketch materials too.. I have enjoyed all of your essays, but this one is different, sweet and beautiful and very visual. It made me laugh and cry and made my skin tingle with the love and pleasure you created in and around your Home Place. It reminds me of the loving neighbourliness I encountered in the west of Ireland where I lived for a time. Bless you Gareth, with deep Gratitude, Bobby McPherson.

  11. ambouche says:

    Aye! Superb account.
    I can feel the pride of purpose, and what people can do when jolted out of themselves.
    Experienced it myself although in a different route.
    We only pass this way once.
    I’ve had the down experience, in a trades union, fighting for better rights, whilst some stand by , do nothing in support, yet take the hard won benefits.
    Benefits that are ,our rights.
    We get all this wheesht for Indy, yet moral corruption in plain sight.
    People make change, not politicians.
    Onwards and upwards, regardless.
    We’ll get them.

  12. Votefor Poodles says:

    Did you ever don a leather flying hat and goggles and join Mike Hart in his “vintage Reliant” ?

  13. Grouse Beater says:

    Scotland United
    Happy to learn the essay had some meaning for you. My wife stays in Ballycastle every year to sketch. One grandfatherr is from County Mayo.

  14. Grouse Beater says:

    I may exhibit the odd excentricty but I’ve never been *that* excentric! 🙂

  15. sadscot says:

    How beautifully written this is, GB. Thank you so much.

  16. duncanio says:

    A very inspirational article GB.

    I had to chortle about the anecdote about Mr Vettriano, keeping his muse in the mews. Amused me.

  17. Grouse Beater says:

    Arrived most Friday evenings carrying a bunch of flowers and a bottle of wine.

  18. Roslyn Scott says:

    Hi Gareth, I hope you don’t mind me contacting you in this way.

    I’m a student journalist at Stirling University, currently writing a piece about the new pro-independence party, Alba, and its place in the wider Yes movement for my dissertation. I’m trying to speak with people who are influential in Scottish politics/ culture and who are representative of different elements of the pro-indy movement. Would you be willing to be interviewed on your thoughts on Alba and the upcoming election? It would be brilliant to speak with you.
    Thanks, and really hope to hear from you

  19. jonno253 says:

    Hi GB, Loved your essay on your mews house in Circus Lane, Edinburgh, it looks like a Bonny place to live.

    All the projects you undertook and gradually got your neighbours involved too, quite a feat when you look back on it.  

    My wife and I lived in Edinburgh for a few months with our daughter after we sold our house in Largs, we weren’t sure where to go as our family had all gone to Glasgow and Edinburgh we did think about Edinburgh but felt the pace of life there was a bit fast for us, a few people didn’t have patience for older people. Though we did like it there and were settling when our daughter said she was leaving to go back to New Zealand to live with a lad she met out there when she was on sebaticle from her job and to visit family we have out there.

    So, that was the end of our wee sojourn in Edinburgh, property was out of our league, and off we went back to Largs and found an old 1880s Victorian flat which we love and is now a project of repair and improve the next job is to replace the roof which almost everyone is involved in apart from one woman who say the roof is nothing to do with her as she lives on the ground floor. There is always one isn’t there but it will get done. 

    I really did enjoy your essay and found small parallels within it and our wee story not as long in years as yours we have been here 4 years now. I read in some of your twitter posts that you are ill I was sorry to read that and unsure how to write to you to say how sorry I am to hear that.

    I think probably because we don’t know each other apart from twitter so I thought I should respond to your essay so here I am, I have been enjoying your writing in twitter and your essays since I joined twitter, about 4 or 5 years now I think.

    I hope you can keep producing your work and if you have written any books maybe you could point me in the right direction.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Bill Johnstone 

    Sent from myMail for iOS

    Monday, 5 April 2021, 10:28 +0100 from : >Grouse Beater posted: ” >Circus Lane, back of Royal Circus, central Edinburgh > > > >Readers should begin by dismissing the grand title as a thesis on neo-colonialism, for this is concerned with community cohesion. I am about to relate the tale of how, by accident, I changed a forgo” >

  20. Grouse Beater says:

    Hello Roslyn

    What subject are you studying? Will you send me a draft when ready?

    I’ve never been sure of my ‘influence’, always taken aback I have so many readers, identifiable only when they choose to contact me. I write to analise my arguments, to see the strength and flaws, happy my essays have meaning for people.

    Are you able to send questions, same as folk do for my wife, Royal Academician, Dr Barbara Rae?

  21. Grouse Beater says:

    Good evening, Bill

    I am not surprised some aspects of my essay in neighbourliness strikes a chord with folk who live in community properties, such as terraced houses or flats. You meet all human life in such habitations.

    Pleased you find my scribbles readable. I do the best I can to the best of my ability, though have never seen myself as a daily ‘blogger’. As for a book: I am drawing together the most enduring essays to publish soon. And working on a humorous account of my time in Hollywood, ‘Lost in LaLa Land’.

    If you like fine art, I have a few books written for the Royal Academy of Arts, particularly pleased with ‘Barbara Rae – Prints’, a look at her most sensational work of my painter-master printmaker wife. If you cannot get hold of a copy – profiteers have signed copies on e.Bay for megabucks – but I may have one to sell. Let me know.

    Warm regards

  22. Ronnie Arnott says:

    Hi Gareth.

    Once upon a time, you said, “I’d have all long-term employees profit shareholders.”

    Sometimes, a single sentence can achieve so much. That quote above is from your linked-to article of 28 May 2015 – The Despair of Unemployment. As a grateful employer, your words were the catalyst for me setting up an Accolade Employee Share-Ownership Plan.

    Took a long while for AESOP to come to fruition and by then it had slipped my mind to drop you a note of thanks.

    Glad to have this chance to remedy my omission and I promise to remind the beneficiaries that the profit-sharing idea originated from yourself, Gareth.

    Awrabest, Ron Arnott.

  23. Grouse Beater says:


    I hope you do not mind – I have tweeted the gist of your remark for I am quite taken that my words became meaning for you.

    Yes, I have always thought hard work and loyalty should be rewarded, and if possible, given a share in any profit that issues from effort. Thank you, for taking that on board, Ronnie, and making it work. You are a probably interviewee material for a programme topic.

    Well done. I shall dine out on this for some time to come. 🙂

  24. Roslyn Scott says:

    Hi Gareth,
    Apologies for the delayed reply, uni’s been intense.
    I study Journalism at Stirling, and this piece would be for my final project (dissertation). It’s not intended for wider publication. I can absolutely send you a draft before submission, and can send over questions for you to look at – is there an email address I can send them to? Mine is
    Thanks again,

  25. socratesmacsporran says:

    Brilliant piece Gareth. It has been a joy to read this tale.

    Keep battling Buddy, we still need you in the big fight.

  26. jester1970 says:

    What a fantastic article. Great to know the history of this street. When I lived in Edinburgh I used to enjoy walking home this way from work early in the morning. I felt as if I had it all to myself.
    Your efforts are much appreciated.

  27. Grouse Beater says:

    You’re welcome, Jester. 🙂

  28. says:

    Gareth, what a wonderful take, beautifully told, of the lane. Believe it or not I’ve never visited it even though it’s not far from our office in the new town. Definitely will soon and I’ll imagine you planting, prodding and motivating people. Stay well, Chris (your old Yank ward mate)

  29. says:

    Gareth, what a wonderful tale, beautifully told, of the lane. Believe it or not I’ve never visited it even though it’s not far from our office in the new town. Definitely will soon and I’ll imagine you planting, prodding and motivating people. Stay well, Chris (your old Yank ward mate)

  30. Grouse Beater says:

    You need to give it a lunch hour, sit on a bench and eat your M&S sandwich and Coke. 🙂

  31. The Writer says:

    It’s a very lovely one

  32. Grouse Beater says:

    Many thanks for your kind endorsement. 🙂

  33. mairimaciverhotmailcouk says:

    Hi, Gareth.

    I read your blogs and follow you and a couple of the other “good guys” on twitter.

    I’d often wandered down Circus Lane without knowing your story, so it was a joy to come across your essay. How we’d love to live there but that will never happen with the mad house prices in Edinburgh. We also walk along the beach at Cramond most weeks and I always say to my husband, “Grouse Beater lives nearby”. Feels like I’m saying “hello”.

    I left some hateful haberdashery and a painted Yes stone on the grassy area, the latter specifically for you, next to the ice cream van. The stone disappeared but I’m optimistic that it went to a good home. SNP?

    We’re all well out of that. How that little madam and her cabal deceived us all. Despite defeat in 2014, we were sure that we’d soon achieve independence. Can’t see it happening now in my lifetime – born 1958.

    However, I joined ALBA the day it was launched so down but not giving up. I’m looking forward to buying your new books – any idea of publication dates?

    Please stay well. Take care.

  34. Grouse Beater says:

    Hi Mairi

    I am grateful for all the kind things you have had to say. Alerting others to my essays helps inform the uninformed and maybe the ill-informed.

    Yes, you are nearby if you are on the Silverknowes foreshore. You are welcome to call in to say hello. And Yes, securing indy is beyond the ability of Nicola. Well beyoind. Worse, she is incapable of gathering a high standard of advice around her. She is the least able person at the most critical time in our history. That is a reason the rest of us must remain resolute and staunch faced by the shenanigans of the British state.

    I have removed your email address to my note book lest it is exploited by the wrong reader! I would advise that you alter your name on your messages for the same reason. No need to add your email address. ‘Mairi Mac’ is good enough.

    With warm regards

    PS: I’m sorry I missed your ‘Yes’ stone. I’d have kept it for the Scottish ingle nuke in my garden.

  35. plusfoursmax says:

    Hi GB, I reached your site through this article posted on Facebook. I hope you don’t mind, I reposted it in and had lots of positive responses, including one person who thought I was the author! I had to disabuse her of this, but I basked in reflected glory for an instant. Circus Lane is a jewel, and the birch and rose at the end is a final flourish!

  36. Grouse Beater says:

    Oh, thank you, and you’re welcome. It was one of those projects that just sort of kept going, kinda accumulated until it was the entire street. The mews is internationally famous now, and I almost fortgotten. 🙂

  37. Valerie Boyd says:

    I hope some kind of plaque gets installed, in your honour, for all your hard work and dedication!

  38. Grouse Beater says:

    The bad boy still living there will do his best to spoil that idea! But I thank you for your generosity, Valerie. 🙂

  39. Interesting article which I read via ‘Next Door” site and I like the allegory – some of the remarks on the site however were slightly disconcerting and you may (or may not) want to respond to them.
    Best wishes

  40. Grouse Beater says:

    Hello Richard

    I stay well away from Facebook and most social sites with the exception of this one and Twitter. I have not heard of ‘Next Door’. It would not matter to me who has an opinion on whatever aspect of the mews took their fancy, whether well-considered or knee-jerk ill-informed. Alas, now and again, the envious feel compelled to rear their ugly head to defame. What I placed in the public domain is a true account if a much condensed tale of my time there and what I managed to achieve with the enthusiastic involvement of neighbours.

    If there is anything troubling you want to draw my attention to quoted from ‘Next Door’, please feel free. 🙂

  41. Richard Findlay says:

    It is probably not worth bothering about – simply one contributor (Robert Lloyd) stated “Shame the article is fake. Gareth Wardell had very little to do with creating the lane. Also the comments about English incommers are not acceptable.”
    I thought those comments to be rather a strong and beyond normal ‘banter’ that one often sees in social media and as it did not match with my impression of your integrity it felt I should perhaps mention it.

  42. Grouse Beater says:

    As expected, a malicious troll, a quick stab with a hat pin and out again, an attempt at racist smear. Can’t spell ‘incomers’. No one called Lloyd ever lived in the mews during my time there. Onward! 🙂

  43. Pingback: Circus Lane in Edinburgh – The Scottish Pearl

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