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Please contact




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Living On Ann Street

by Frank Ferri

Circa 1960, only married a year, I moved with my wife Mae into a top flat of a three storey tenement at 11 Ann Street, Hawthornvale, Newhaven. (The name changed to Annfield Street at local government regionalisation in the 70's because of name duplications in the city conflicting with Leith, Newhaven, Davidson’s Mains, Corstorphine, etc., thus stealing the identities of many historical places — but that’s another story.)

The flat consisted of a large bedroom with box-room and living room/dining area and a private outside toilet on half-landing.  The unique aspect of the house was that we had a very narrow stairway that led up to two reasonable sized attic rooms.  Annfield Street was a good part of the village, nice and quiet and a cul-de-sac where kids were safe from traffic, with a large grassy bank to play on. My three children were born there and went to Victoria School.

My next door neighbour, was Mr Thomas Wilson (his colloquial nickname was Coconut Tam — why I’ve no idea), a widower and retired fishing boat owner.  Being a young couple with no family at the time, not being from Newhaven but from Leith, made integration a bit difficult at first.  Newhaveners were a bit wary of you and didn’t take to strangers very easily. They had a very strict traditional regime: no hanging out washing in communal back green on a Sunday; stairs had to be scrubbed, not washed over with a mop; an area, a strip about 9 inches on either side of each step of the common stair, was painted brown and, after washing, had to be polished.

I remember the floor on the half-landing between our toilet and Mr Wilson’s was bare white bleached and scrubbed wood. I remember suggesting to him that I wanted to buy a piece of lino wood facsimile covering for this area, because it would be easier to keep clean.  It took him a long time to concede that. He preferred it scrubbed like a ships deck.


On occasion I’d go into Mr Wilson’s for a chat. He was a proud old man, very much so a traditional Newhavener, dressed in his best suit and Homburg hat to go to church on a Sunday.  Both our houses had windows overlooking to the north with uninterrupted views over to Fife, prior to the building of Rank’s flour mill that restricted our and before the Western Harbour was filled in where Asda is now.

He told me he had the best and easiest catch ever by just looking out his window.  He said he looked out over the sea and saw this large glittering object out at sea and immediately realised it was a huge shoal of sprats or herring.  He got out his boat and in a short time had a great catch.

I remember, before the landfill, seeing fishing boats land their catch along side the eastern side of the fishmarket which then extended the full length of the harbour from north to south.