The Quilietti Family

Your Quilietti family heritage


For us who live in Edinburgh and who are old enough we can remember the slum buildings which were located at the top end of Leith Street and just down from Princes Street, and this area was called Greenside.  The would-be traveller to Leith may nowadays be daunted by the unpromising and hazardous start to their journey.

Greenside 2013, our ancestors surely would have walked along these old cobbled streets

24 Greenside Place is situated just beside the Tabernacle. This was Emilio Quilietti's home.

The grimness of Leith started even before the grandeur of Register House was out of sight.  Leith Walk is a long street which traditionally starts right off Princes Street and down to the Foot of the Walk, a very long mile.

Greenside lies on the north-west side of  Calton Hill.   Here lay the populous surburb of Greenside which was built on grounds which belonged to the ‘Carmelities’ or ‘White Friars’, anciently the site of a Chapel dedicated to the Holy Cross.  Near the chapel lay a cross called The Rood of Greenside where it is documented that in 1534 two locals called David Stratoun and Norman Gourley were burned as heretics.  Calton Hill stood behind some 350 feet above sea level and from here the Friars could guard their area with the magnificant views down to the Forth and beyond.

At the end of the Napoleonic War Leith Walk was an established carriageway with good houses at the top, cheaper tenements in Greenside where many of the inhabitants had workshops and forges, a sprinkling of timer yards, marble workshops, foundries, flint and crownglass works.  The old waxworks dates back to 1808 at 31 Greenside Street

The population of the City of Edinburgh during the nineteenth century had increased faster than ever before helped by the Highland Clearances, the Potato Famine which not only affected Ireland but also the Scots and also the emigrants which were now starting to appear from Italy, where there Unification caused unseen problems.  In two generations during the middle of the nineteenth century the population had more than doubled.  As soon as the great tenements emptied they were filled up again with twice as many occupants in one room.

Leith’s long history had now abandoned their war wounded and instead of the proud soldiers and sailors marching up from the docks the street was a haven for the injured soldiers and sailors who took to begging to keep themselves alive.

It now was an unsavoury haven for the poor.greenside map



The public transport system sort of took off at this time as well.  There was at first horse drawn buses followed by horse-trams in 1870.  Cable cars followed in 1899 and electric cable cars in 1910.

Old Greenside

From the 1870s Greenside is steeped in Quilietti and Brattisani family history as is St. Mary’s Cathedral just opposite.

Demolition work started in the Greenside area in April of 1961 by which time our families had all moved out to better housing in the new ‘schemes’ at the outskirts of Edinburgh.

The Horsedrawn public transport at Gayfield Square

The Greenside flats were nine stories high if you counted the two basement flats which were apparent from the back.  Today there is only one block at the back in Marshall’s Court, and this building was build circa 1933 and was not part of the old grim tenements.

Some famous Greenside Places were

Greenside from Calton Hill

THOMPSON and PORTEOUS Tobacco Factory

The Public Washhouse which was situated at the foot of the Broadly Stairs

LEITCH’S Lemonade Factory

St. Barabas Church and Mission

Fairleys of Leith Street which was the local dance hall.   It was a favourite with servicement both during and after the Second World War.

Of course everyone who is of an age remembers with great fondness JEROMES the photographers.

On Calton Hill on Greenside Row there was a tunnel cellar called THE MIDDEN DOOR where the scavvy kept his barrow and broom.  This was one of the meeting places where the locals would sit and have a chat.

Then of course there was the Salon Picture House in Greenside Place where they would famously show all the B rated movies.   This was a cheap form of entertainment and the picture house was always full and always full of fleas.

The Salon

“The Salon had benches in the front rows and an usher kept tracks of when we came in, so at precisely the time when we were about to see the film second time round we were tossed out the back door – to the infamous Greenside area.”

At the back of the Salon stood the Pensioner’s Hall which was affectionately called The Dump.  Locals gathered here and there were local bands who would play.  The Omonds from Greenside were one such band which played on a Saturday night.

a map of old Greenside 1880 showing the narrow lanes and the drying green situated at the rear

Next to St. Mary’s stood the Theatre Royal.   On Saturdays the Actors and Actresses would attend the theatre for rehearsals and this would cause a great fuss with the local children.

Also on Saturdays a ‘Mission’ Band would play at the bottom of Little King Street.   All the children joined in the hymns.  If they all sung loud enough they got a penny at the end of the meetings.

On Leith Street and Greenside Place there were lots of shops.   Jackson’s the Taylors, Littlejohn’s the Bakers and Anneker’s the cold meat shop.  There were not one, but two Duncan’s sweets’s shops in this part of Leith Street.

There was even a wee museum called the Creepy Waxworks Museum.

Down in Greenside there was a Cigarette Factory and the girls who worked there came  into Barnetts for stockings which cost a shilling a pair.

Probably taken circa 1950s

Calton Hill

“Calton Hill became very much ’off-limits’ in 1953, following the murder of two small girls in the Greenside area at the back of the Playhouse cinema.

Calton Hill was also a great playground for the local boys and girls of course and they would play with their guiders


“Our first mode of transport was the forerunner to the formula 1 racing car, the ’Guider’. It was a self-built vehicle, built from anything we could get hold of and propelled by kneeling on it and shoving it along from behind with one of your feet.

The prototypes were made of a few planks of wood, a cross-member whittled down, a piece of string which was our steering and four ball bearings for wheels. Where we stole the ball bearings from I cant remember, but they did the job. The onlyproblem was that you could hear us speeding down Elm Row from a mile off!

We then progressed and modernized our “Guider”, by stealing prams and removing the wheels  -  similar to today’s trend, but today its with cars. Times haven’t changed so much after all, have they?

Anyway, our suped-up vehicles were now silent and we rocketed down Elm Row bowling over anything and anyone in our path. The only problem was that we never did devise ways of stopping them, nor a method of self-propelling those vehicles back up the hill. We had to walk, dragging this thing behind us and start again from the top.

Mind you, those self-built thingys turned out to be useful to our parents too. We were told to pick up the shopping  or drive it to Abbeyhill goods railway station for a bag of coal. Not so bad getting there, but, the journey back was a bit heavy going.

So much for the ’guider’.  I never knew why it was called that. It was never really guided, just aimed down a hill.”

For both the Quilietti family and the Brattisani family Nos. 24 and No. 9 Greenside Place were our families homes for many years.  Then St. James Place opposite, just where John Lewis goes up the Hill today is where Emilio’s sons and their families started off.  No. 9 Greenside Place in the 1960s had Napiers Sho Repair Shop as one of the shops on the street level of the tenement. If anyone reading this has any photos of this tenement please be in touch.

By 1900 the top o’ the Walk was looking somewhat different from today.  There were twenty two pubs in the triangle between Leith Street and York Place, while the supper-rooms [today's fish and chip shops] were pale by comparison with the up to date ice cream shops of the day.  [When Emilio Quilietti died in 1898 he had 8 ice cream shops].  There were dairies too with polished zinc counters and Littlejohn’s tea room who were famous for its shortbread.  On the steps down to the Low Calton the new Black Bull, which had succeeded the old coaching Inn across the road.   Above the door was a Bull’s head with eyes which lit up at night.

1950s Leith Street

Two tobacconists shops advertised their wares with life sized wooden figures at the door.   One was a Highland soldier taking snuff.   Today he is housed in the Huntly House Museum dressed in a dark green tartan kilt and red jacket.  The other figue is of a sergeant in the Black Watch and it came from Henry Thomson’s shop.


In the future someone else may write about the many changes of recent times and the changing face of Greenside which is today unrecognisable.  We wonder what Emilio and Valentina Quilietti would have though about the two giraffes who stand where they used to live.

outside the old No. 9 Greenside Place

No. 24 Greenside Place still stands in the form of C.C. Blooms, the gay nightclub.   So remember if you ever frequent No. 24 and you see a ghostly shape, it may be your great grandfather Emilio Quilietti quietly watching over you.

now demolished St. James' Place

All the above facts were remembered by Barbara Guthrie who was born in the year 1922 in Greenside, the year before my own dad Joseph Quilietti was born there.  Joe was born in Greenside.

Now if you have read all the above then open up this link and you will find some very interesting Edinburgh words and see if these will bring back some

If we go on some sixty years we find ourselves at the top o’ the walk and familiar shops and cafe’s.   The most famous of the chippie’s was of course the Deep Sea Restaurant.   Nestled on the Island just in front of St. Mary’s on Union Place.    Next door was the famous Bandparts.   If you wanted any music it was there you would go.  And the Central Cafe’ was one or two doors  up from Bandparts.

There were public toilets here as well.   Moir’s Bar was situated where the John Lewis corner is today.   This was reputed to be where the ladies of the night would ply their trade, especially when the fleet was in.

Further up the hill was Burtons.  It was a grand structure a testament to the 20′s.  John Collier was another Taylor.   Everyone would get their suits made to measure then.   No off-the-peg then.


There was an upper balcony where another set of shops and restaurants were nestled.   The Top-Deck Restaurant was a well known establishment which sold reasonably priced food to hungry Saturday afternoon shoppers.    The Top Storey was also situated here.   It was a club of the 60s where many local Bands would play.  No drinking allowed of course.

Leith Street

Shoe shops were also plentiful in the area with Stead and Simpsons and Easiphit situated on the same side of the street as Burtons.

Opposite was the famous Edinburgh photographers where everyone went to have their photos taken.   It was of course Jerome’s.


If only we had all their negatives, what a website that would make.   Just think of the history of Edinburgh in the faces of her children throughout the decades.   I wonder what happened to their archives!

Right next door was the infamous Fairley’s ballroom.    It was a haunt of the sailors who were out on the town.   But many marriages were also made here including my own aunt and uncle.   Carel was a merchant seaman.   On a night out in town he caught the eye of our Betty.   They have been happily married for 65 years now and living in Holland.

Fairleys in all her glory.

Another Tailor called Jackson’s was just across the street from the pub situated underneath Fairleys.    You could in the 60s have a made to measure suit for around £11 I am told!!!  Above Jackson’s was a snooker hall called McLaughlans where the locals would spend many a Saturday evening enjoying their game.

There was another night spot called The Imperial which had an even worse reputation than Fairleys.

The Playhouse which had been completely restructured in 1929 stood at 18-22 Greenside Place,  just next door to where my own grandad was born and my great grandparents lived, which was No. 24 Greenside Place.    Today this address is called CC Blooms and it is a gay nightclub.  Everytime I pass this spot I have a silent thought for my ancestors.

But the Playhouse now re-built could seat over 3000 people.  When it was built it was the largest and  most opulent cinema ever to be built in Scotland and the 4th largest in Britain.  It was the first super cinema.   In 1929 Variety was very much a part of the cinema experience.  Opening on the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ of August, 1929, the Playhouse originally seated 3,040. These were made up of 1,500 seats in the Stalls (coloured crimson, costing 1/3), 680 in the circle (coloured purple, costing 2/4), and 860 in the balcony (coloured old gold, costing 1/- in the front, 9d in the back).There were tea rooms on two floors, plus a tea, coffee and soda fountain lounge .The building is said to be haunted by a ghost called Albert, a man in a grey coat who appears on level six accompanied by a sudden chill in the air. He is variously said to have been either a stagehand who was killed in an accident or a night-watchman who committed suicide.

Picardy Place has it’s own place also in the history of our city.   Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes was born here.   His descendants on both sides of his family were from Ireland and he was born in Edinburgh on May 22nd 1859.

So far as the record extends, Arthur’s grandfather John Doyle was a tailor’s son who started professional life as an equestrian artist in Georgian Dublin. He won commissions from aristocratic patrons, including Lord Talbot, Lord Lieutenant during a politically turbulent period from 1817 to 1821, and the Second Marquess of Sligo.

One thing is indisputable—the Doyles were devout Roman Catholics. Both John Doyle’s sisters became nuns, and his brother James trained as a priest. As the Catholic journal The Month noted, John was the only child of the family who remained “in the world,” and with this situation came a certain austerity.  In 1820 he married Marianna Conan, whose father also worked as a tailor in the Dublin Rag Trade.

EDINBURGH from Calton Hill






76 Responses to “GREENSIDE, EDINBURGH”

  1. Pamela Gordon says:

    Thank you so much for this website, it is very interesting. I have just started researching family history and discovered my great grandparents who were called Robert and Mary Ann Mc Millan lived with their large brood at 2 Greenside End. It was very interesting to read about the district.

  2. May I say how brilliant all this info is! Thank you.
    My mums family lived in 8 green side row. If you have other info or photos I would be really grateful. My gran worked St the lemonade factory too.

  3. Helen says:

    There are more and more Edinburgh based websites now with lots of brilliant local photos. You can search freely online. There is one on facebook called Edinburgh Past and Present and they have links to other sites from there. Thanks for taking the time to comment

  4. Mary McGhee says:

    I find these stories of Greenside so interesting. My father Walter McGhee was born and brought up there. His parents were Charles and Evellyn McGhee. I believe there were 11 children including my father who was born in 1933. I would really love to hear from anyone who knew them

  5. Mary McGhee says:

    My father Walter McGhee was born in Greenside in1933, son of Charles and Evelyn McGhee and one of 11 children . I know very little of my fathers childhood in Greenside and would love to hear from anyone who knew the family.

  6. James Henry says:

    I have been trying for many years to convince folk that my dad took me to a waxworks in Leith Street. I am 67 now but then was a toddler. Please tell me that this was real. No one believes me.

  7. Pat Newlands says:

    This brings back many memories. I lived in St James Square from 1949 till 1955. My Nana lived in St James Street where John Lewis’ back door is now. Your picture is not Leith Street, but Leith Walk from the top of the Walk. I worked in John Colliers for a few weeks before going to Moray House. If they didn’t have a suit in the required size, the assistant went to the “storeroom” which was Burtons! My Grandfather’s family, Allison / Hughes lived in 2a Greenside Place before moving to Finlay Avenue.

  8. Pat Newlands says:

    I’ve just remembered that the other tailor on Leith Street was the Fifty Shilling Tailor. Both John Collier & the Fifty Shilling Tailors were bought out by Burtons in the 1980′s. My Grandfather,Jim Hughes, was a postman who’s walk was the east end of Princes Street and Rose Street. His mother had book prizes for attendance at Greenside PSA Sisterhood in 1909 & 1910. He was also a piper in the Post Office pipe band. He attend Leith Walk Primary School, winning a prize for Religious Knowledge in 1903.

  9. Eoin Manning says:

    A very interesting article. Wonderful to read of the past from the perspective of the ordinary families who inhabited Edinburgh in those times. I hope you can answer my query:

    My great grandfather, Robert Litster, was born at 17 Greenside Street, Edinburgh in 1866. I gather that few of the old buildings stand anymore, and I can’t find Greenside Street on Google Maps. Does Greenside Street still exist? Perhaps its name has been changed? I hope you can assist.

    Eoin Manning, Dundalk, Co. Louth, Ireland

  10. Helen says:

    No Greenside as it was has now completely gone. Only remaining is on the main just up from Leith Walk. The street at the top has a small portion of Greenside Place still standing, which includes the Playhouse Theatre. The lane at the back is still there but all the old streets have been demolished. The old famous Scottish tenements were knocked down some 40 years ago to make way for the new shopping centre which now stands in its place.

    Thanks for leaving a comment Eoin.

  11. Brian Roberts says:

    Such an interesting article full of childhood memories. I lived in Gayfield Lane and ventured into Greenside with a school pal Tommy McGhee who lived there. To this day I have a vivid memory of the hard conditions but grand folk. But boy you needed to be tough in those days.

  12. Helen says:

    You must have lots of stories you could tell us. What year you born Brian

  13. Dientje VANDER HOR says:

    I lived in Leith st 96 then 129 next to Astins Cafe all my young life in response to James Henry comments it could be the little dolls hospital he was referring to opp. st Marys Cathedrial also my then (boyfriend )was called Thomas McGee I wonder if it’s the same tommy McGee Brian Roberts it referring too? We went to London Street School then I went to Belleview while Thomas went to the grammar school I think it was called Broughton Street school My best friend was Janette Johnson big sister to one of the little girls who was murdered in Greenside

  14. Liz Gibbs says:

    My ancestor was Norman Gourlay ……unfortunately he was deemed a heretic but in essence he stood up for his convictions against the oppressive Catholic Church of the day
    We are proud of him and may his soul rest in peace

    Best regards

    Liz Gibbs

  15. Bill Cook says:

    Walter McGhee was my uncle. He was one of thirteen children. My mum Margaret Vernon McGhee (b1921) was the second oldest. Walter was the eleventh. Auntie Ellen had the wee shop round the corner from Greenside Row. I’ve done a fair amount in tracing our family history. If Mary McGhee can email me at I can send you a copy. Billy Cook

  16. jim mcgurk says:

    Walter Mc Ghee was a friend of mine from the age of 10.We both attended London street school. I have a school photo taken when we were 10 years old, .When we left
    Bellevue secondry ,we both started work in the train letter office at Waverley station

  17. robert says:

    PLease hove you got any photos of 8 queens place my mother lived there and my two sisters were born there. Ps I remember my mother telling me you got into the pictures for 2jilly ( jam) jars and a hapenny yours R J Cormack

  18. jim mc gurk says:

    If you look at the photo of Greenside row 3rd picture on this site .the 4 women are all on the corner of Queens place. I think that’s as near as you’ll get to an answer to your queery.

  19. Mary McGhee says:

    Jim mcgurk, is it possible that you could email me a copy of the photo you have of your self and Walter McGhee? I would love to see it. . My email is Mfrom Mary McGhee

  20. Helen Rowland says:

    My nanna Eva McGhee was the eldest sister of thirteen (Uncle Charlie, Aunty Maggie, Aunty Ellen,Aunty Irene, Twins Uncle Billy & Aunty Lydia,Uncle Tommy,Uncle Walter,Aunty Sarah and Aunty Francis, apologies for not knowing the other siblings, and grew up in the Greenside area of Edinburgh, reading this webpage as inspired me to find out more. I would appreciate any further information as I don’t really know much and would like to.
    Thank you!

  21. cathy robertson says:

    Hi mary McGhee

    My father Jimmy watt was brought up in Greenside and he knew your father Walter and also Tommy mcghee. Young Tommy worked in the gas board. My mother used to be friendly with your mother Evelyn I was born brought up in Greenside and left when I was 11

  22. I was born at 12 Greenside Row. in 1948 my mothers name was Connie Parker. and I just loved living there. and the little grocery store in Queens place. owned by Ellen Frew and Johnny. man those were poor days. but happy days………………….

  23. Mary McGhee says:

    This website has been great and helped me to meet up with family l didn’t know l had. Thank you . Helen Rowland if you like you can email me at and l will share with you the information about our family history that I have learned so far . Mary

  24. Mary McGhee says:

    Cathy Robertson, thanks for your message, Evelyn was my grandmother. I would love to hear about life in Greenside and any stories you have about my dad and his brothers.
    Also Jim McGurk, , thanks for the great photo and would love to hear what you got up to as young lads. My dad died in 1999 and as is the way of things never really ask about his childhood. As I get older I find my family history so interesting. Thanks for replying to my previous post

  25. Kevin says:

    For Mary Mcghee – my name is Kevin McGhee. My dad, Thomas McGhee, grew up in Greenside and I remember visiting my Nanna McGhee & Uncle Tommy in Montgomery Street. I believe my grandad worked at Joseph Pearce’s, where my mum and dad met…. I vaguely remember my dad speaking of an Uncle Walter…. Can you fill in any blanks..?

  26. jim mc gurk says:

    For the McGhee family .Just a wee idea of life as I new it around the late 40s and the early 50s.No one owned a car ,or a motor bike .I don’t even remember a phone the area .There never seemed to be anybody long term unemployed .I don’t recall
    any one person that was the least bit over weight .Gas mantles were still in use In most houses i doubt if any family Had a pound to their name on a Thursday .What they did have was dignity . I honestly never saw any punch up’s ,or heard bad language .All this in contrast to Leith street. Where I lived .every weekend was like Bannockburn. From 9.30pm when the pubs shut .this lasted for about an hour .
    A brilliant street to be brought up in.

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