Telling and re-telling Old Town stories is an important part of what The Word Bank is about.
Here, Bronwen Edwards, a former resident of Tollcross, shares her memories of a bookshop long gone from Candlemaker Row which turned out to be much more than a refuge from the Edinburgh weather.
Candlemaker Row, in the South East corner of the Grassmarket housed the First of May bookshop from 1980 until the mid Nineties. From the street the shop window invited both the casual visitor and the regular, determined radical book hunter into a cosy book-lined cavern.
I can’t remember whether you could get a mug of coffee as you browsed, and I’m pretty sure it was not lit by hurricane lamps, but it was that kind of a place. Staff and customers were indistinguishable, though I suppose that in winter the customers were wearing more clothes.
Neither can I remember how I came to visit First of May that first time, but once inside, I knew I’d be back. I was immediately drawn to the selection of children’s books with colourful illustrated pages emanating messages of mums who thought nothing of going out fishing to bring home the odd whale for tea. This was feminism’s lighter side, and a gentle introduction for one who’d missed all those consciousness raising groups her sister had spoken about. There was also a nice collection of Leeds Postcards, illuminating a range of radical views from the hilarious to the deadly serious. My purchase of the funnier ones enabled me to inform my sister that the radicalisation of her older sister had borne fruit.