What a difference a year makes

The castle and me

This time last year I was in Edinburgh, many months before Corona virus had hit the world stage. It was my first visit, and I had been strangely unaware I would be among thousands of others who had ambushed the city for the Fringe Festival. I was thankful that our friends Mick and Anne only lived a thirty minute walk from the centre, in a lovely, quiet, suburban neighbourhood. We strolled into town past handsome stone buildings on either side; a cobbled street in between – so different from the wooden architecture and asphalt roads I am used to in my New Zealand surroundings.

On the way to the city centre

It was exciting, entering a city I had only heard about from others, or seen on film, filled with people thrusting pamphlets at us to join them at their musicals, plays, dancing, et al. There was music all around, people advertising their particular performances. And then, there was the piper. Such a nostalgic plaintive sound those pipes made. My family knew the pipes alright, with my brother John a keen player in his youth. Could I be blamed for following the piper and to stand adoringly beside him for a photo? Of course not. Here’s to your memory John.

The piper and me

On the second day we were taken to Queensferry, a picturesque village just outside the city on the Firth of Forth, which is famous for its bridges.

Firth of Forth

It was misty and cool. But beautiful. I texted my daughter in New Zealand telling her where we were. ‘That’s where Granny was born,” she texted back. OMG. I knew Granny Macgregor came from Edinburgh. But here I was, just by chance, standing in Queensferry – her birthplace. That evening my daughter texted me the name of the house her grandmother was born in. “Wouldn’t it have been fabulous to have found the house,” I lamented to our friends that night.


A day later we were touring the countryside a little further out, and on our return, we re-visited Queensferry, Mick having tracked down the address of Granny’s house from the name my daughter had given me. The street was a mere track, which ran behind the shops in the Main Street. It wasn’t made for cars, that’s for sure. Even a horse would have had trouble I was thinking, as we backed up to make way for an on-coming vehicle. And then Voila! We were in front of Lilybank House, where my children’s grandmother had been born over one hundred years before.

Lilybank House
close-up of the sign

Granny left Scotland with her family to live across the other side of the world, when she was just a teen, but never lost her Scottish accent. She was only 4’10”, the epitome of a ‘storybook granny’, with her hair in a bun and wearing a pinny. She was the kindest person you could ever meet. And for all that I loved Edinburgh and all it had to offer in the four days I spent there, finding Granny’s house was the highlight.

8 thoughts on “What a difference a year makes

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