Nov 252020
 

Paisley Close, 97 High Street, EH1 1SG

'Heave Awa Hoose'
‘Heave Awa Hoose’

Population growth, particularly in the area within the medieval burgh wall, required the city to expand vertically. Multiple-story buildings were common in the 16th century and by the 18th century, buildings on High Street were often six to ten stories tall and could reach up to 14 stories towards the back where the land sloped down. On 24th November 1861, a 7-story building at Paisley Close collapsed, killing 35. Local newspapers of the day reported the successful rescue of a little boy, Joseph McIvor, who was heard crying ‘Heave awa’ lads, I’m no’ deid yet!’ from under the debris. The public scandal that followed highlighted the need for structural safety of tenement buildings in Old Town and helped gain support for the 1867 Improvement Act. You can still find the boy at the entrance of the close.

Horizontal expansion of buildings at West Bow on the Royal Mile by Archibald Burns, late 19th century (Scottish National Portrait Gallery)
Horizontal expansion of buildings at West Bow on the Royal Mile, photograph by Archibald Burns, late 19th century
(Scottish National Portrait Gallery)
Contemporary illustration of the building collapse at Paisley Close (source: The Scotsman)
Contemporary illustration of the building collapse at Paisley Close (source: The Scotsman)

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Apr 032019
 

103 High Street today

Bailie Fyfe’s Close, Edinburgh, EH1 1SS

On the 24th November 1861, a seven-story house here in the High Street suddenly collapsed in the middle of the night, burying nearly all of the inhabitants and killing 35 of them. The house was several centuries old, with decaying timbers, and was thought to house up to 100 people. The whole house gave way at once, leaving only the gables still standing. Many years before this catastrophe occurred, in 1848, Dr. Alexander Wood, a leading physician in the city, reported the inadequacy of the city’s provisions for poor relief to the Royal College of Physicians. No action was taken, however, until this tragic occurrence, which was widely reported across the whole of the United Kingdom. Following the disaster, the town council appointed Dr. Henry Littlejohn as the city’s first Medical Officer of Health to write a report on the sanitary conditions of the city. Dr. Littlejohn’s conclusions, along with continuing efforts by Dr. Alexander Wood, eventually resulted in some improvements and in the foundation of The Edinburgh Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor in 1868.

Image taken from page 61 of ‘Precognition of Witnesses examined at the instance of the Procurator-Fiscal for the City of Edinburgh, regarding the falling of the tenement Nos. 99 to 103 High Street, on Nov. 24, 1861’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image taken from page 71 of ‘Precognition of Witnesses examined at the instance of the Procurator-Fiscal for the City of Edinburgh, regarding the falling of the tenement Nos. 99 to 103 High Street, on Nov. 24, 1861’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contemporary illustration showing rescue workers removing ‘the dead and wounded from the fallen house’ on 24 November 1861

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More information: https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/entertainment/on-this-day-in-1861-edinburgh-tenement-collapse-kills-35-1-4300451

Photo credits: Lucy Ridley, British Library Catalogue, Edinburgh Evening News

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