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Our village is mentioned in historical papers well over 900 years ago now and many a famous person has passed through it. It was, afterall, a fording place for travellers crossing Edinburgh's only river, the little Water of Leith. The river brought mills and, at one time, it is said, never a busier river could be found in the whole of Britain, with over 70 mills situated along its 25 mile route to the sea.
Perhaps our most famous son is Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), one of Britain's best loved writers ofprose and poetry. His grandparents lived in the village and, due to constant sickness, he spent a lot of his youth in the cleaner air of the village. Some readers of "Treasure Island" see his imaginings for this tale being formed while playing on the river which flowed by his home.
"How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!"
The old bracket stays for that swing still exist and can be seen, still in use on a nice new swing, firmly wrapped around the bough of an enormous ancient Yew tree which still stands beside the coffee shop which bears the name of the verse above, The Swing". This swing, used by Robert and his many cousins while in the village is just one of the many inspirations we can imagine were behind Stevenson's works.
Recently, planning permission has been awarded Colinton village to go ahead with a commemoration of this literary giant, who is never really very far from those of us who live here. The parish church, where his grandfather was minister, as well as the surrounding church yard, where many of his family are buried, will be the starting point of discovery for the many visitors we hope will be coming to visit Colinton to spy out our history.
It is hoped that an ornamental archway at the top of the "long steps" leading from the top of Bridge Street down the steep short-cut for walkers will be erected, along with a statue of the man himself somewhere near or possibly in the churchyard. Along its way, a display of RLS poems will be presented on plaques either side of the walk. Specially made ornamental metal railings will also make the triangle of gardens at the top of the steps more beautiful and aspects of the village's timeline, it's long history, and its wildlife will be featured there as well. Now to raise the money.
Colinton was a happy place for RLS. His big, cold,dark home in the centre of "Auld Reekie', as Edinburgh was aptly nicknamed in those days, held no appeal for him. The dark corners and sickly loneliness, the terrors and nightmares of the city were left behind completely with his arrival in what was the closest thing to a clean, happy childhood RLS ever experienced when he came to Colinton. Returning to Edinburgh in those days must have been a Jekyll and Hyde-like experience for him. Memories of Colinton's greatest son are never far away, as I mentioned earlier. This project, which we all hope will go as planned, will surely be a strong reminder of this great man's affection for our village.
In this picture of Colinton one can just see the church where the house, the Manse as it is called, where RLS stayed sits beside. The village climbs both sides of the dell......very pretty indeed. Come and see us.