Surely one of the most iconic images of Morningside is the Station Clock which has stood at the foot of Morningside Road (off and on) since it was gifted to the city by Messers Inches, Inman and Torrance, the then councillors for the Morningside ward in 1910 – a time when it was possible to travel by train from Morningside to Waverly via Haymarket in precisely 13 minutes!
The structure itself is an example of east-west collaboration by leading craftsmen of the time – the ironwork pillar supplied by Walter MacFarlane & Co. of Glasgow and the clock mechanism by James Ritchie & Son of Edinburgh. The craftwork of these fine Scottish companies can still be seen all over the UK, Europe and even further afield in exotic locations such as Singapore and Brazil.
The clock has of course been a familiar landmark for generations of locals and travellers alike. The writer can remember when on long trips from Dumfriesshire to visit Edinburgh as a small boy in an Austin Cambridge – sight of the clock meant that we really were ‘almost there’. And then all of sudden – the clock wasn’t there anymore!
The clock disappeared in the late Sixties during modification of the road junction and, as Charles Smith noted in his Historic South Edinburgh volumes, after it failed to re-appear after some considerable time ‘many residents made enquiries in official quarters’ which pre-empted its return, complete with new electrics installed, to restore familiar perspective of the of the station area in 1968.
As many will know this was not the last of the clock’s travels – it having been relocated, again as a result of traffic measures, to its current roadside position in 2004. In its current situation the clock continues to serve the community well and has become a ‘weel kent’ meeting point for walkers and cyclist and of course for the hundreds of locals who turn out for celebrations such as Morningside Community Council’s Christmas Lights.
A couple of hundred metres away and much less prominently lies the site in what is now Braid Road of one of Edinburgh’s dark moments from the past – the Hanging Stanes – which remind us of the misfortune of two itinerants Thomas Kelly and Henry O’Neill to be bestowed the dubious title of ‘highwaymen’ in 1815 as a result of relieving David Loch, a passing carrier, of a paltry sum of money as he travelled into Edinburgh on the Dumfries Road.
In keeping with the sentencing policy of the time, as practicised by the notorious Lord Braxfield and others, Kelly and O’Neill were sentenced to be hung on the site of their crime. On 25 January 1815 gallows were erected and a good number of citizens struggled through the snow to meet a great procession of police, High Constables, City Officers and clergy from the high Street, and to witness one of the last highwayman hangings in Scotland. The stones that provided sockets for the gibbets are preserved in the roadway today and nearby on the pavement lies a plaque, paid for by public subscription, which recorded these fateful events.