Edinburgh's airport to city centre tram service opened in May 2014 after a long and controversial period of construction. Today the line provides efficient access into town for those arriving at Scotland's busiest airport, but the original tram service around Edinburgh was more extensive. It may not have been any less controversial, however, as this letter published in the Scotsman on this day, 3rd December, in 1897 suggests.
The letter begins: “Sir, Last night I happened to be coming down the Mound about nine o’clock, and there saw an exhibition of cruelty the like of which I have never seen before...”
Horse drawn trams operated in the city between 1871 and 1907. By 1892 there was approximately 18 miles of track, for a service which at that time linked Bernard Street in Leith with Haymarket, and each tram car was drawn by two or three horses. (You can still see a small remainder of the original tram lives at the junction of Waterloo Place and Princes Street, where a short section of old track has been left in situ in the middle of the road.)
The tram witnessed by the outraged letter writer, just before the turn of the twentieth century, was “crammed inside and out with women and males (I cannot call them men)” and the horses pulling the vehicle were struggling up the Mound's incline, slipping on the frozen ground as they struggled with a vehicle overloaded with passengers.
“The ‘bus stopped, and would never have started again if a number of so-called ‘roughs’ had not shoved bravely behind; these poor men had far better hearts than the people who lolled on the ‘bus, and they had pity on the wretched animals...”
The letter writer signs him(or her)self 'A Lover of Animals' and calls for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (founded in Edinburgh in 1839) to intervene in the matter. Whatever local objections to the modern tramworks may persist, at least Transport for Edinburgh can (presumably) claim that no animals have been harmed in the provision of their current service....
Inspired by an entry in Michael TRB Turnbull's Edinburgh Book of Days.
Edinburgh Expert is run by Gareth Davies, an adopted native of Edinburgh with 18 years of experience living and working in the city.