The last pubs standing in Edinburgh's working class neighbourhoods

There are few things more quintessential to Scottish culture than the local community boozer.

A place that acts as a community hub, a meeting place for pals, families and the scheme’s notorious characters.

But in the modern world we are witnessing the potential death throes for classic pubs, with bistro bars and chain enterprises dominating our high streets.

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With that in mind I decided to do a whirlwind tour of a handful of local pubs that continue to act as the centre for their communities.

First up was the Mechanic Arms just off of Gilmerton Crossroads on Drum Street in the south east of the capital.

Expecting to be met by a couple of old faces, a beleaguered barmaid and the afternoon horse racing on a corner tele when I entered the doors, I was amazed to find a relatively packed boozer with a booming jukebox blaring out 80s classics.

Like many pubs in working class communities, the locals admit that the Mechanic Arms has not been without its colourful moments, with old boys remembering spilled pints and punches as well as the more serious slashings and stabbings that took place over there years.

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But those all feel very much consigned to the past with locals describing their own personal Mecca as a place where they pull one another up and support their pals.

At the foot end of the bar was the extremely joyous Moses Adekoya, 45, who recently moved to the area to carry out his studies.

First arriving in the community, Moses admits to feeling a bit of isolation and loneliness, but this was assuaged when he rocked up in the Mechanic Arms and was embraced by the local clientele.

Clutching a cold pint of Tennent’s, he said: “I moved here last November after giving up my career in the NHS to study business and accounting. I come here maybe two to three times a week.

“It is a really comfy and small pub and everyone is very friendly. The community is big here and you see how important it is for the older generation.

“For me there is never any trouble here whatsoever. It is an important place for me as it has allowed me to get a sense of community and comradeship.

“Everyone I meet is so warm and welcoming, they are always trying to introduce me to other locals. It has got me out of the house which is especially difficult during the winter when you are fighting isolation.

“In a lot of pubs you just see people sat on their phones but not here. When the fire is on in the winter everyone is huddled together sharing stories.”

Scott Lidnsey, 57, who was sat chatting to the bar staff, has been coming to the pub since he was 15 when he had his first pint in the Mechanic Arms.

The roofer argued that it is essential for communities to have local pubs that they can find comfort and support in.

He says that often punters will put an arm around one another and look after each other, especially when they are hard up on their luck.

“I’ve been coming in here since I was 15,” he said. “It is admittedly a lot quieter now than it was in the past but it is so important to have these pubs in working class communities.

“The friendships you can build here are great, there are hundreds of stories that have happened here over the years but a lot that you could not print. The locals and bar staff make this place, it would have a bad impact if we lost a pub like the Mechanic Arms, we all support one another in here.

“This is my local, so I’ll always support it and so will others. I know everyone in here and this used to be my old man’s pub and now it is mine.

“You see the generations coming through the doors and everyone knows each other. We look out for each other, some folk walk in with no money but someone will always get you a drink to lift your spirits.

“You don’t get places that offer such a strong sense of community like this anymore.”

A group of four pals were seen making most of the noise at a table at the entrance of the boozer, banter and chat was flowing, and so I pulled up a pew for a chat.

James, Mark, Gary and a man who did not wish to be named were masters of the art of pub chat, rinsing one another in a way that only close friends are capable of getting away with.

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They said that the pub has had its fair share of incidents, with a stabbing of a 28-year-old man taking place at the pub in 2016.

A 60-year-old was later found guilty of attempted murder following a court case in 2017.

Despite this dark chapter, the locals agree that violence is a rare occurrence, with the pub being frequented by generations who hold a strong sense of loyalty with one another.

“There was a rumour that years ago a guy came in and listened to all the banter and wrote a book about the pub,” Mark said. “He got on with us all and would chat away, so it shows just what type of place this is.

“We are more morning and afternoon drinkers but are in most days. You get good banter in here, I had double or quits with one of the boys during the last Old Firm and I’m having to double down again this weekend.

“This pub is full of good people, that is what really draws you here.”

James ended up copping a fair bit of flack with the group saying he was reported AWOL during the sunny weather as he opted to enjoy some drinks in his garden.

Once the light abuse stopped, Gary went one better than Scott, admitting that he had his first pint in the pub aged 14.

“I’ve been coming here since I was a bairn, I had my first pint at 14,” Gary said. “The layout has changed loads but a lot has stayed the same.

“There have been some stabbings and slashings with a fair lot of fighting at times but that was mostly back in the day and would only happen every now and then.”

The bar manager Emma interrupted our chat, and like a commanding teacher she told the group off for chatting about the pub's colourful past.

They all fell into line and admitted that Emma ensures that there is no trouble kicking off inside her pub - enforcing a safe space for the locals.

I definitely got the sense that she could handle most situations that could arise in a local pub on a rowdy night.

“Everyone knows everyone,” Gary continued. “All the young team are your mates, bairns or their grandbairns.

“It is different generations that all come in. Which is something you do not get often nowadays as that sense of community has been lost in a way.

“This is one of the few proper local pubs left in Edinburgh. Even in this area there used to be five or six but most of them have closed down.

“It is surprising when you look at how big the local area is.”

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Mark argued that the changing landscape is down to the differences in the type of housing that is being built in working class areas.

With close tight knit schemes being torn down so that new-build homes can spring up in their place with a focus on catering to individual families.

“A lot has changed in the past 20 years,” Mark said. “The developers are springing up different kinds of houses in the place of the old schemes and you have a different type of folk moving into the new developments.

“90 per cent of the people who have moved to these new houses in the area will walk in here and will walk right out as it is not their type of place. Their mortgages are also high and maybe folk just can’t afford to come into their local.

“Developers do not care about the past or the future of this community. It is all about the present.”