John Pottinger

— #11 Whale Brae

Overview John Pottinger Whaling and Newhaven Tae a Guider

Pottinger, Builder of Houses

John Pottinger, a native of Orkney, was born in 1856 and died in his home at  127 Trinity Road in 1939. Throughout his building career of 50 years, he, along with his two sons added a number of houses to Newhaven. His builders yard was located in Parliament Square which no longer exists but was located behind the east side buildings of Fishmarket Square.

Although Pottinger was described as a joiner he might today be described as a developer. In Newhaven, where his firm was at its most active, he built houses on Main Street, New Lane, Hawthornvale, Annfield and Whale Brae.   

Most buildings in Newhaven which he either constructed or owned on Main Street and New Lane no longer exist, victims of the 1960s and 70s redevelopment of the village.  The imposing red sandstone terrace of houses and shops at the corner of Whale Brae and Annfield are often referred to as the “Pottinger Buildings” and were built with internal bathrooms!  The ground on which the houses stand was formerly part of the Fishermen’s Park and Pottinger obtained a warrant to build on the land in 1934.  Nos 52 to 54 Hawthornvale also still exists. They overlook the relatively new Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.

Among the properties he built, apart from the Whale Brae/Annfield block, were 32A and 34A Main Street (the latter being one of the few houses in the village to have baths).  This building was subject to a gable dispute in 1908 with the adjoining proprietor which went as far as the Court of Session.  Pottinger was the defender and judgement was given in his favour on appeal.  The judges considered “It was a very small matter of 4½ inches that was in dispute and proof had occupied four days”!  Sound like some things never change!

3_3114 A photo from the 1908 legal dispute between John Pottinger and his neighbour where Pottinger was accused of encroaching on his neighbour's property. (Tent is an abbreviation of tenement.)

One of Pottinger’s sons, Private David C Pottinger, 19, serving in the 5th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), was killed in action on Dec 16, 1916.  His name is recorded on the Thiepval Monument but also, along with 77 other Newhaveners, on a monument on the corner of Newhaven Main Street and Whale Brae.  This was erected by his father, John, and mother, Margaret Pottinger and dedicated in January 1925.  The ceremony was attended by the local MP,  Ernest Brown, Parliamentary Secretary to the Mines Department, and officiated by the ministers of the two churches in Newhaven, Rev. A. Ian Burnett and the Rev. Duncan H. Neilson.

The War Memorial bult into a gable wall opposite the old Victoria Primafry School.