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WatsoniansLinked - Food and Drink

WatsoniansLinked - Food and Drink

George Watson’s Ladies’ College former pupil Elizabeth Josephine Craig (1896-1899) MBE,FRSA ( 1883 -1980) 

Recipe for Edinburgh Cake

Elizabeth Craig was born on 16 February 1883 in Addiewell, West Lothian. She was one of eight children born to Catherine and John. John was a minister of the Free Church of Scotland and the family lived in the Manse at Kirriemuir. Her mother Catherine Anne Nicoll, was also a George Square girl. 

Elizabeth attended Forfar Academy and George Watson’s Ladies’ College from 1896 to 1899, returning to Forfar Academy as a teacher prior to starting a journalism career in Dundee. She later became a Fleet Street journalist and her first cookery feature was in 1920.

Elizabeth became engaged to American war correspondent Arthur E Mann in 1919 and they were married in London.

Elizabeth stated that she started to cook when she was six years old and as a young girl started collecting recipes. She began writing cookery books when food was scarce and rationing in place after the First World War. Over the years her writing and recipes reflected the times and her travels. She was a prolific cookery book writer from the 1920’s with over 60 titles to her name.

Her writing reflected the changes in society; for example in 1923 she published the Stage Favourite’s Cook Book, in 1934 Economical Cookery, 1940 Cooking in Wartime, 1956 Mediterranean Food, 1970 The Business Woman’s Cookbook.

Elizabeth also worked with food manufacturers on promotional recipe books for their products. Examples are, in 1925, 250 Recipes for use with Borwick’s Baking Powder and in 1940 OxO Meat Cookery.

In the mid 1930’s Elizabeth expanded her range and wrote at least a dozen books on housekeeping and gardening, which included titles such as in 1938 Elizabeth Craig’s Simple Gardening and in 1941 Elizabeth Craig’s Needlework.

In April 1942 Elizabeth Craig wrote an article for the George Square Chronicle. She happened to be in Edinburgh in November 1941 and decided to pay a visit, some 40 years later, to the school she had attended for 3 years, leaving when she was 16. She said in her article that no-one was sorry to see her go, “an unsatisfactory pupil”. She said she would not and could not concentrate and that she was no credit to the school that she had loved. Elizabeth went on to reflect that she did not then realise how useful book learning could be. She stated that then, and throughout life she preferred to learn from “The Book of Life”. As she left school in 1899, carrying her prize for German tucked under her arm, her only regret was leaving behind her beloved teachers and her three dearest friends Tibbie Brown, Effie Graham and Jean McKenzie. She tells us in the article, that Tibbie, Effie and herself were known amongst their classmates as “The Three Disgraces”, because if there was any mischief going they were at the thick of it.

Having plucked up the courage to revisit her old school that November day, she imagined seeing visions of her “old teachers”.  “Miss Arnot,  “with her lovely smile”, Miss Macartney, “so sweet to you in her reprimanding”, Mr D’Egville the dance teacher who taught Elizabeth and her mother, Mr Ross who would reprimand her, with a twinkle in is eye, for her “cheap newspaper  English". Did he have an insight into what was to follow? 

When she arrived at George Square having retraced her steps from all those years ago through Middle Meadow Walk, she was unable to get into the school, as it was in the possession of the Red Cross and the “pupils were in exile from that loved building” - Note, George Watson’s Ladies’ College was used by the Red Cross during WWII and the girls were schooled at George Watson’s Boys' College at Colinton Road. 

Her parting words in the article are to the current pupils “Cherish schooldays when they are yours. Don’t let them become only a memory when they are over. A very vital part of us lives through these days. Keep in touch with them through the years, or you may be only able to touch them through your tears”.

Here is a recipe from Elizabeth Craig’s 1934 Economical Cookery, it’s conversion to current use and a photo of the resultant cake. 

2020 Version of Edinburgh Cake

2 eggs, 110g Sultanas, 170g Caster Sugar, 225g SR flour, 110g butter or margarine, 110g of orange peel, ½ tsp baking powder, 2 tablespoons milk.

Oven 180 degrees for 1 hour, 20cm lined baking tin.

Follow the recipe as per the original. Note you can use 110g of mixed fruit and a few drops of orange essence instead of 110g of orange peel, you may need to add more milk to ensure the mix is not dry depending on the size of the eggs used.

Gillian Sandilands

Watsonian Club Vice President