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Beachcombing in Portobello, Edinburgh

One of my favourite things to do along Edinburgh's seashore is to look for treasures. This year in particular, when the future felt uncertain at every turn, it's been a pure joy getting lost in Edinburgh's past. Every object that you find washed up along the shore has some story to tell. I've found some amazing things: sea glass with old-fashioned writing, shards of decorative pottery (very likely a remnant of Portobello's Potteries), a glass bead (the likes of which I've been dying to find!), and of course the remains of sea life -- shells, bones, and crab carapaces.

The most exciting object I've found is a small black bottle stopper. At first I thought it was made of glass, but after some research, discovered it's actually made of vulcanite. It would have one been wound round with Indian rubber to keep it in place inside a glass bottle.

My vulcanite stopper is engraved with the words 'Scotland' and 'Nielson Bros', leading me to believe that it was used in an aerated water bottle from the early 1900s. The Neilson Brothers company was founded by a man named William Wood Neilson from Falkirk, Scotland. The company began making aerated water bottles in 1915.

I'm not setting any new year's resolutions for 2022, but I do hope I find more treasures like these along Edinburgh's shore.


Angie Spoto is an American fiction writer and poet living in Edinburgh. In 2020, she completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Her doctoral thesis was a fantasy novel, called The Grief Nurse, and a collection of essays on grief, madness and language. The Grief Nurse has been shortlisted for the First Novel Prize 2021 and The Bridge Awards Emerging Writer Award in 2020. Angie is represented by Robbie Guillory from Underline Literary Agency.

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