With Edinburgh's Tolbooth long since consigned to history, the Canongate Tolbooth is one of the most emotionally resonant buildings in the Old Town. It's where justice was dispensed and prisoners awaited their fate, whether hanging, beheading, branding, burning or transportation. These days, it houses the People's Story museum, but visitors are reminded of its history by the ground-floor tableau of three of the city's less illustrious citizens.
The museum itself is dedicated to the lives of Edinburgh's working classes over the last four centuries or so. The exploits of the feared Edinburgh mob are recorded, but most displays are concerned with more sedate day-to-day life, concentrating on the role of Edinburgh's guilds, unions and friendly societies. Various trades are represented: printers, ship-builders, fishwives and even the redoubtable tram clippies. The exhibits continue to the 1980s or so, including a section on Thatcher's Scotland (complete with an amusing mannequin punk) and testimonies from fans of the city's football teams. The museum also affords a glimpse into the grinding poverty that some of Edinburgh's citizens endured long into the 20th century, and continue to endure to this day in run-down estates. Read their testimonials and a very different side to the city is revealed.