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Monday, 6 December, 1999, 14:39 GMT
Alimentary, my dear Watson
Sherlock Holmes Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce play Holmes and Watson in 1945

Proposals to demolish the oldest surviving home of Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and replace it with a burger restaurant have been greeted with dismay.

Conan Doyle enthusiasts have vowed to fight plans before Edinburgh City Council to replace 18th century Liberton Bank House with a McDonald's eatery.

The creator of the fictional detective spent part of his childhood in the house, which has been the subject of a planning application.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Historian and Conan Doyle biographer Owen Dudley Edwards said: "You've heard of selling your birthright for a mess of pottage.

"But the word 'business' these days is one which causes all sorts of decent constraints to be forgotten.

"It is an effort to sell Scotland's cultural past for a hamburger."

Conan Doyle lived at the house for two years up to the age of seven in the 1860s.

He was born in 1859 at another address in Edinburgh - now demolished - and the family moved to the Portobello district later.

A public lavatory now stands on the site of the Portobello house.

It is an effort to sell Scotland's cultural past for a hamburger
Owen Dudley Edwards
While they were at Portobello, said Mr Edwards, reader in history at Edinburgh University, the family decided to send the young Conan Doyle to Liberton, away from the influence of his alcoholic father, who suffered severe depression.

Conan Doyle stayed at Liberton with the sister of John Hill Burton, Historiographer Royal for Scotland.

Conan Doyle later paid tribute to Hill Burton by providing a similar-sounding name as an alias for Holmes' assistant, Dr Watson, in one of his books, said Mr Edwards.

From Liberton, Conan Doyle went to boarding school in England, and later returned to Edinburgh to study medicine, living at other addresses in the city.

Mr Edwards said the Liberton link was not known outside the Conan Doyle family until the 1970s, when the discovery of a diary brought into the open the alcoholism of the author's father.

The academic said Liberton was particularly important as Conan Doyle lived there in his formative childhood years.

The house, said to be "a fine 18th century house in the Scottish vernacular tradition", has been unoccupied since 1991.

We have only just been made aware of the Conan Doyle connection
McDonald's spokesman
Once set in farmland, it is now close to the car park of a big suburban shopping centre, and is no longer a listed building.

A spokesman for McDonald's said: "We have only just been made aware of the Conan Doyle connection.

"It's something we are discussing, with other matters, with planners.

"When we submitted it and began discussions several months ago, this wasn't raised at all, until a councillor brought it to our attention."

The spokesman said the application was due to be considered shortly, but was unable to say at this stage if the firm would still press ahead or drop the proposal.
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22 Sep 99 |  Entertainment
Homing in on Sherlock

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