THE mystery of a wartime signature, discovered by a painter when he was decorating a house in Musselburgh, has been solved.

Mikey McKinnon, 29, who owns McKinnon Decorators, was asked by the owners of the property on Eskview Terrace to strip off old woodchip wallpaper and repaint the walls in the hallway.

As he got to work, he found that previous decorators had signed and dated their work, as is tradition in the trade.

But Mikey, from Edinburgh, was stunned to see that the signatures were almost 80 years old – and curious about the men behind them.

The lettering was feint but legible and said: ‘Papered by David M Steeples A.R.P, 16 June, 1940, assisted by Robt N Bannerman, R.A.F, L.D.V.’

Keen to see if he could find out more as he had to paint over the signatures, he got in touch with the Courier and we appealed for readers’ help for information on the duo.

And the mystery was solved by Margaret Paterson, 82, from the Levenhall area of Musselburgh – a friend of Mr Steeples’ daughter Jenny Body, who now lives in New Zealand.

She had just returned home from visiting Jenny and was told of the newspaper article by her friends George and Florence Wilson, who live in Musselburgh town centre.

Margaret said: “Before I went, I told them about my trip and who I was visiting.

“If I had not, George would not have known the Steeples name and would not have asked me if there was a connection with the newspaper article and photograph of the painters’ signatures.”

The Steeples family had a shop at the top of Links Street and lived above the shop in front of Musselburgh Congregational Church.

Margaret lived across the road at 7 Links Street and she and Jenny, whom she knew as Janet then, were best friends, both attending Musselburgh Grammar School.

“I remember her dad as a man in white overalls who was always busy and then he went into the army,” said Margaret.

Jenny, 82, emigrated to New Zealand in 1960.

Margaret said: “We lost touch for a while but met up again when she came on one of her visits home.

“My husband died last August and, when I let Jenny know, she immediately asked me out to New Zealand for a visit, which I did in February.”

Jenny added: “Our first shop belonged to my grandfather and his brother and was on North High Street opposite where The Brunton is now.

“The building is still there and belonged to my great aunt until the 1950s. The shop moved to the corner of Links Street, which is where I grew up.”

Mr Steeples served with the Royal Army Service Corps during the Second World War. He died, in his mid-80s, in 1984.

Jenny said: “I can’t remember my dad being in the A.R.P. but he went off to war sometime in 1940 and served in France and Belgium.

“He used to tell me stories about how he and [legendary field marshall] Montgomery won the war between them – not entirely believable but I was only about eight!”

She added: “He and his brother Jack took over the paint business and, after the war, Jack moved to Forfar and continued painting. We were then D & J Steeples.

“My dad was a very good sign writer. I loved watching him. I used to knit mittens for him to keep his hands warm in winter but leave his fingers free.

“He closed the shop in the late 1950s and semi-retired.”

A member of the Lodge St John Fisherrow, Mr Steeples was also a keen golfer.

Jenny said: “I know the name Bob Bannerman but can’t picture him. He could have been one of my father’s apprentices but I am inclined to think he was a family friend.”

After her move to New Zealand “in a fit of wanderlust”, Jenny lived in Dunedin for about 10 years before moving to Auckland in the 1970s. She has now retired to Orewa, north of Auckland.

An accountant and real estate worker, she met her husband John while she was working in London.

She said: “Being brought up in Fisherrow, the sea was in my blood and I still live close by – I have to say the water is a tad warmer here than it ever was in Musselburgh!

“I have three children and 10 grandchildren, none of whom are painters, although I dabble a little bit. Nowadays, I spend my life gardening, which I love, and playing bridge.

“I have returned about four times to Musselburgh, staying with a friend in Portobello. Last time was about eight years ago.

“I was thrilled to bits to hear about my dad’s signature. It is unbelievable after all these years – almost 79 years to the day.”

Mikey said: “I’m really surprised that a family member was tracked down and, given that she is on the other side if the world, it shows you the power of the local press.

“I’m happy for her that it bought her some joy to see a memory of her dad. I’m sure it would have brought back some nice memories.”