One of the things I miss most about living here is the closeness of the sea. It is possible to reach it if I jump on a train or bus and endure the other passengers all the way to the coast but in Edinburgh we had the Firth of Forth stretch right in front of us. Here we could see the sea and taste its aroma as the Forth made its way out to the North Sea. In days past warships based at Rosyth would make their way out to join the rest of the fleet based in Scapa Flow. I myself saw a nuclear submarine slip past one day some time back, just a large conning tower and the beginning of the huge volume of the vessel showing. When aged around four or five I was down there with my dad when a man pointed out to the middle of the water, there we saw a large whale blowing away. What kind of whale I cannot say but whale it was, the memory remains in my mind of him blowing water. Neither sub or whale are seen today, one has been removed by London based governments and the other eaten by Japanese or Norwegians. Today not far from this point just before the Forth Bridge large vessels stop to collect the ethylene refined at the Fife Mossmorran plant for shipment to Antwerp and further along similar ships deal with the products of the Grangemouth refinery thus making the Forth a still busy shipway.
In days of yore just along from this spot Newhaven Harbour lay. This small fishing village was once at a distance from both Edinburgh and Leith and has long since been swallowed up. While many houses have been rebuilt in an old style the people are no longer distinct from those around them. Here the men in their 'pea-jacket' would fish throughout the night, a very dangerous occupation, and on returning to land the wives in their pink or yellow striped dresses would sell the catch to the girls with the 'Hurly' a basket for the fish carried on their backs. These lassies in the mid 19th century were often Irish rather than Scots and the potato famine brought many more Irish to the city where around 25,000 soon had their abode. According to Detective James McLevy, himself of Irish extraction, the men stood around while their wives did the bartering avoiding any part in the process. I suppose a near death experience or two at the edge of the North Sea gave them the right to expect the women to do some work, and with the lassies buying it was probably a good idea at that.
On the far side of the Forth the Fife villages of Crail, Pittenweem and others also so small craft enter the waters to seek for fish, a process that had endured for centuries and ended only in the last fifty years. While the boats developed the danger remained the same and as the fish stocks failed and a type of industrial fishing ruined the breeding grounds the trade died. Newhaven has developed in other ways and the Fife villages now fill with Edinburgh people too poor to buy a local house, thus leaving Fife folks with even less money less choice of housing. Commuting to work over such a vista may be enjoyable but as always someone suffers.
The pictures of the Newhaven folks were taken by Edinburgh's two Photographic pioneers Hill and Adamson! Using a calotype process they subjected the fishing folk to long static poses while they developed their picture. Quite what the locals thought of this I know not. They did pose however, in their best, or possibly their only clothes, and must have been happy, and paid, to do so again and again. The pictures taken at Cramond were examples of my brothers talent on a Nikon from a few years ago. I found them on a disc and decided to put them to use. He wandered out very early one morning before the world had risen and took pics of places we all once knew. Ah the aroma from the sea is with me still, or possibly I need to put some stuff down the drains again.