Monday, 15 December 2014

Leith



Leith, as everybody knows, is Edinburgh's port.  Until 1926 when the two were amalgamated into one, much to the Leithers annoyance, the port existed very well for centuries.  As a port it was used to visiting dignitaries, passing through to Edinburgh, and saw many an encounter with invading armies. Beginning around a thousand years ago Leith grew up on either side of the 'Water of Leith,' the river wide and deep enough to allow quite large boats to unload cargo.  Fishing and shipbuilding also became staples of the economy early. The first bridge between the two sides arrived around the late 15th century. Scotland was once ruled from Leith by Mary of Guise, as regent for Mary Queen of Scots, who stayed in France.  This led to a siege when the Scots nobles decided on a democratic change, using big guns!  Two mounds on Leith Links are considered by some to be bases for the battery during the siege. 
In 1822 King IV arrived at Leith to much pomp and circumstance.  Walter Scott, he of novel fame, was the man responsible for the myth of Scotland.  The variety of tartan, the romantic highlander, the noble suffering Scot.  All baloney of course!  However he persuaded the first visiting monarch since Mary Queen of Scots to dress up in glorious highland dress, and those who keep in with royalty, and the rest, quickly decided this was wonderful and highland dress as we now know it began then.  It was never thus fir the actual highlanders of course.  It speaks much of London that rarely did the monarch visit Scotland until recently. 
There was a downturn in Leith after the war.  The many distilleries, and just how many were there in those Victorian death traps of Leith, moved out of town by the sixties, the docks lost work, the shipbuilding, always a major employer ceased, and the area became run down.  Attempts are renovating the 'Kirkgate' by a modern 60's style shopping centre fell flat.  However the area has since undergone improvement with the arrival of many Scottish Office administration offices, and the people who work in them, thus leading to a gentrification of the port.  The old royal yacht 'Britannia' now lies moored as a tourist attraction among others.  The port also plays host to the worst football team the world has ever known, 'Hibernian,' renown as a laughing stock they do make the rest of the league look better than they actually are!  
To me it was the place we shopped most Saturdays.  In days of yore when the world was young the shops took a 'half day closing' and Edinburgh, including Princes Street itself, chose Saturday for its half day!  This meant jumping on the bus in our high class neighbourhood and travelling down the straight road into the darkness of Leith.  Leith was, like much of Edinburgh, dark then.  Tenement buildings dating from Victorian times and beyond, busy traffic, crowded shops and masses of people thronging the pavements everywhere.  Before I was five I managed to get lost in 'Woolworth's' at the 'foot of the Walk' and can remember my mother grinning to the shop assistants and other girls who were coming to aid me, or belt me to stop me wailing!  There was a shop near the junction of the 'Walk' where we obtained clothes, also from the 'Thompson' shop over the road.  A small thing but these two shops supplied at least half of Edinburgh & Leith's kids for many years.  My first job was in a whisky bond in Leith, off Leith Walk.  Suffice to say a quick understanding of my talent was soon clear and they got shot of me before a year had elapsed.  Employing 15 year old's is not in my view a good thing.   


6 comments:

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

It is a shame that the height of your employment peaked at such a young age. Of course, with everything going downhill since, you have been given plenty of time to get used to it.

Adullamite said...

Jerry, I find I am unable to disagree with that...

Lee said...

I didn't know you lisped, Mr. Ad-Man...it's "Lee", not "Leith". ;)

I, too, was around in the days when Saturday was a half-day shopping day; although I wasn't around in Leith; I was in Gympie.

Another intheresthing snippeth of histhory.

Mike Smith said...

Brilliant. I now live across from where that ship is pictured. I love Leith even if I am a Jambo abroad...

Adullamite said...

Lee, It's definitely Leith, not Lee, that's in Dorset.

Mike, Are you in the picture...?

Lee said...

Dorseth?