Leith Miscellany goes online – part 3

This blog post highlights items found in the last 5 volumes of the Leith Miscellany (volumes IX – XIII) – and there is a lot to cover!

There are images of various shops in Leith. One photo shows David Ford’s fruit and veg shop which was in the Kirkgate. Two female shopkeepers are captured standing proudly outside alongside their display of produce. In another, the Leith Walk Co-op state firmly “SCWS (Scottish Wholesale Co-Operative) Goods Are All Scottish Made”.

Ford’s shopfront – Kirkgate grocer

The Leith Hospital Pageant was held each June from the 1890s for many years to collect money for the hospital. Floats and employees representing many of the businesses in Leith took part. In the image below from around 1931, we can see Leith bakers leaving the Bakers’ Rooms in North Fort Street to join the Pageant.

Leith bakers

Trams and transport feature a lot in these five volumes. During World War One, Leith Corporation employed women as conductresses and drivers to replace men who had joined the armed services. You can view a picture of a group of wartime conductresses as well as tickets for a journey from Junction Bridge to Granton costing 1d.

Tramway Ticket Junction Bridge – Granton

The last batch of photographs are taken from various productions from the Leith Amateur Opera Company. These cards show the performers and costumes of the various productions including The Mikado.

Leith Amateur Opera Company – Mikado

We hope you have enjoyed looking at some of the material from the Leith Miscellany volumes. To see the items from all thirteen volumes visit Capital Collections.

To see more highlights from the collection catch up with the previous posts in this series:
Leith Miscellany part one, volumes I – IV
Leith Miscellany part two, volumes V – VIII

Leith Miscellany goes online – part 2

Continuing our short series of posts about the Leith Miscellany volumes, the next four volumes in the series (volumes V – VIII) again show various aspects of Leith and environs. We see images of Newhaven, featuring the Newhaven Fishwives’ Choir. Unfortunately, these are in black and white so we are unable to get the full impact of how they really looked, dressed in their traditional costume of striped coloured petticoats under a gathered skirt and brightly coloured tops with shawls over their heads and shoulders.

Newhaven Fishwives’ Choir

There are pictures of another Leith Harbour, this one in South Georgia in the south Atlantic. This was a whaling station run by Christian Salvesen Ltd between 1909-1965. Salvesen’s whaling ships brought the first penguins back and donated them to Edinburgh Zoo, which became the first zoo in the world to keep and breed penguins.

Leith Harbour, South Georgia

The photographs and newspaper cuttings in the thirteen volumes of Leith Miscellany were collected by the Reverend Dr James Scot Marshall.The depth of knowledge of the history of Leith earned Dr Marshall a reputation as the area’s historian. He completed his doctorate on the history of Leith and wrote histories of South Leith and Kirkgate Church, The Church in the Midst and The Story of North Leith Church.  Various churches in and around Leith also feature among this set. One grand looking church, Leith Kirkgate Church which was demolished in 1975, stood at the beginning of Henderson Street where South Leith Parish Church Halls stand now. We can also view various plans of South Leith Parish Church.

South Leith Parish Church

These volumes truly are eclectic, offering something for everyone. Did you know that Leith had its own Olympian back in 1920? Another picture here depicts Alec Ireland in true fighting pose, commemorating his silver medal win in the 7th Olympiad, which was held in Antwerp in 1920. He lost out on a gold medal by one point!

Alec Ireland (1903-1966)

Keeping with the sporting theme, there are several images of local football teams. Does anyone remember Leith Hawthorn, Leith Rosebery  or Leith Athletic football teams?

Leith Athletic football team, c1924

View all the volumes on Capital Collections and look out for the third and final installment previewing volumes IX – XIII.

Read more about the Leith Miscellany project in the first blog post in this series:
Leith Miscellany goes online – part 1.

Leith Miscellany goes online – part 1

We’ve recently undertaken a large project to digitise and make available online thirteen albums relating to Leith. We’ve named them the Leith Miscellany volumes I – XIII as the contents cover basically everything and anything to do with Leith. They provide an extraordinary and unique insight into the social history of the area.

Originally collected in shop-bought photograph albums, the sticky album pages and damp had caused minor damage to some of the contents, so as well as digitising the photographs, postcards, presscuttings and ephemera, we have remounted the items on archival cardboard and rehoused them in conservation boxes.

The Fish Quay, – looking up-river, c1830

This is the first in a series of three blog posts highlighting the material and covers volumes I – IV. Inside, you get a real feel of what it was like in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with photographs of cargo boats and steamers and images of the bustling port of Leith.

View in Leith Docks, c1865

There are photographs of streets in Leith that no longer exist. Adults and children caught in blurry images standing in cobbled streets with washing hanging above them. Bartenders stand proudly behind the bar of a local pub waiting for the next customer to come in. Outside the Custom House (image below), a large group of men have gathered. What are they doing – gambling, perhaps?.You find yourself wishing that you could just squeeze in among them to find out. Meanwhile people pass by, going about their own business.

Leith Custom House

In another image we see the many flat capped dockers on strike in 1913, with banners proclaiming, ‘We Are Out For A Living Wage’. The strike lasted from 26 June to 14 August. The dockers wanted an increase in pay (a penny per hour on the day rate), better conditions, a ban on hiring non-union workers and shorter hours. We get a glimpse of what working life was like in a busy shipbuilders, with a look in the Henry Robb shipwrights shop in 1921. We can see a dozen men going about their daily job of sawing and shaping wood, with piles of wood shavings at their feet.

Messrs Henry Robb Ltd, Shipwrights’ Shop at Albert Road

View the full albums on Capital Collections and look out for the next blog post in this series for more on this collection.

Read the second part in this series about the Leith Miscellany project and volumes V – VIII.

 

History of the house: King’s Wark

In a new series, we investigate the city’s past city through the history of a ‘house’ (or property).

The spotlight falls first on the King’s Wark, a well-known watering hole that sits in a prominent position on Leith’s picturesque Shore. But what is the history of the site? And where does the name come from?

The Shore in Leith, c1884

Work started on the King’s Wark (or fortification) building in 1434 and was to be a residence, store-house and armoury for James I.

In 1477, James III granted an annuity of 12 Scottish merks from it to support a chaplain in the Collegiate Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Restalrig.

During the English Invasions of 1544 and 1547 the building was practically destroyed. It was rebuilt by Queen Mary of Scotland in 1564 and leased to John Chisholm, the comptroller of the Royal Artillery recognising that the building held a strategic position on the approach to Leith.

From 1575 the building even served as a plague hospital for some years.

Around 1613, James VI (and 1st of Britain) granted possession to one of his royal household, Bernard Lindsay, the King’s Wark and the neighbouring land and buildings. He was instructed to keep four taverns on the site and granted the taxes from the wine sold to pay for a merchants’ exchange within the complex. Lindsay’s name lives on in the adjacent Bernard Street.

In 1649, the King’s Wark was taken into the possession of the Magistrates of Edinburgh and converted into a weigh-house. In 1690, the building was destroyed by fire and subsequently replaced by another using the same name.

Between 1799 and 1822 the building was occupied by Ramsay Williamson & Co, merchants for continental suppliers.

Rutherford & Co, a wholesale and retail wine and spirit merchants owned and occupied the building from around 1855. Rutherfords owned many other licenced premises in Edinburgh. They can be traced at the King’s Wark for almost a century, first in the Valuation Rolls from 1855 to 1900 and then in the Post Office Directories from 1911 to 1950.

‘Old Corner’, the Shore, Leith, 1958

For a time, two doors along, at no. 40, was R&D Slimon, an Ironmongers and Ships Chandlers, illustrating the area’s maritime heritage.

The Post Office Directory of 1959 shows that the King’s Wark had been taken over by E Cranston, another Wine and Spirit Merchant, who also had other premises in the City.

Have you ever thought about investigating the history of your home? Edinburgh Libraries has many online resources and physical collections to help you!

Get in touch via informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk if you want to find out how to get started.

The Gretna Disaster. A talk at Leith Library.

Leith Library hosts a talk on the Gretna Rail Disaster and its effect on the people of Leith. Wednesday 18th March, 2.00 – 3.00pm. Call 0131 529 5517 or email leith.library@edinburgh.gov.uk to book a place.

Gretna Rail Disaster Memorial, Rosebank Cemetery, Pilrig Street, Edinburgh

Gretna Rail Disaster Memorial, Rosebank Cemetery

The Quintinshill rail disaster occurred on 22 May 1915 near Gretna Green. The crash, which involved five trains, killed a probable 226 and injured 246 and remains the worst rail crash in the United Kingdom in terms of loss of life. Those killed were mainly Territorial soldiers from the 1/7th (Leith) Battalion, the Royal Scots heading for Gallipoli. The precise number of dead was never established as the roll list of the regiment was destroyed by the fire.

The crash occurred when a troop train travelling from Larbert to Liverpool collided with a local passenger train that had been shunted on to the main line, then to be hit by an express train to Glasgow which crashed into the wreckage a minute later. Gas from the lighting system of the old wood

en carriages of the troop train ignited, starting a fire which soon engulfed the three passenger trains and also two goods trains standing on nearby passing loops. A number of bodies were never recovered, having been wholly consumed by the fire, and the bodies that were recovered were buried together in a mass grave in Edinburgh’s Rosebank Cemetery.

Read history as it happened with free access to the Scotsman Digital Archive.

Introducing Leith Library’s Reader in Residence

Welcome to Emily Dodd, Leith Library’s brand new Reader in Residence. Here Emily tells us a bit about herself and the work she’ll be doing.

My name is Emily Dodd and I’m working for the Scottish Book Trust 2.5 days as the Reader in Residence here in Leith Library.

The library is 80 years old and it’s a wonderful place, full of stories. The stories are in the books but also in the people here in Leith.

I’m here to help share the stories from inside the library.  I’ll be blogging about the events, projects and people. I’ll be taking pictures and recording audio but essentially I’ll be collecting and sharing stories via the Leith Library blog.

I hope to encourage people to get involved and get talking about libraries, books and reading. I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to contribute.

I’ll also be training the staff here to blog so when I leave I know the blog will continue…

Podcasts With Teenagers

After Christmas I’ll be working with teenagers to make podcasts about the books they’re interested in.

They’ll be working together on all aspects of podcast production. They’ll develop the skills needed to produce their own podcasts. They will interview authors and review books. They can work towards SQA recognised qualifications, it’s a really exciting project!

The podcasts will be shared across Scotland and well as being shared on the Leith Library blog.

The Residency 

I started on the 24th September 2012 and my residency is one year. I’ll be working in the Library 2.5 days a week for 9 months and I’ll spend the last three months working on my own practice. That will be writing something, we’ll see what when the time comes.

I worked with Katie Swann at Leith Library to come up with a project proposal and we talked to local authors, agents, publishers, youth groups and Edinburgh City of Literature. Everyone was really supportive of this project.

We were invited for interview (hurrah!) and interviewed by a panel. Then we had to wait.  It’s was brilliant to hear our project was successful. Now we’re going to make it happen.

Five of us were appointed as Readers in Residence across Scotland,  you can read more about the five residencies on the Scottish Book Trust website. We don’t just sit around reading (although that would be great!), we’re all working on innovative approaches to reader development.

If you want to know a bit more about who I am, read about me on my personal blog here. Thanks to The Scottish Book Trust and Creative Scotland for funding this Residency.

What can your library do for you?

‘Your Edinburgh’ at McDonald Road Library

Tomorrow afternoon representatives from local groups and organisations in Leith will be meeting at McDonald Road Library.

If you are part of a community group in Leith come along and tell us what kind of events and information would be useful to you – and we can discuss how libraries can help promote your organisation (for example through the Your Edinburgh community information database).

We want to hear from you! For more information contact eileen.hewitt@edinburgh.gov.uk or call 0131 469 3838

McDonald Road Library, Friday 4 June, 2 – 4pm

Refereshments provided