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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Leith.] TRADE OF THE PORT. 289 Even in times of undoubted depression the docks at Leith have always retained an appearance of bustle and business, through the many large sailing ships laden with guano and West Indian sugar lying at the quays; but guano having been partly superseded by chemical manures, and West Indian by Continental sugar, the comparatively few vessels that now arrive are discharged with the greatest expedition. In the close of 1881 one came to port with the largest cargo of sugar ever delivered at Leith, the whole of which was for the Bonnington Refinery. As a source of revenue to the Dock Commission, steamers which can make ten voyages for one performed by a sailing vessel are, of course, very much preferred ; and, as showing the extent of the Continental sugar trade, it may be mentioned that quite recently 184,233 bags were imported in a single month. Most of this sugar is taken direct from the docks to the refiners at Greenock. A very important element in the trade of Leith is the importation of esparto grass, both by sailing vessels and steamers. This grass is closely pressed by steam power into huge square bales, and these are discharged with such celerity by the use of donkey-engines and other appliances, that it is a common thing to unload 150 tons in a single day. The facilities for discharging vessels at Leith with extreme rapidity are so admirable that few ports can match it-the meters, the weighers, and the stevedore firms who manage the matter, having every interest in getting the work performed with the utmost expedition. As a wine port Leith ranks second in the British Isles, and it possesses a very extensive timber trade; and though not immediately connected with ship ping, the wool trade is an important branch of industry there, the establishments of Messrs. Macgregor and Pringle, and of Messrs. Adams, Sons, and Co., being among the most extensive in Scotland. The largest fleet of Continental trading steamers sailing from Leith is that of Messrs. James Cume and Co. In 18Sr this firm had twenty-two steamers, with a capacity of 17,000 tons. Messrs. Gibson and Co. have many fine steamers, which are. constantly engaged, while the Baltic is open and free of ice, in making trading voyages to Riga, Cronstadt, and other Russian ports A trade with Iceland has of late years been rapidly developed, the importation consisting of ponies, sheep, wild fowl, and dried fish ; while in the home trade, the London and Edinburgh Ship ping Company do a very active and lucrative business, having usually two, and sometimes three large steamers plying per week between Leith and Loo- 133 don ; and in 1880, important additions were mad& to tht lines .of trading steamers by several large vessels owned by the Arrow Line being put on the berth, to ply between Leith and New York ; while the North of Scotland Steam Shipping Company transferred their business to the port from Granton. So steadily has the trade with New York developed itself, that from three to four steamers per month now arrive at Leith, bringing cargoes of grain, butter, oilcakes, linseed meal, tinned meats, grass seeds, etc. Over 200,ooo sacks of flour Came to Leith in one year from New York, and in one month alone 33,312 sacks were imported. Some of the Leith steamers sail direct to NewYork with mixed cargoes; others load with coal, and proceed there, vid the Mediterranean, after exchanging their cargo for fruit. Then Messrs. Blaik and Co., of Constitution Street, have large steamers of 3,650 tons burden each, built specially for this trade. The passage from New York, ?north about,? i.e., through the Pentland Firth, usually occupied sixteen days, but now it is being reduced to twelve Prior to the opening of the Edinburgh Dock a difficulty was found in berthing some of the great ocean-going steamers, and many that used to bring live stock from New York had to land them on the Thames or Tyne, the regulations of the Privy Council flot permitting these animals to be landed at Leith. ?( Permission was first asked by the Commission,? says a local print in 1881, ?to enable the animals to be taken to the Leith slaughter-house, which is on the south side of the new docks, and only a few yards from one of the entrances. The Privy Council having refused this request, the Dock Commission, with a desire to foster the trade, then made arrangements with the Leith Town Council, by which they could build a slaughter-house within the docks. Asite was proposed and plans prepared; but being objected to again by the Privy Council, the subject was allowed to lie over.? We have mentioned the transference of the North of Scotland steamers from Granton to Leith, and this change has proved monetarily advantageous, not only to the Cornmission, but to the majority of the shippers and passengers, and a special berth was assigned at the entrance of the Prince of M?ales?s Dock for the Aberdeen steamers, so that they sail even after high water. Besides the usual consignments of sheep, cattle, and ponies, vast quantities of herrings, in barrel, are brought to Leith, generally for re-shipment to the Continent of Europe.
Volume 6 Page 289
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