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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Leith.] OLD LEITH MEN AND MANNERS. 209 CHAPTER XXII. LEITH HISTORICAL SURVEY (concluded). Leith and Edinburgh Peopk in the First Years of the Nineteenth Century-Gorge 1V. Pmkied-His Landing at Leith-Temtory Of the Town defined-Landing of Mons Meg-Leith during the Old War--The Smacks. UNLESS it be among the seafaring class, no difference is perceptible now between the inhabitants of Edinburgh and Leith ; but it was not so once, when the towns were more apart, and intercourse less frequent ; differences and distinctions were known even in the early years of the present century. A clever and observant writer in 1824 says that, as refinements and dissimilarities existed then between the Old and New Town, so did they exist in the appearance, habits, and characteristics of the Leith and Edinburgh people. ?? Not such,? he continues, as accidentally take up their residence there for a sea prospect and a sea-breeze, but those whose air is Leith air from their cradles, and who are fixtures in the placemerchants, traders, and seafaring persons : the latter class has a peculiarity similar in most maritime towns; but it is the rich merchants and traders, together with their wives and daughters, who are now before us.? (? The Hermit in Edin.?? The man of fortune and pleasure in Edinburgh, he remarks, views his Leith neighbours as a mere Cit, though in point of fact he is much less so than the former. ?The inan of fashion residing in Edinburgh for a time, for economy or convenience, and the Scottish nobleman dividing his time betwixt London, Edinburgh, and his estates, sets down the Leith merchant as a homespun article. Again, the would-be dandy of the New Town eyes him with self-preference, and considers him as his inferior in point of taste, dress, living, and knowledge of the beau monde-one who, if young, copies his dress, aspires at his introduction into the higher circle, and borrows his fashions ; the former, however, being always ready to borrow his name or cash; the first looking respectable on a bill, and the second not being over plenty with the men of dress and of idle life in Edinburgh. Both sexes follow the last London modes, and give an idea that they are used to town life, high company, luxuries, late hours, and the manner of living in polished France.? All this difference is a thing of the past, and the observer would be a shrewd one indeed who detected any difference between the denizen of the capital and of its seaport. But the Leith people of the date referred to Vol. 11.) . were, like their predecessors, more of the old school, and, with their second-class new fashions, and customs were some time in passing into desuetude, old habits dying hard there as elsewhere. The paterfamilias of Leith then despised the extremes of dress, though his son might affect them, and hn was more plodding and business-like in bearing than his Edinburgh neighbour; was alleged to always keep his hands in his pockets, with an expression of independence in his face ; while, continues this writer, in those ?of the Edinburgh merchants may be read cunning and deep discernment. Moreover, the number of Leith traders is limited, and each is known by headmark, whilst thpse employed in commerce and trade in the northern capital may be mistaken, and mixed up with the men of pleasure, the professors, lawyers, students, and strangers j but an observing eye will easily mark the difference and the strong characteristic of each-barring always the man of pleasure, who is changeful, and often insipid within and without.? In 1820 the Edinburgh and Leith Seamen?s Friendly Society was instituted. In the same year, when some workmen were employed in levelling the ground at the south end of the bridge, then recently placed across the river at Leith Mills (for the purpose of opening up a communication between the West Docks and the foot of Leith Walk), five feet from the surface they came upon many human skeletons, all of rather unusual stature, which, from the size of the roots of the trees above them, must have lain there a very long time, and no doubt were the remains of some of those soldiers who had perished in the great siege during the Regency of Mary of Lorraine. The proclamation of George IV. as king, after having been performed at Edinburgh with great ceremony, was repeated at -the pier and Shore of Leith on February grd, 1820, by the Sheriff Clerk and magistrates, accompanied by the heralds, pursuivants and trumpeters, the style and titles 01 His Majesty being given at great length. At one o?clock the ship of the Admiral and other vessels in the Roads, the flags of which had been halF hoisted, mastheaded them at one p.m, and fired forty-one guns. They were then half-hoisted till the funeral of George 111. was over.
Volume 6 Page 207
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