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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Ldth.1 THE LEITH RACE WEEK. 269 afterwards James VII., during the time he was Royal Commissioner at Holyrood. ?? They have been rehearsed in verse by Robert Ferguson,? says Robertson in 1851, ?? and still form a topic of converse with the elder part of our citizens, as one of the prominent features of the glorious days of old.? The earliest records of them have all been lost, he adds. They took place on the east side of the harbour, where now the great new docks are formed. The Leith race week was a species of carnival to the citizens of Edinburgh, and in many instances caused a partial suspension of must have seen it many times, ?? that long before the procession could reach Leith the functionaries had disappeared, and nothing was visible amid the moving myriads but the purse on the top of the pole.? The scene at Leith races, as described by those who have been present, was of a very striking description. Vast lines of tents and booths, covered with canvas or blankets, stretched along the level shore ; recruiting-sergeants with their drummers beating, sailors ashore for a holiday, mechanics accompanied by their wives or sweethearts, servant girls, and most motley groups, were constantly pass- THE YARTELLO TOWER, FROM LEITH PIER. work and business. They were under the direct patronage of the magistrates of the city, and it was usual for one of the town officers, in his livery, to walk in procession every morning from the Council Chambers to Leith, bearing aloft on a pole or halberd, profusely decorated with ribbons and streamers, the ?? City Purse,? accompanied by a file of the City Guard, with their bayonets fixed and in full uniform, accompanied by a drummer, beating that peculiar cadence on his drum which is believed to have been the old U Scottish March.? This procession gathered in strength and interest as it moved along Leith Walk, as hundreds were on the outlook for the appearance of this accredited civic body, and who preferred ?gaun doon wi? the Purse,? as the phrase was, to any other mode of proceeding thither. Such a dense mass of boys and girls finally surrounded the town officers, the ?drummer, and the old veterans,? wrote one wha ing in and out of the drinking places ; the whole varied by shows, roley-poleys, hobby-horses, wheelsof- fortune, and many of those strange characters which were once familiar in the streets of Edmburgh, and of whom, ?Jamie, the Showman,? A veteran of the Glengarry Fencibles, a native of the Canongate, who figures in 66Hone?s Year Book,?? was perhaps the last. Saturday, which was the last day of the races, was the most joyous and outrageous of this seashore carnival. On that day was the ?subscription? for the horses beaten during the week, and these unfortunate nags contended for the negative honour of not being the worst on the course. Then, when night closed in, there was invariably a general brawl, a promiscuous free fight being maintained by the returning crowds along the entire length of Leith Walk. A few quotations from entries will serve to show that, in the progression of all things, racing
Volume 6 Page 269
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