Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


214 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Leith by the enterprising firm, but was conducted by them in conjunction with other departments of their trade. The harbour of Leith is now a noble one, as it underwent vast improvements, at an enormous cost, during a long series of years up to 1877, including various docks, to be described in their place, with the best appliances of a prime port, and great ranges of storehouses, together with two magnificent wooden piers of great length, the west being 3,123 feet, the east 3,530 feet. Both are delightful promenades, and a small boat plies between their extremities, so that a visitor may pass out seaward by one pier and return by the other. The formidable Martello Tower, circular in form, bomb-proof, formed of beautiful white stone, and most massive in construction, occupies a rock called, we believe, of old, the Mussel Cape, but which forms a continuation of the reef known as the Black Rocks, It stafids 1,500 feet eastward, and something less than 500 south of the eastern pier-head, and 3,500 feet distant from the base of the ancient signal-tower on the shore. It was built to defend what was then the entrance of the harbour, during the last long war with France, at the cost of A17,ooo ; but now, owing to the great guns and military inventions of later times, it is to the fortifications on Inchkeith that the port of Leith must look for protection. CHAPTER XXXII. MEMORABILIA OF THE SHIPPING OF LEITH AND ITS MARITIME AFFAIRS. (Old Shipping laws-Early Whale Fishing--Letters of Marque against Hamburg-Captures of English Ships, 16p-x-First recorded Tonnage of Leith-Imports-Arrest of Captain Hugh Palliser-Shore Dues, 1763-Wors? Strike, 17g2-Tonnage in 188I-Passenger Traffic, etc. -Letters of Marque-Exploits of ~me-Glance at Shipbuilding. THE people of Scotland must, at a very early period, have turned their attention to the art in which they now excel-that of shipbuilding and navigation, for in these and other branches of industry the monks led the way. So far back as 1249, the Count of St. Paul, as Matthew of Paris records, had a large ship built for him at Inverness: and history mentions the fleets of William the Lion and his successor, Alexander 11.; and it has been conjectured that these were furnished by the chiefs of the isles, so many of whom bore lymphads in their coats-of-arms. During the long war with the Edwards, Scottish ships rode at anchor in their ports, cut out and carried off English craft, till Edward III., as Tytler records from the ? Rotuli Scotiz,? taunted his admirals and captains with cowardice in being unable to face the Scots and Flemings, to whom they dared not give battle. In 1336 Scottish ships swept the Channel coast, plundering Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Wight; and Tyrrel records that the fleet which did so was under the command of David Bruce, but this seems doubtfuL When Edward of England was efigaged in the prosecution of that wicked war which met its just reward on the field of Bannockbum, he had two Scottish traitors who led his ships, named John of hrn, and his son, Alan of Argyle, whose names have deservedly gone to oblivion. We first hear of shipping in any quantity in the Firth of Forth in the year 1411, when, as Burchett and Rapin record, a squadron of ten English ships of war, under Sir Robert Umfraville, Vice-Admiral of England, ravaged both shores of the estuary for fourteen days, burned many vessels-among them one named the Greaf GalZiof of Scotland--and returned with so many prizes and such a mass of plunder, that he brought down the prices of everything, and was named ? Robin Mend-the-Market.? The Wars of the Roses, fortunately for Scotland, gave her breathing-time, and in that period she gathered wealth, strength, and splendour ; she took a part in European politics, and under the auspices of James IV. became a naval power, so much so, that we find by a volume culled from the ?Archives of Venice,? by Mr. Rawdon Brown, there are many proofs that the Venetians in those days were watching the influence of Scotland in counteracting that of England by land and sea Between the years 1518 and 1520, the ?Burgh Records ? have some notices regarding the skippers and ships of Leith ; and in the former year we find that ? the maner of fraughting of schips of auld ? is in form following: and certainly it reads mysteriously. ? Alexander Lichtman hes lattin his schip cdlit the Mairfene, commonly till fraught to the nychtbouns of the Toune for thair guidis to be furit to Flanders, for the fraught of xix s. gr. and xviij s. gr.
Volume 6 Page 274
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print