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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.
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208 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Leith One of the greatest events of its time in Leith was the landing there of George IV., on the 15th of August, 1822. The king was on board the Royal George, which was towed into the Roads by two steam-packets, followed by the escorting frigates, which fired salutes that were answered by the flagship and Forte frigate; and a salute from the battery announced that all had come to anchor. Among the first to go off to the royal yacht was Sir Walter Scott, to present the king with a famous silver star, the gift of the ladies of Edinburgh. Sir Walter on Scottish ground, save the exiled Charles of France. The cannon of the ships and battery pealed forth their salutes, and the combined cheers of the mighty multitude filled up the pauses. An immense fleet of private boats followed the royal barge, forming an aquatic procession such as Leith had never seen before, and a band of pipers on the pier struck up as it rounded the head of the latter. As the king approached the landing stage three distinct and well-timed cheers came from the manned yards of the shipping, while the magis- LEITH PIER, FROM THE WEST, 1775. (Afler Clerk ofEldif.1 remained in conversation with the king an hour, in the exuberance of his loyalty pocketing as a relic a glass from which His Majesty had drunk wine; but soon after the author of ?r Waverley,? in forgetfulness, sat down on it and crushed it in pieces. Leith was crowded beyond all description on the day of the landing ; every window was filled with faces, if a view could be commanded ; the ships? yards were manned, their rigging swarmed with human figures; and the very roofs of the houses were covered. Guarded by the Royal Archers and Scots Greys, a floating platform was at the foot of Bernard Street, covered with cloth and strewn with flowers; and when a single gun from the royal yacht announced that the king had stepped into his barge, the acclamations of the enthusiastic people, all unused to the presence of royalty, then seemed to rend heaven. Since the time of Charles 11. no king had been trates, deacons, and trades, advanced, the latter with all their standards lowered. So hearty and prolonged were the glad shouts of the people that even George 1V.-the most heartless king that ever wore a crown-was visibly affected. He was clad in the uniform of an admiral, and was received by the magistrates of Leith and Edinburgh and the usual high officials, civil and military ; but the Highland chief Glengarry, bursting through the throng, exclaimed, bonnet in hand, ? Your Majesty is welcome to Scotland ! ?? The procession preceding the royal carriage now set out, ?the Earl of Kinnoul, as Lord Lyon, on a horse capnoling in front of a cloud of heralds and cavaliers-his golden coronet, crimson mantle flowing to the ground, his embroidered boots, and golden spurs, would have been irresistible in the eyes of a dame of the twelfth century.? Sir Alexander Keith, as Knight-Marischal, with his
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