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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Leith.1 THE CUSTOM-HOUSE 259 EASTWARD of Leith lie those open downs called the Links, once of much greater extent than we find them, and doubtless at one time connected ground to the westward of the pier, when it was blowing fresh, with a heavy sea, and before any assistance could be given she was driven upon the beach, near the citadel, having beaten off her rudder and otherwise considerably damaged herself [sic]. They are employed in taking out the cargo, and if the weather continues moderate, it is expected she will be got off.? The waves of the sea are now distant nearly two thousand feet north from the spot where the wreck took place. Three of the bastions, and two of the gates of the citadel, were standing when the old ?Statistical Account ? was published, in 1793. Before quitting this quarter of North Leith we may quote the following rather melancholy account given of the latter in 1779, in a work entitled ?The Modem British Traveller,? folio, and now probably out of print. About a mile from the city is Leith, which may be called the warehouse of Edinburgh. It is divided into two parts by a small rivulet, over which is a neat bridge of three arches. That part called South Leith is both large and populous ; it has an exceeding handsome church, a jail, a custom-house [the old one in the Tolbooth Wynd], but the streets are irregular, nor do any of the buildings merit particular attention. It was formerly fortified, but the works were destroyed by the English in 1559 [?I, and not any remains are now to be seen. That part called North Leith is a very poor place, without any publick building, except an old Gothic church ; there is a small dock, but it is only capable of admitting ships of a hundred and fifty tons. The harbour is generally crowded with vessels from different parts; and from here to Kinghorn, in Fifeshire, the passage-boat crosses every tide, except on Sundays. . . . Great numbers of the citizens of Edin- ?burgh resort to Leith on parties of pleasure, and to regale themselves with the sea air and oysters, which are caught here in great abundance. . . . with the wide, open, and sandy waste that extended beyond the Figgate Burn to Magdalene Bridge, The town is under the jurisdiction of a bailiff CT], but it may be called a part of, and is subject to the jurisdiction of, Edinburgh, in virtue of a charter granted by King Robert the Eruce.? The Manners? Church, a rather handsome building, with two smail spires facing the east, is built upon a portion of the site of the citadel, and schools are attached to it. The church was designed by John Henderson of Edinburgh, and was erected in 1840. In this quarter Sand Port Street, which led to the then beach, with a few old houses neax the citadel, and the old church of St. Ninian, comprised the. whole of North Leith at the time of the Union. There the oldest graving-dock was constructed in 1720, and it yet remains, behind a house not far from the bridge, dated-according to Parker Lawson-162 2. The present custom-house of Leith was built in 1812, on the site where H.M. ship Fu~y was built in I 780 ; and an old native of Leith, who saw her launched, had the circumstance impressed upon his memory, as he related to Robertson (whose ?Antiquities ? were published in 185 I), ?by a carpenter having been killed by the falling of the shores.? The edifice cost A12,617, is handsome, and in the Grecian style, adorned in front with pillars and pediment It stands at the North Leith end of the lower drawbridge. The officials here consist of a collector, twb chief clerks, three first and seven second-class clerks, with one extra ; eight writers, two surveyors, eighteen examining officers, and a principal coast officer for Fisherrow. The long room is handsome, and very different from its predecessor in the Tolbooth Wynd, which was simply divided by long poles, through which entries were passed. In May, 1882, the building at Dock Place (in this quarter) known as the Sailors? Home, was converted into the Mercantile Marine Department and Government Navigation School. C H A P T E R XXIX. LEITH -THE LINKS.
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The etymology of the word Links has been a puzzle to Scottish antiquaries. By some it has been supposed, that fiom the position generally occupied by links, in the vicinity of the sea or great rivers, the word is a corruption of Innis, or Inches, signifying islands ; and it is said that in some of the old records of Aberdeen the word is spelt Linchs and Linkkes. The whole of Leith Links must, at one time, have been covered by the sea, and above their level there stand distinctly up the great grassy mounds (one named by children the Giant?s Brae) from which the guns of Somerset and Pelham bombarded the eastern wall of Leith during the siege in 1560. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Links of Leith were the chief resort of the aristocracy resident in Edinburgh as .the best place for playing golf; nobles of the highest rank and the most eminent legal and political officials taking part with the humblest players-if skilful-in the game. In 1619 a curious anecdote is recorded, connected with golfing on Leith Links, by Row, in his ?History of the Kirk of Scotland.? no such thing,? he was silent, went home trembling, took to bed instantly, and died.? The (( Household Book ? of the great Montrose shows that in 1627 hewas in the habit ofgolfing here. March 10. Item: for balls in the Tennis Court Item : for two goffe balls, my Lord of Leith.. ............................... 16sh. going to the goffe ther .............. 10 sh. in Leith that nicht in come and Item : to the servant woman in the Item : for carrying the graith to the 9- ?I. Itern : for my horse standing straw 7 sh. 8d. .................................... house .................................... 12 sh. (Bumtisland) boat .................. 3 sh. SCULPTURED SSONE, COBOURG STREET. William Cowper, Bishop of Galloway, ((a very holy and good man, if he had not been corrupted with superior powers and worldly cares of a bishopric and other things ? (according to Johnston), became involved in various polemical controversies, among others, with ((the wives of Edinburgh ;? and one went so far as to charge him with apostasy, and summoned him to prepare an answer shortly to the Judge of all the world, at a time when it would appear that the health of the bishop was indifferent. ((Within a day or two after,? says Row, ((being at his pastime (golf) on the Links of Leith, he was terrified with a vision or an apprehension; for he said to his playfellows, after he had in an affrighted and commoved way cast away his playinstruments (i.e., clubs) : ?I vow to be about with these two men who have come upon me with drawn swords !? When his play fellows replied, ? My Lord, it is a dream : we saw Charles I., who was passionately fond of golf, was engaged in the game on the Links of Leith when news of the Irish rebellion reached him in 1642, and the circumstance is thus detailed in Wodrow?s amusing ?Analecta,? on the authority of William, Lord Ross of Hawkhead, who died at a great age in 1738, and to whom it had been related, when in England, by Sir Robert Pye :- The latter was then an old man of eighty years, ?and he told him that when a young man, he came down (1642) with King Charles the First to Edinburgh. That the king and court received frequent expresses from the queen ; that one day the king desired those about him to find somebody who could ride post, for he had a matter of great importance to despatch to the queen, and he would give a handsome reward to any young fellow whom he could trust. Sir Robert was standing by, and he undertook it. The king gave him a packet, and commanded him to deliver it out of his own hand to the queen. Sir Robert made his journey in less than three days, and when he got access to the queen, delivered the packet. She retired a little and opened it, and pretty soon came out, and calling for the person that brought the letters, seemed in a transport of joy; and when he told her what he was, and his diligence to bring them to her Majesty, she offered
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