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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
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270 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Leith. under distinguished patronage has in no way altered. In 1763, on the 28th February, a thirty-guinea purse was run for by Cartouch, a chestnut horse, belonging to Lord Aberdour, Colonel of the old Scots 17th Light Dragoons, a bay colt, belonging to Francis Charteris of Amisfield, and a mare, belonging to Macdowal of Castlesemple. The colt won. In the following month, His Majesty's plate of a hundred guineas, was won, against several other horses, by Dunce, a chestnut, belonging to Charteris bf Amisfield. On the 4th March, the city purse of thirty guineas was won by a bay colt, belonging to the latter, against two English horses. '' List of horses booked for His Majesty's purse of IOO guineas, to be run for over the sands of Leith, 1st July, 1771 . . . 29th June, appeared William Sowerby, servant to Major Lawrie, and entered a bay horse called 'Young Mirza ;' rider, said Wm. ; livery crimson; and produced certificate, dated at Lowther Hall, signed by Edward Halls, dated 24th May, 1770, bearing the said horse to be no more than four years old last grass. . .. , Appeared the Right Hon. the Earl of Kellie, entered ' Lightfoot.' Appeaed Sir Archibald Hope, Bart. (of Pinkie), entered ' Monkey.' " Mirza won For the race advertised for a pool of A60 and upwards, the Duke of Buccleuch, who signed the articles, marked Ago, to be paid in money, not plate. '' Cornpeared, Mr. James Rannie, merchant in Leith, and entered a bay horse, ' Cockspur,' belonging toHis Grace the Dukeof Buccleuch." Itwon. The Duke of Hamilton and the Earl of Eglinton repeatedly entered horses (says Robertson) ; and in I 7 7 7 the former gave the I 00 guineas won to aid in the construction of the Observatory on the Calton Hill. In the ScatsMagazine for 1774 we find noted the appearance at these races of the Count de Fernanunez, " attended by the Chevalier Comanc," then on a tour through Scotland. In 1816 the races were transferred to the Links of Musselburgh permanently, for the sake of the ground, which should be smooth turf; and though attempts were made in 1839 and 1840 to revive them again at Leith, they proved abortive. the purse. '09- CHAPTER XXXI. LE I T H-T HE HA R B 0 U R Thc Admiral and Bailie Courts-The Leith Science (Navigation) School-The Harbour of Leith-The Ekr-The Wooden Piers-Early Improve. ments of the Harbour-Erection of Beacons-The Custom House Quay-The Bridges-Rennie's Report on the required Docks-The Mortons' Building-yard-The F'resent Piers-The Martello Tower. THOUGH the Right Hon. the Lord Provost of Edinburgh is'Admira1 of the Firth of Forth, the Provost of Leith is Admiral of the port thereof, and his four bailies are admirals-depute. These, With the clerk, two advocates as joint assessors, and an officer, constitute the Admiral and Bailie Courts of Leith. There is also a society of solicitors before this court, having a preses and secretary. For the development of nautical. talent here, there is the Leith Science (Navigation) School, in Eonnection with the Department of Science and Art, With local managers-the provost and others, ex o#&, the senior bailie, master and assistant-master of the Trinity House, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, etc. The harbour of Leith is formed by the little estuary of the river into the Firth of Forth, and is entirely tidal, and was of old, with the exception of being traversed by the shallow and unimportant stream which takes its rise at the western base of the Pentlands, quite dry at low water, and even I the channel towards the side streams of the Firth." yet its depth is trifling. As the Water of Leith has to make its way seaward, across the very broad and flat shore called the Sands of Leith, alternately flooded by the tide and left nearly dry, the channel, in its natural state, was subject to much fluctuation, according to the setting in of the tides. A bar, too-such as is thrown up at the entrance of almost every river mouth-lies across its entrance, formed at that point where the antagonistic currents of the river and tide bring each other into stagnation or equipoise, and then deposit whatever silt they contain. Thus, says a writer, '' the river constantly, and to an important amount, varies both the depth of the harbour and the height of the position of the bar, according to the fluctuations which occur in the volume of its ~ water or the rapidity of its discharge; for in a season of drought it leaves everything open to the invasion of sediments from the tide, at other times it scours away lodgments made on its bed, drives seaward and diminishes in bulk the bar, and deepens
Volume 6 Page 270
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