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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Leith.] RENNIE?S REPORT ON THE HARBOUR EXTENSION. ?I2 In 1753 an Act was passed, in the reign of George II., for enlarging and deepening the harbour of Leith, but less was achieved than had been done in the reign of King James II., three hundred years before. As there were no adequate means provided by the statute for defiaying the expense, says h o t , ?nothing was done in consequence.? Yet soon after we find that a curious scheme mras formed for enlarging it on a greater scale, by making a canal from it eastward ?through Bernard?s Nook to the old Glass House, and from thence into a basin. To carry this project into execution a Bill was framed by which an additional duty, from a penny to sixpence per ton, was to be laid upon the tonnage of all shipping in the harbour ; but in consequence of the poverty and lethargy entailed by the Union, and some opposition also, the scheme was rapidly dropped. These suggestions, however, led ultimately to the formation by the Town Council of Edinburgh of a short pier in 1777 on the west side of the harbour, afterwards known as the Custom House Quay; and the harbourwas at the same time widened and deepened. In 1785 a miserable apology for a naval yard (as it was pompously named) was established in Leith as a depBt for supplying such material as might be wanted by His Majesty?s ships coming into the Forth. Five bridges now connect North and South Leith, the latest of which is the Victoria swing bridge. One of the drawbridges at the foot of the Tolbooth Wynd (superseding that of Abbot Ballantyne) was erected in 1788-9, by authority of an Act of Parliament. The second drawbridge, opposite the foot of Bernard Street, was erected in 1800; and a thud bridge, finished about 1820, connected the new streets at Hill House Field and the Docks with Leith Walk. Notwithstanding the erection of the Custom House Quay, the accommodation for shipping remained insufficient and unendurable, the common quays being the chief landing-places, where the vessels lay four and five abreast, discharging their cargoes across each other?s decks, amid confusion, dirt, and much ill-temper on the part of seamen and porters. Besides, the channel of the river, at the recess of the tides, offered only an expanse of uncovered and offensive mud and ooze, till, as the kade of the port increased towards the close of the kentury, demands were loud and long for an ameli. Oration and enlargement of the then accommodation. In 1789, the light that had first been placed a1 the pier-end was replaced by a new and improved 131 one, with reflectors, as the Edinburgh Advertiser specially mentions, adding that ?its effect at sea is surprising, and the expense of maintaining it does not exceed that of the former one.? In 1799, John Rennie, the celebrated engineer, was employed to examine the entire harbour, and to form designs for docks and extended piers, on a scale somewhat proportioned to the necessities of the advancing age. The gravamen of his report was that no permanent and uniform depth of water along the mouth of the harbour of Leith could ever be obtained, and that no achievement of science could destroy or prevent the formation of the shifting bar, unless by carrying a pier, or weir, on the east side of the channel, and quite across the sands into low water, and that, by this means, three, or possibly four, feet of additional depth of water might be obtained; but though the soundness of his principle has been fully vindicated by the result of subsequent operations which were carried out by its guidance, little or nothing was done at his suggestion, nor for many years afterwards, with regard to the piers or entrance. The crowded state of the harbour was the cause of many a fatal accident, and of constant confusion. Thus we read that, between nine and ten in the morning of the 13th of August, 1810, as a foreign vessel, after passing the beacon, was about to enter the harbour, with two pilots on board, a shot was suddenly fired into her from a boat. This, the pilots imagined, was from a Greenland whaler, and they did not bring to. A few minutes after a second musket-shot was fired, which mortally wounded the mate in the right breast, and he expired in fifteen minutes. The boat belonged to H.M. gunbrig GaZZanf, of fourteen guns, commanded by Lieutenant William Crow, which was at that time what is technically called ?rowing guard.? The fatal shot had been fired by a rash young midshipman, named Henry Lloyd, whose hail had been unheard or unnoticed; and for this he was lodged in the prison of Edinburgh. As too often is the case in such calamities, the prints of the time announce that ?? the sufferer has left a widow and three young children, for whose relief a subscription has been opened.? In 1818 Messrs. J. and H. Morton invented their patent slip, and the first one was laid down by themse1ves.h the upper part of the old harbour -an invention of more than European reputation. The firm began to build iron ships, but after completing a few steamers, a sailing-ship, and some large dredges, the trade came to a temporary stand ; yet the business of ship-building was not abandoned .
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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.
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