The History of Leith

December 20, 2003

The Story of Adam White-The first Provost of Leith

Adam White was a native of the Parish of Gifford and was born in 1760. He came to Leith at a very early age and after some training in business

He set up in business on his own with £50 in Capital which was a gift from his Aunt at the age of 15. His firm became known as Adam White &Co and was involved in herring curing and barrel making. This was later expanded to include Tar, butter, and sheep smearing materials dealing with farmers in the North and South of Scotland. Further expansion included trade with the Baltic which lead him not only into Shipping but with the Old Leith Banking Company and the Commercial Bank. Later he became a Director in many of the local Shipping Companies.

By 1833 Leith gained its independence of Edinburgh which lasted to 1920. Adam White was appointed the first Provost of Leith by a unanimous vote. However he was no public speaker but he had tact and a shrewd understanding of people. He was a Elder of South Leith Church 1843, when he joined the Free Church at the Disruption.

Although Adam White doesn’t have a monument at South Leith Parish Church his son does and is inscribed as follows:

In Memory of Lieut Col Adam White

LIX Reg.Bengal Native Infantry, Commanding the Assam Reg of light Infantry and Political Agent in Upper Assam who fell overpowered by numbers while gallantly fighting his way to head his regiment in order to repel a treacherous night attack of the Kampti Tribes on the Station Sudjah in Upper Assam.

The monument being erected in the Church, by his friends and fellow Officers from India.

Colonel White was born in 1799 and by the age of 19 he was serving in India. However unlike many at his time he tried to improve things in India by writing a book entitled “Considerations on the State of British India” which was most unusual for a serving officer to do. He also expressed a preferment of the Educational form of mission which was the policy of the Church of Scotland then the more Evangelistic Missions. However all he could do was to complete his book as he died at the early age of 40 in 1839 which was a great loss to British India however many of his ideas were later taken up and used under the Raj to the great improvement in the lives of the Indians and British alike.

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