History of Leith, Edinburgh

May 1, 2004

The Story of the Island of InchKeith

The Island stands halfway between Leith and Kinghorn in the Firth of Forth and the name according to tradition comes from the Keith Family.

During the reign of Malcolm II in 1010 a Robert defeated the General of the Danish Army invading Scotland at the time and in recognition of this was made Marshall of Scotland and granted Land at Keith in the Lothians from where the name comes from. However according to some other writers believe the name is far more ancient coming from “Caer Guidi” of the Venerable Bede and the Island during this time was strongly fortified against whom it is not stated.

Among the many stories of the island is the one mentioned by a Canon of St Andrews who lived in latter part of the 14th century. In which he says that St Serf came to InchKeith in the 6th century and settled there with one hundred men. It was on this island that St Adamnan met St Serf and together they left to go to Fife.

By 1497 according to “Maitland’s History of Edinburgh” Edinburgh was infected by a plague called Grand Gore and so the Magistrates ruled that all infected people were to go to the sands of Leith and then to be rowed over to the island there to remain until “till God provide for their health”. They were of course given sufficient supplies for there needs. However the disease was deadly and highly contagious.

The strangest story about InchKeith involves King James IV. King James was a cultured man and had an incurable curiosity about things. One day he wondered what the first language in the World was and devised an experiment to find out. Onto InchKeith he put a dumb women and two babies for her to look after and they were well cared for but nobody was allowed to speak to them under any circumstance. The children grew up and eventually left the Island. However the results of the experiment aren’t recorded although some writers say the children grew up to speak Hebrew! Surprise, Surprise.

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