The History of Leith

May 6, 2004

The Story of James Reoch

James Reoch was born in Leith in November 1757. His father of the same name had come from the Parish of Kirkmichael in Banffshire.

He was apprenticed to Charles Cowan, merchant, in the year 1782. Shortly after he finished his probation he became a partner I the business. In 1796 he married Isabella Cowan the daughter of his employer. The Cowan’s of Penicuik who founded the famous paper mills were his brothers in Law. He had three sons and three daughters, of whom only two were alive when he died. Along with Sir Walter Scott he had much to do in connection with the landing of George IV at Leith. Like many other Leith Merchants he had interests in many other concerns as well as his own business. He was director of the Edinburgh and Leith Shipping Company, of the Leith Gas light Company and of the National Bank. He was also involved with the National Monument which can be seen on Calton Hill.

He was the second Lord Provost of Leith and occupied that position for two terms 1839-1845. When Sir John Gladstone of Fasque presented and endowed the Church of St Thomas, along with the School and Asylum he presided over the dinner given to that well known native of Leith. In that same year the Provost received a handsome present of Silver Plate from the people of Leith.

He had the honour of receiving Queen Victoria and Prince Albert when they landed in Leith on their visit in 1842.

Not only did he discharge the duties of the magistracy with dignity and fairmindedness but took a continuous interest in all that concerned the poor, the widow, and the orphan. He died in his house in Hope St in November 1845 and he was buried at South Leith Churchyard. Also within the church there is a magnificent monument erected to his memory.

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