The History of Leith

August 30, 2004

Shipping of Leith

The Old firm of William Sibbald and Co were long in the West India Sugar and Rum Trade. The owned the Isabella Simpson, The Lady Forbes (Captain Gourlay), The Roselle, and Lune. Their Office was in the Kirkgate near the Lochend water pipes “Sibbald Bond” in the docks is still known. They had to give up business somewhere about 1826.

The Australian Company was a public joint-stock company formed in 1824. Many of the principal merchants in Leith and Edinburgh had shares in it. It traded chiefly with Sydney carrying passengers and goods and exported merchandise of all kinds on its own account and brought home produce to London. They had four ships of large tonnage- The Triton (Capt Crerar), The Greenock (Captain Miller), The Portland (Captain Mood), and the City of Edinburgh (Captain McKellar), sold in London in 1838. The Office was on the North Side of the Upper Drawbridge. Mr Robert Brown was the Manager for many years. Being accounted a very shrewd man of business he was called the “Horse of Knowledge”. The Company is understood to have been prosperous for a number of years but on account of losses and depreciation of stock had to be wound up and the ships sold.

Leith had always a large trade with the Baltic, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Archangel. Many of the old ships engaged in them are still remembered. There was the Mary (Ritchie-Master), The Daedalus (belonging to Mr Hay), The Barossa, The Integrity (Captain John Wishart) a stout trig brig, The Diligence (Captain Kirk), Jane and Mary (Captain Smith) and many others

The American Timber ships were the “Monarch”, “Columbus”, “King George”, “Margaret Bogle”, “Defence”, “Harmony” and others. A large trade with Hamburg and Rotterdam was carried on in sailing ships by the Leith, Hamburg, and Rotterdam Shipping Company. Mt George Gibson was manager. Their ships were all hardy, stout, quick sailing schooners except the Albion which was smack rigged. They were the Rhine, Edina, Elbe, Hamburg Packet. Frankfort Packet, Brunswick Packet, Glasgow and Hanover and sailed every alternate Friday. This fine old fleet of ships is now represented in these trades by the fine steamers of George Gibson and Co and J Currie and Company. Mr John Davidson of leith was the first to introduce the screw (Propeller) in the Hamburg Trade by placing the “Conside” (Captain Hodge” on the passage. She was bargue rigged and carried full flowing topsails on fore and main while the screw was only auxiliary. This novelty took place about 1848. Immediately after he placed “Border Queen” and the “Ivanhoe” screw steamer on the Rotterdam trade. Mr John Inkster manager of the Leith, Hull and Hamburg shipping Company after running two paddle boats the “Martello” and “Mercator” in the Hamburg trade built the best “Bower” and the “Holyrood” to displace the paddle BOATS, They were barque rigged with square sails on fore and main and spread much more canvas than vessels of that description do now and could ply to windward in the event of the engine breaking down

Captain Alexander Blackwood of Leith, commanded the last four named ships at different times and many more belonging to the Leith,Hull and Hamburg Company with great success.

From the “ Reminiscences of the Port and Town of Leith” by John Martine 1888

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