The History of Leith

August 31, 2004

The Leith Shipbuilders

The Leith Shipbuilders did a large amount of business in the past. Robert Mackenzie & Co was an extensive and well known firm and built many fine ships in its day, which traded around the World. The ships it built were of the kind that the poet Longfellow describes in his poem of “The Building of the Ship”

“Build me straight O Worthy master
Staunch and strong a goodly vessel
That shall laugh at all disaster
And with wave and Whirlwind wrestle”

Sime and Ranken building yard was opposite the Custom House, now built on but there dry dock remains. During the war Mr Sime built for the Government the “Fox” frigate and other war ships.

In 1826 a large West Indiamen named the “Arcturus” was built by Sime and Ranken. Her maiden voyage was voyage was to Jamaica under a Captain Ross who had also been captain o the “Isabella Simpson” for Sibbald’s.

Messrs Morton and co yard was where the North British Railway now runs below and on the North side of Junction Bridge. They built many fine ships and were inventors of the patent slip for hauling up vessels for repair instead of placing them in dry dock-a most useful invention.

Messrs Lachlan Rose and Son had their premises above the upper drawbridge which are still in existence.

Mr Anderson’s yard was on the side of the Water of Leith above the Sheriff Brae, where Hawthorn and Co’s engineering works are now. In 1827 he built one of the largest wooden ships built in Leith up to that time. She was sold to London and Liverpool owners and was called the “Gladstones”. He also built the Culloden” a large stout brig for Captain William Leyden and many others.

The launching of a ship in Leith of the past was no ordinary event. They attracted large numbers of people and much rejoicing took place when the good ship decorated with flags slipped easily down the greased way into her native element. A crowd of men and boys on her deck swung her to and fro and christened her sides with a good wash of salt water.

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

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