The History of Leith

August 31, 2004

The Vaults of Leith

In St Andrew Street there is an extensive and substantial block of buildings called the Vaults including large vault, grain vaults, warehouses, yard and business offices, extending up St Giles Street. They were long owned as they are yet by the old respectable firm of Messrs J.G.Thomson and Co Wine and spirit merchants and agents in Scotland for the old firm of Barclay, Perkins and Co porter brewers of London.

The Vaults which are below the warehouses run round the entire square of the yard and are very extensive and capable of storing a very large quantity of puncheons of whisky, pips and butts of wine, hogshead of brandy, porter

A good story used to be told of the foreman cooper of an old firm in Leith who had once under their charge in bond a large lot of whisky in puncheons. The vault was frequently inspected to see if the puncheons were all right and tight. The foreman with an assistant and the Bonded Vault Officer before proceeding to make a minute inspection always started a bung and helped themselves to a glass of Whisky. One of the Masters on one occasion coming into the vault saw what they were about and said to him “Sandie do you always take a glass before you begin your inspection?” “I do sir” said Sandie “for you see sir there is always a strong smell of whisky and foul air generated in the vouts that we would soon turn sick and be quite unfit for work. If we didn’t harden our stomach with a glass”.

The master taking turn through the vaults and feeling a little squeamish said “Sandie I think after all you are right and I think a little drop too to fortify my stomach also” Sandie replied “I think master ye are no far wrong, I will give you a drop of the best cask in the place” pleasant remarks about the whisky followed.

At the back of the vaults in Giles Street was the well known wine and Spirit establishment of Messrs Robert Schaw and Co. It was called the Green Tree on account of a large tree which stood in a corner. It spread its boughs, well cloth with foliage during the season into the street. Getting rotten through age it was replaced by two young trees which have also disappeared also as well as the old firm of Robert Schaw and Co. The establishment is now carried on by Messrs Low, Robertson and Co and it still retains the name of the Green tree.

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