The History of Leith

December 13, 2004

Keep theatre for all to enjoy

SARAH HOWDEN’S report (News, December 6th) on plans to sell Leith Theatre to help meet the cost of repairs to the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh was very informative.

However it did not mention that it was built as Leith Town Hall, and formed part of the prestigious complex including the Lesser Town Hall and Leith Public Library.

Had Leith become a run-down area I might have agreed that the proposal to sell was appropriate, but Leith is a vibrant community, with many new flats and an increasing population.

It is therefore more appropriate that the Leith Theatre, as it is now known, should be repaired, refurbished and restored as a focal point and venue for important cultural events, not only for Leith, but for the whole of Edinburgh.

I feel sure the proposal to sell is not the will of the people of Leith, and it is the duty of all the councillors representing them to oppose this move and ensure that such an outstanding building is repaired and restored.

That it has lain in need of repair and refurbishment for so long is a sad reflection on the council.

Sarah Howden correctly states that for many Leith people this building evokes fond memories.

Two particular events in Leith Town Hall stand out in my memory. In 1933, the Town Hall housed a week-long Evangelistic Crusade by Rev Lionel B Fletcher (an Australian) of the Mildmay Mission. Many people, including myself, came to firm faith and life-long commitment to Jesus Christ as our Saviour.

In 1935, the Leith Battalion of the Boys’ Brigade celebrated their Jubilee in the Town Hall, with a show which ran in the evenings.

My company put on a tableau of a painting which used to hang in the Leith Public Library depicting John Paterson and the Duke of York (later King James VII) playing golf on Leith Links.

We had to stand absolutely still for a minute, or until the audience applauded. Then, as John Paterson, with a mashie-niblick I had to loft the ball over the scenery where it was caught by a boy in the wings. Everything went well Wednesday to Friday, but on Saturday (the big night) the ping pong ball touched the top of the scenery and bounced back to the orchestra stalls. That night we got both applause and hearty laughter.

Donald Jack, Summerside Place, Leith


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