The History of Leith

February 21, 2005


From the LEITH BURGHS PILOT of 29th November, 1873.

In our obituary notice of last week occurred the name of JOHN HUTTON, LEITH, the oldest member of the Merchant Company here, and one of the oldest members of the Chamber of Commerce, Edinburgh. Having retired from business many years ago, the name of Bailie Hutton is almost unknown to the present generation, but some thirty or forty years ago it was one of the most prominent in the Port.

At the time the Port was but an appendage to the Capital, and its Bailie were appointed by the Town Council of Edinburgh. Mr. Hutton was the last who owned his promotion to this source, for it was during his term of office that Lord J. Russells Municipal Act passed, which conferred full municipal honours on Leith and many other important places, by which they were entitled to elect their, own Town Councilors with Provost and Baihies. In carrying out Lord Russells Act, Mr. Hutton was brought much in contact with the then Lord Advocates, Jeffrey and Murray, by whom he was highly respected, both for his public spirit and gentlemanly bearing. At the first election of a Member of Parliament for the Burghs, Mr. Hutton took an active part in the proceedings which placed his friend Lord Murray at the head of the poll. Had he chosen to push his claims he could easily have been elected the first Provost of Leith, but with characteristic modesty he waived his own rights in favour of those of another, and with his own hands placed the chain of office round the neck of Mr. Adam White, the Chairman of the Merchant Company, and by many years his own senior. Being a native of Leith, Mr. Hutton naturally had a deep interest in everything connected with its welfare, both in a commercial and sanitary It was during his bailieship that the cholera first visited our shores, and when many. shrank from the dangerous duty of meeting this dreaded foe, he performed his duty manfully, establishing an hospital for those who were stricken, and visiting it every day to see that nurses and doctors and everyone connected with it did their duty. After several years active public service, Mr. Hutton retired from public life, and no solicitations could ever after induce him to allow his name to be put forward for municipal honours. He, however, continued to take a lively interest in all measures tending to promote the well being and progress of the community at large. He was one of the originators of the Scottish Equitable Insurance Company, the Leith Public Subscription Library, the Savings Banks, and other institutions of a like nature. Having early in life adopted liberal views in politics, he adhered to them to the end, and like many others now advanced in life, he rejoiced over the triumph of those great principles which have conduced in so eminent a degree to raise our country to its present unparalleled state of prosperity. In the discharge of this magisterial duties, however, as well as in private life, the political element never protruded itself. Possessed with a peculiarly amiable and winning disposition, and of manners which indicated the born gentleman, he gained the esteem of friend and foe alike. At the time of his death, Mr. Hutton was senior member of the vestry of St. James Episcopal Chapel, and at his funeral which took place on Tuesday, the sermon was read in the house of the deceased by the Rev Jackson and his curate. Mr. Simpson: and at the grave, by Mr. Jackson. the bell of the church tolling as the procession wound its way to the family Tomb in South Leith Churchyard. The funeral was strictly private, the only public men invited being Mr Macfie MP and Provost Watt. The pall bearers were Messrs. John, James, and Edward Hutton, Sons of the deceased; Messrs. Waddie, merchants, Leith and James Pollexfen, W.S. Edinburgh, nephews; Dr. Walker, Edinburgh and Dr. Combe. Mr. Hutton was married to Miss Jane Wood, youngest daughter of P. Wood, Esq., of the firm of P. & C.Wood, merchants, Leith, who survives him and family of four sons and one daughter.

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