The History of Leith

March 15, 2005


But I meant to speak of the old Sunday, and-the new by way of contrast. Leith, too, stood much on seeming in that regard. How often have I traversed every square foot of South Leith Churchyard and read each particular inscription, amid solemn and hallowed surroundings, and in the very odour of sanctity.

Sunday after Sunday I and my companions walked around its tombs, reading the names afresh and aloud every time, but in subdued tones, as in the near presence of the grim tyrant. Good, douce, old-fashioned townfolks in very considerable numbers did likewise when the weather was fine, before going to sit on the long grass in the Links for an hour.

Funerals were frequent on Sundays, and many a little acquaintance have I seen laid to rest in this grand old Gods acre taken a-way by smallpox or typhoid or scarlet fever, when these maladies were sent to let us know how frail we were. There was no mortuary in Leith at the time of which I write. I remember witnessing on a Sunday between sermons the body of a drowned man being pulled behind a small boat up between the piers, landed at the Custom House slip, and taken to an empty walled tomb in the churchyard, to be laid out for burial

The same evening some of us, who were slender enough, squeezed ourselves between the railings nothing is sacred to inquisitive boys. One of the more daring went forward and removed the face cloth in my presence, and for the first time I looked on the face of the dead. Till this day I almost shudder when I pass that tomb.

From Long, Long ago early 20th century

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