The History of Leith

April 12, 2005

The Watt Window. (South Leith Parish Church)

(Beneath Great East Window.)
The inscription is as follows :—“ In Memory of James Watt, Provost of Leith, 1866—1875.”

James Watt was born in Brechin in 1806.Coming early to Leith, he entered the office of James Wilde & Co., wine merchants. After wards he joined the similar business of Messrs I. A. Bertram & Co. His assiduous conduct led to promotion, and eventually he succeeded to the business. He is said to have had that scrupulous honour and integrity which made the name of the Scottish man of business honourable over the whole world. He was invited by friends to enter the Town Council in 1863, and he was chosen as a magistrate. After six years, on the retiral of Mr Lindsay from the Provostship, he was unanimously elected to the honourable office of Provost of Leith. He followed up his predecessor in promoting all sorts of public improvements. He was especially interested in schemes for the provision of more and better water. When the Albert Dock was opened in 1869, he took a prominent part in the ceremony. Re-elected in that year to the chief magistracy, he continued his interest in such good works as building schemes for the clearing away of the slums. In 1872 he was chosen as Provost for the third time, On his retiral from office, he received a presentation, in the form of a valuable silver plate, from his fellow-townsmen and friends. He then passed on to the Dock Commission as representative of the Town Council. When the Education Act of 1872 became law, he was elected as first chairman of the Leith School Board. He also served on the South Leith Parochial Board.
So far as charitable work was concerned, he was also to the front, as he took part in themanagement of Leith Hospital, and of Watt’s Hospital for elderly people. (Mr J. J. Watt) of Belmont, Forest Hill, London, is a grandson.
He was not a member of South Leith Church, but of North Leith United PresbyterianChurch, the minister of which, Rev. Principal James Harper, was a close friend. He died in December 1881.

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