The History of Leith

April 15, 2005

The Weir Monument.(South Leith Parish Church)

On the outside of the church, at the South-East corner, is a simple but dignified monument with the following inscription:— In Memory of
JAMES WEIR
Kirk Treasurer of this Parish
Obit 23rd November 1826
Aetat, LXVII.
The most diligent local search failed to reveal any facts whatever except that the name of James Weir appeared in the Minute Books of the Kirk Session as an elder attending meetings. The much respected and learned Dr. Weir, late of Greyfriars, Dumfries, and now residing at Colinton, told me some years ago that he believed that this James Weir was a relative of his. On further enquiry at him, however, I learned that his grandfather, also of the name of Weir and a merchant in Leith, was a member of Session about the same time. But no relationship existed between the brother elders. We have the same phenomenon in the Session at present. There are two Scotts and two Kerrs, but no relationship exists. As a last resort I had a search made in the Commissary Court. The Will of James Weir was found. From it I found that his eldest son was Matthew Weir, W.S. He married in March 1823, Janet, eldest daughter of William Spottiswoode, Claywhat, Perthshire. But no information could be obtained at the Widows’ Fund Office of the Society of Writers to the Signet regarding any descendants. Another son, James Weir, was a Lieutenant in the 51st Regiment of Foot. Thomas lierriot Web, a younger son, carried on his father’s business of baker in the Kirkgate, No. 134, until 1846, when he took over an additional baker’s business at 19 Frederick Street, Edinburgh. About 1857 he appears to have retired from business, selling his interest to H. McDowell. In all likelihood, this was the founder of the prosperous group of shops still carried on under that name. James Web had a daughter who became Mrs Spence.
The finance of South Leith has varied both in its sources and in its uses down through the centuries. In Roman Catholic times, most of the money required must have come from payments for special services rendered, penances, &c. The principal source of income would be payments for Masses for the dead, a fruitful source of income in the Middle Ages. Indulgences must also have tapped the liberality of the faithful, although money from that source is not likely to have remained in the locality. But a total change took place at the Reformation. The only compulsory levy left was the tithe, and David Lindsay was the first minister who served in South Leith to draw it. Offerings were made by the plate or ladle; afterwards the Incorporations let the seats and paid the Second Minister out of the proceeds. For some considerable time there was a Wine Tithe, probably drawn by South Leith as Successor to the Monastery of St. Anthony. It is a fortunate thing for the church, and especially for the present minister, that this particular source of revenue no longer exists, When James Web was Treasurer, his main duties would be to look after the weekly collections, to account to the Second Minister for the Seat Rents, and to draw the feu-duties and casualties—mainly connected with King James’ hospital and the lands of which the Kirk Session was Superior.
Source-South Leith Records 1922

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