The History of Leith

April 19, 2006

The Origins of the motto of Leith

One of the greatest mysteries connected to Leith is the origin of the Town motto “Persevere” which everyone has assumed to be very ancient. However I would like to put forward the following suggestion as to its origin.

The Coat of Arms itself is very ancient and dates back several hundred years as can be discovered on other pages on this site. However on researching “Persevere” both in its English and Latin form no connection could be found connecting it to the Knights of St John, the Knights of St Anthony or to St James. In fact no trace of “Persevere” could be found earlier then the 17th century

So what I would like to suggest is that the Coat of Arms of Leith was based on the pilgrimage badges/tokens of the “Virgin of the Sea” at Boulogne. The Motto itself comes from what is called “The Killing Time” in Scottish History details can be found at http://www.leithhistory.co.uk/2006/04/21/the-kings-letter-to-parliament-1660/ and was only introduced after 1688 when William III came to the throne.

Leith’s connection to the Covenanters can be found at –

DURING the years of the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, Leith was the headquarters of Cromwell’s soldiers in Scotland. East and West Cromwell Streets in North Leith, remind us to-day of this long occupation of the town by the English troops, who, Puritans though they were, and therefore associated in our minds with all that is grave and even sour-faced, were not indifferent to the charms and virtues of Leith maids. South Leith Church records and the Mercurius Politicus, the newspaper Cromwell’s men issued from the Citadel, and the first to be printed in Scotland, show that many of them married and settled in the town. Their skill and industry, added to the enterprise and capital of English merchants who had been encouraged to start business in the town, did much to promote the glass and linen trades established in the Citadel after the Restoration. For more click here here
From John Russell’s “The Story of Leith”

As it says “In resisting the oppressive measures of the Stuart kings, the Leithers of those old and troubled times were fighting for something more than the Covenant”.
The Motto is in English because Latin was the language of the old religion and it was put onto the Coat of Arms to show that Leith wouldn’t and didn’t accept neither Anglican or Catholic forms of Worship and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland came into being.
In fact more can been found at http://www.leithhistory.co.uk/2006/04/21/the-kings-letter-to-parliament-1660/ in which both the Act banning the Covenanters and the preaching of Alexander Peden both emphasis the word “Persevere”

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