The History of Leith

June 5, 2006

The Origins and Golf Stories of Leith Links

The origin of the name “Links” has been a puzzle to Scottish Historians. By some it has been supposed that from the position on the coast near to the sea or a river, the word being a corruption of the word “Innis” or “Inches” signifying islands. It is said in the Old Records of Aberdeen the word is spelt “Linches” and “Linkkes”
However at one time the Links must have been covered by the sea but through time the sea has receded leaving an area of rough grass which was a haven for rabbits and was an important food supply for the Logan’s of Restalrig. The area is now a public park with two large mounds purporting to be Elizabethan gun mounts from the Siege of Leith (1560) which they are not as can be proven with reference to the Pentworth Map a copy of which can be seen at South Leith Parish Church

From for early times the game of Golf was played on the Links and in the 17th and 18th centuries the game was played by Aristocrats and Commoner, Legal and political figures of the time.

There is a strange story told about the links and the game of Golf by Row in his “History of the Kirk of Scotland”. The Bishop of Galloway who was a very good and decent man but in time became corrupted by power and by becoming a Bishop. He was eventually accused of apostasy and was threatened that he would shortly be summoned to answer before God. However he ignored this and went to the Links to play a round of Golf but before he could start he saw a vision of two men about to attack him with drawn swords and screamed. His companions told him it was but a dream. He was silent and went home, went to bed and died instantly.

It is also recorded that Montrose played on Leith Links and his accounts for Golf balls and clubs still exist.

Charles I played on the Links and it was here that he heard of the Irish Rebellion of 1642 and is detailed in Woodrow’s “Analecta” on the authority of William, Lord Ross of Hawkshead who lived to 1738 to whom it was related while in England by Sir Robert Pye. He said as a young man that he came to Edinburgh with Charles I and that he help deliver messages between the King and the Queen.. However one message he delivered was about the Rebellion in Ireland at which he fled the Links to go to Holyrood and the Privy Council

The first International took place on the Links between two English Lords and James VIII(II) and John Paterson which the King won and led to the building of Golfers Land in the Canongate.

Not only was the Links the first Golf course in the World (although played with five holes and not the modern 18 holes) it also had the first Golf House built on what is now Queen Margaret University College. Before this was built they drank in a Tavern on what is now the New Kirkgate Shopping Centre near to the foot of Leith Walk.

Source-Old and New Edinburgh (in part)

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