The History of Leith

July 11, 2006

Who was “James Home,Shipmaster.Leith”

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The above pages come from an “Apcrypha” apparently owned by a Roman Catholic Sea Captain from Leith which is very unusual as the date given in the book is 1747 which is a year after the Battle of Culloden and to be a Catholic and a possible Jacobite would have been very dangerous. Further research is being done to find out something of the individuals mentioned in the book if possible.

Christianity probably came to Scotland around the second century, and was firmly established by the sixth and seventh centuries. However, until the eleventh century, the relationship between the Church in Scotland and the Papacy is ambigious. The Scottish ‘Celtic’ Church had marked liturgical and ecclesiological differences from the rest of Western Christendom. Some of these were resolved end of the seventh century following the Synod of Whitby and St Columba’s withdrawal to Iona, however, it was not until the ecclessiastical reforms of the eleventh century that the Scottish Church became an integral part of the Roman communion.

That remained the picture until the Reformation in the early sixteen century, when the Church in Scotland broke with the papacy, and adopted a Calvinist confession. At that point the celebration of the Roman Mass was outlawed. When Mary Queen of Scots returned from France to rule, she found herself as a Roman Catholic in a largely Protestant state and Protestant court. However, some few thousand indigenous Scottish Roman Catholics remained mainly in a small strip from the north-east coast to the Western Isles. Significant strongholds included Moidart, Morar and Barra.

The Jacobite risings in 1715 and 1745 further damaged the Roman Catholic cause in Scotland and it was not until the start of Catholic Emancipation in 1793 that Roman Catholicism regained a civil respectability.

During the nineteenth century, Irish immigration substantially boosted the number of Scottish Roman Catholics (especially in the west), and by 1900 it was estimated that 90-95% were of full or partial Irish descent.

A Roman Catholic hierarchy was (re-)introduced in the mid 19th century.

Catholic Emancipation was a process in Great Britain and Ireland in the late 18th century and early 19th century which involved reducing and removing many of the restrictions on Roman Catholics which had been introduced by the Act of Uniformity, the Test Acts and the Penal Laws. Requirements to abjure the spiritual authority of the Pope and transubstantiation placed major burdens on Roman Catholics, though some received papal absolution to make false oaths in order to avoid these.

The first Catholic Relief Act was passed in 1778; subject to an oath against Stuart claims to the throne and the civil jurisdiction of the Pope, it allowed Roman Catholics in Great Britain to own property, inherit land, and join the army. Reaction against this led to the Gordon Riots in 1780. Further relief was given in 1791. The Irish Parliament passed similar Acts between 1778 and 1793. Since the electoral franchise at the time was largely determined by property, this relief gave votes both implicitly and explicitly to some Roman Catholics. They also started to gain access to many professions from which they had been excluded. The issue of greater political emancipation was considered in 1800 at the time of the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland: it was not included in the text of the Act because this would have led to greater Irish Protestant opposition to the Union, but it was expected to be a consequence given the proportionately small number of Roman Catholics in the UK as a whole.

William Pitt the Younger, the Prime Minister, had promised Emancipation to accompany the Act. However, no further steps were taken at that stage, in part because of the belief of King George III that it could violate his Coronation Oath. Pitt resigned when King George’s opposition became known, as he was unable to fulfill his pledge. Catholic Emancipation then became a debating point rather than a major political issue. In 1823, Daniel O’Connell started a campaign for repeal of the Act of Union, and took Catholic Emancipation as his rallying call, establishing the Catholic Association.

Ireland’s first commemorative postage stamps issued in 1929 commemorate the Catholic Emancipation with a portrait of Daniel O’Connell.In 1828 he stood for election in County Clare in Ireland and was elected even though he could not take his seat in the House of Commons. He repeated this in 1829, and the resulting commotion led the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, against their previous judgements, to introduce and carry the major changes of the Catholic Relief Act of 1829, removing many of the remaining substantial restrictions on Roman Catholics in the UK. At the same time, the property franchise in Ireland was tightened, reducing the total number of voters (and especially voting Roman Catholics), though it was later loosened in successive Reform Acts.

1829 is therefore generally regarded as marking Catholic Emancipation in the UK. However, the obligation to financially support the established Anglican church remained, resulting in the Tithe War, and many other minor issues remained. A succession of further reforms were introduced over time, leaving the Act of Settlement as one of the few provisions left which still discriminates against Roman Catholics, and then only those who wish to be King, Queen, or Royal Consort

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Acknowledgement and thanks-Mr Roy Walter for supplying the book for publication.

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