The History of Leith

January 28, 2007

The Trafalgar Veteran

Junction Road Church was known in its early days as “a great Kirk for Captains and Company Porters” the broad beliefs of the Relief Church held at the time of such bigotry seemingly commending it to this class of enterprising, independent men.

Perhaps also Mt Muir’s manner and presence pleased them, as a story has come down to the present day that an old woman who heard him preach his trial sermon in the “Auld Kettle” said he was a grand Preacher but was awfu like a sea captain. Walter Smith, Captain of the Hamburg Packet, was one of the first members followed by Captains Brown, Mann, Richards, Scott, Thomson, Johnston, Dickson, and Captain Heddie commander of the Skerrymore the first lighthouse steamer.

Captain James Dickson

Typical of these Captains and Master Mariners was James Dickson who was born at Innerleithen in 1785. Although the son of a farmer he had from early boyhood wanted to go to sea. Therefore at the age of thirteen he ran away and joined up. Twice in his life he was press ganged of a merchant ship and forced into the Royal Navy in which he served eleven years and saw a great deal of action including the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and the taking of Guadaloupe in 1810. Medals were presented to all those who took part in the Battle of Trafalgar and a few years later in 1848 Queen Victoria presented medals to the survivors. On the anniversary of Trafalgar he wore his medals and with five other veterans of the battle who lived in the town met annually on that day to “fight their battles o’er again” One by one they died off and the old captain felt a intense sadness with their passing until he was left the sole survivor.

After the Royal Navy James Dickson served with the London and Edinburgh Shipping Company for over forty-five years. Captain Dickson died in 1866 aged eighty-one.

Some Text