The History of Leith

October 12, 2007

The Gun Stone House

If you look closely at some of the early maps on this site you will find the Sheep-head Wynd which is now long gone being demolished many years ago. Within this ancient Wynd stood a house which had an outdoor stair leading up from the Wynd and at the top of the stair on the landing was a large cannonball or Gun Stone and this is the story of how it got there.

The house was owned by a man called Bannerman and he wasn’t very popular he didn’t like people and people didn’t like him. To add to this he was miserly and mean. However despite this he was married and had three daughters however he turned them all out of the house to fend for themselves. Then the stories started that he was an English Spy whether or not that was true is not known.

Now Bannerman was what we would now a traveling salesman selling pins, ribbons, shoes and many other things all over the countryside and so it was only when he was between trips that he could be found at his house in the Sheep-head Wynd.

In the meantime Mrs Bannerman had found a house in another part of Leith with her three daughters. Then one evening a messenger came to the door asking Mrs Bannerman and her eldest daughter to visit her husband. So thinking he had changed his mind and a reconciliation was on his mind the two women went to Bannerman’s house.

On arriving at the house there wasn’t a light to be seen and it lay dark and gloomy but they went up the stairs and entered the house. When their eyes became accustomed to the gloom they seen Bannerman ill in bed and beside him stood a stranger who turned out to be his brother and it was him who had brought him back to Leith from the Borders.

Ill though he was he showed no regret as to how he treated his family and told them that he was dying and they wouldn’t get a penny from him with as much malice as he could muster and all that she would get was the house in which she stood. They left and as he treated his brother badly Bannerman died alone a few weeks later.

After Bannerman died the family moved back in and just managed. With one girl keeping house, the other sewing and the third gave classes but they were very poor

Then in 1544 Henry the VIII invaded Scotland and this was the start of what was called the Rough Wooing (The Scots had refused to allow Mary, Queen of Scots to marry Edward Henry’s son) and English ships had entered the Forth and started to bombard Leith and as luck would have it a cannon ball hit the roof of the house but it had done more then that because it had gone through the floor as well and left a large hole. But what really surprised the family was what was under the floor because what they seen were thousands of Silver and Gold coins which the old miser had hidden and never told a soul. The family was now rich and it was for this reason the Gun Stone was saved and stood at the top of the stairs.

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