The History of Leith

November 12, 2007

Peterina remembers the Kirkgate

There are many very old documents in the vestry which are now being cleared out to send to Register House. Amongst them we found some pages entitled ‘Memory Lane’. There is no name attached to them, so we don’t yet know who wrote them, although there is one clue when she says, “The first time I ever saw a name like mine, Peterina, was on a tombstone at Seafield cemetery…” These are some of her memories,

“Having been born in 107 Kirkgate, and lived there in the same house for 43 years, my memories of the old Kirkgate are varied and colourful. First of all the Kirkgate was a happy hunting ground for all sorts of people. Being a seaport this was inevitable. Drunks galore. These were the things we took for granted. The Fishwife was a real worthy – on Saturday nights we waited expectantly for the policeman and a barrow. As usual, dead drunk, she was hoisted into the barrow and of course we followed the policeman without fail every Saturday night down to the police station where she was locked up for the night. Another figure was a keelie – Tuttle Jock – he could take on 4 or 5 policemen at one go, and by the time they got him handcuffed the police were in a very sorry state. When he started a fight, which was often, he usually started on the current woman he was living with, and in no time a crowd the length of Leith Walk had gathered.

Trinity building, which is now no more, was the place for our Recobite meetings and we enjoyed going there. St Andrew’s Hall Mission was our Sunday School and the market hall our Christian Endeavour, also the Hope Trust in Henderson Street was our Band of Hope. All these places for young people are now no more than a memory.

At one time there was a market at the shore opposite the Labour Exchange and many a time I went there for fish. Our Sundays were usually a visit to the Docks and the Talla Tower, as we called it. As children we went to Leith Links every Saturday, weather permitting, for a picnic. I took a penny for each child, and would buy so many bags of auld tea-bread and a half loaf from Kinnairds, and from “Hungry Erchie’s” at the corner grocer shop we would buy 2d worth of treacle for the bread. Holidays we would go to the beach at Seafield and swim, gather buckies from the round penny bap. How it got its name is not known, but it was a famous landmark. We would carry water from our homes and boil potatoes. There was always lots of driftwood for a fire.”

Source-St Thomas’-Junction Road Nov magazine

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