The History of Leith

May 27, 2008

A View from the Turret Room

A number of years ago I came across a book which told a little known story about Leith. The story went like this, that when the last Balfour of Pilrig House was dieing in 1941.She added a codicil to her will instructing that Pilrig House was to be left to the then Edinburgh Corporation and for them to use it for a Leith Museum. Of course the subsequent history of Pilrig house is well known and what is equally well known is that “City of Edinburgh Council” never used the property for which it was meant to be used and in my opinion they never intended it to be used as a Museum for Leith in first place. It is now flats.

This also brings to mind the fact that while the Council in the sixties and early seventies were spending in excess of three million pounds of taxpayers money on revamping the High St and keeping the historic frontage of the street. Leith was getting the bulldozer with the historic Kirkgate being removed along with many other buildings.

Now we have the Dock Development with the public being consulted on this and that and the next thing. However I hope everyone knows that a public consultation can be ignored and have been for well over sixty years and is merely political showmanship “Democracy in Action” what utter nonsense as the public view is not legally enforceable and the Council and developers can ignore the results of any consultation. Just in the same way that people have demanded a Leith Museum for over sixty years and likewise the public have been ignored. Certainly the public vote the councillors into office but that in my opinion is the only thing democratic about the City of Edinburgh Council because once in office they can completely ignore the people that put them into Office. Using public money, our Money for their own pet projects and wasting millions in the process and then having the brass neck to demand more each year in Council Tax. Behaving more like spoilt children then responsible people of public affairs

Forth Ports are not much better with talk of communities working together while having talks with Babcock & Brown, the Australian investment firm that has hiked its stake in Forth Ports to 20.4% along with talks of a possible takeover,. What people seem to forget is that Forth ports are not interested in Leith, not interested in Social housing, not interested in the long term impact the dock development has on Leith. All they are interested in is profit and Loss and the bottom line. So forget about any romantic ideas you may have about the development. Although it will have an impact on Leith it is not being done for the benefit of Leith and nobody should ever forget that. Remember also it will be future generations that will need to clean up the mess created by the greed, indifference and stupidity of corporate bodies.

One last point. I wonder why nobody has ever asked the obvious question why Leith hasn’t a Museum. Leith was the principal port for Scotland for several hundred years, it has seen many of the defining events of Scottish history and many subsequent developments in many fields and in technology which has shaped the modern world not to mention many the many historic
personalities connected to the area and in fact leith has just as much history within it’s small compass then Edinburgh.

Nevertheless you will find several museums within half a mile of the Tron Church in Edinburgh but none in leith. The question that must be asked is why? Everytime a suggestion is made for a leith Museum people are told that there are other priorities. Does it not strike you as being rather strange that these “priorities” only seem to effect Leith and not Edinburgh?

I think people should wake up and see what is what is happening in the real world and in Leith

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