The History of Leith

September 29, 2010

Finding Bones in Leith

I feel that I should make a comment about the human remains found in and around Leith. What doesn’t seem to be realised is that south Leith is built, so to speak on a graveyard. Especially, in and around the foot of the Walk and Leith Links.
For example when gas pipes were being laid in the 19th century in St Anthony Street bones were discovered because unknown to the pipe layers they were digging in the graveyard of the Preceptory of St Anthony (on the site of the present day South Leith Halls in Henderson Street)

Now go to Wellington Place under which is a vast Plague pit which a very old lady I spoke to actually seen opened in the 1920’s dating from 1645
When the Old Leith Hospital was being built human remains were found in what was the defensive ditch in front of the walls of Leith during the Siege of Leith 1560. The ditch was full of weapons and bones.

People originally were buried under the floor of South Leith Church as in the past people thought this was the only decent place to be buried. From time to time when work is being done in the church human remains are still found and are reburied in the Churchyard with respect.

In Laurie Street Cist Graves have been found dating back to the Bronze Age. A Cist grave is a hole in the ground lined with stone and the body is placed in the grave in a foetal position and a capstone placed on top

What also seems to be forgotten is the central role that Leith has played in Scotland’s story. However it has paid a very high price for that “honour” and so it should come as no surprise that human remains lie buried to this day under our feet in Leith because of war and plague in the past

Can I mention talking about remains there was a well which stood outside what was Queen Margaret College (The Old Leith Academy) which doesn’t exist now but did in the early 19th century. The Well had been sealed for many years and when it was opened it was found to be packed with horses heads. This was the remains of French horses eaten during the Siege of Leith in 1560.

So watch where you are walking you never know what you may find!!

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