The History of Leith

November 3, 2010

Timber as it was in 1922

The time when our own country could supply its needs with regard to timber is long since past. So many are the uses to which timber is nowadays put, and so many different kinds are needed to meet all
the requirements of our various industries, that most of the timber now used in Britain comes from abroad. Before the war ( Ist World War) we were importing over 11,000,000 tons of timber annually, of which 7,000,000 tons came from North Russia (the Baltic States, Finland, and Archangel), Sweden, and Norway, 2,000,000 tons from Eastern Europe, and only slightly over 2,000,000 tons from countries outside of Europe (mainly Canada, United States, South America, Australia and New Zealand, India, the West Coast of Africa, the West Indies, Mexico,Honduras, etc., and Japan).
These figures show that our country in normal times is dependent on the Baltic and White Seas for seven elevenths of its timber supplies, and make it quite clear how Leith, with its advantageous position with regard to Russian, Swedish, and Norwegian ports, has become one of the chief timber ports in the United Kingdom
An important factor in the growth of Leith’s timber import lies in the connection between the coal and timber’ trades. North Russia, Sweden, and Norway have no coal supplies of their own, and as Leith is situated near coalfields its ships have thus at hand for their outward
voyage exactly the kind of cargo which is required.
The chief timber importers and sawmillers in Leith are Park, Dobson, and Company, Eastern Sawmills Easter Road; James Walker and Company, Restalrig Road; Garland and Roger, Baltic Street; Fergus Harris Morton Street; and John Mitchell and Company, Leith
Walk. During 1912, 1913, 1914, and 1920 these firms imported timber as follows: 1912, 90,412 tons; 1913 100,941 tons; 1914, 80,096 tons; 1920, 117,245 tons.
The timber used to be imported into Leith in the form of logs, roughly squared by means of the adze; but with the introduction of machinery, however,this timber is now brought into the Port in the shape of sawn planks, deals, battens, and boards of various sizes the amount imported in the log being very small nowadays. Indeed, so great has the change been in the form in which timber is imported that sometimes material is brought into Leith in a fully dressed state. Thus,
especially from Sweden, we get flooring boards, doors, window frames, and mouldings of every kind, all ready for the use of the joiner and carpenter. The wood brought into Leith from the Baltic and White Sea ports is nearly all of the pine family, and is known in the timber trade as red or yellow deal. Red and yellow pines are also imported into Leith direct from Canada and the United States. While the principal timber trade of Leith is connected with the woods just mentioned, known as soft woods, it has also a share in the hard wood branch of the trade. Of the hard woods the chief are oak (from the Baltic, America, and Japan), mahogany (from Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and West Africa), teak from Burma, and ash from Japan. These hard woods are not shipped to Leith direct—except those which come from the Baltic—but reach it via some other port, such as Glasgow or Liverpool.

source-The Story of Leith

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