The History of Leith

February 1, 2011

The Trade of Leith in the 13th century

some fragments of the year 1264, give us such a glimpse of Leith’s commercial activity as plainly shows us that our town had been a busy trading port for many years before these records begin, and Scotland a commercial country from a more remote period than has generally been believed.
Under the opening year of the Rolls we have the following entries anent the trade of Leith :—
” Item, for carriage of 548 cattle by ship from Inverness to
Leith, £7, 13s.
” Item, for 20 lasts of herrings brought to our lord the king,
20 merks.
” Item, for their carriage by ship to Leith, £5, 7s. 3d.”
These entries show that cattle and fish were features of the trade of Leith in those early days, as they are still.
The Abbot of Holyrood had several ships at North Leith engaged in the fishing industry on the Firth of Forth-.
The stipend of the parish minister of North Leith is still in part derived from a commutation of the tithes of the fish brought into Newhaven. No doubt the canons of Holyrood were active traders as well as keen
fishers, and, like the brethren of their order at Scone and the Dominican monks of Dunfermline, had their own trading vessels; but, as their goods were specially exempted by their charter from paying custom duties into the royal Exchequer, we have only meagre and
incidental notices of their oversea trade. The causeway recently laid bare immediately north of the Abbey Church might have been part of the road over which there was much coming and going between Holyrood and its ships at Leith in that golden age of peace and
prosperity so ruthlessly ended by the overbearing ambition of Edward I.

source-The Story of Leith

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