The History of Leith

February 14, 2011

COAL TRADE

IN the last pre-War edition of the ” Port of Leith Handbook” distributed in 1937, the then editor confidently recorded that ” Coal is the heaviest
export of Leith, as the Port is the chief doorway through which it and the manufactured goods of Scotland, and even some from the North of Ireland, pass to the various countries bordering the North and Baltic Seas. . . . The Coalfields of the Lothians and others adjacent, all possessing abundant coal of good quality, are well served by a network of railways leading to Leith Docks for export.” Coal of good quality and the railway network are still available, but the best that can be written in these somewhat disillusioned post-War times is that
it can be recalled that Coal at one time not so very long ago was indisputably King Coal, when it could be recorded that in the space of a single year there were loaded at the Commission’s hoists no less
than 1,500,000 tons of cargo and over 400,000 tons of bunker Coal. During 1955, only some 304,000 tons in all were shipped, while 344,000 tons were brought into the Port from abroad to ” keep the home fires burning ” and the wheels of industry turning, so completely has the Coal export and import trade been turned topsy-turvy in the interval.
The bulk of the exports of 1955 went for electricity generation in Denmark. The present abnormal situation may, ere long, be favourably affected in some degree as the new pits in the Lothians and Fife areas are gradually brought into production, enabling Leith to resume its former role as a Coal exporting port. On the other hand, export may still be adversely affected by a continued increase in home consumption as the collieries of the central belt become progressively worked out. The Coal hoists at Leith Docks, equipped with Norfolk spades, though less completely utilised than formerly are, nevertheless, constantly kept in good repair, and are ever ready to maintain our local reputation for the rapid turn-round of Coal and
Coke-carrying vessels, as and when consignments of their cargoes come forward for shipment.

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